1. Then, Now, Then: Action
Text. That's what it is about. Text. Speech. Discourse, if you may, yet that word is nowadays being used by so many people, and with so many different shades of meaning, that it could almost surely be easily mis-understood, deliberately or not. Thus let's re-invoke the original meaning firstly, i.e., that of speech. Discourse is speech, it is talking (or not talking) about a certain issue. Discourse is also a running about, a certain amount of in-definition, of something much larger than the mere words, like common speech, a complex and intertwined network of what it is that's in our minds, that's in our culture. History is such a discourse, history is also a property of the discourse, the discourse as such being something of a meta-discourse, containing all and linking all, very inconcrete, very abstract, but in that, also, very generous and open, undogmatic, free, timeless.
Discourse is not made. It exists. It is not invented. It is not finished. It knows no single cause, firstly, as this cause, seen from a purely historical perspective, cannot be reconstructed anymore. One could argue, of course, that this starting point for discourse would be the very first cause of everything, the both physical and religious act of creation. The beginning of John's gospel could be read under such a premise. A first cause for speech, for culture, cultural utterances, cannot be determined by today's science. Even the very premise of that search can not only lie in the material world, and a science denying other levels of meaning would pretty much ignore its own scientific creed. Science is not about the material, it is also about the immaterial. The split of the sciences, one of the most dangerous developments ever, has led to everything being disconcerted and disunited with anything else. The discourse has been split up, smaller discourses, sub-texts, have been created, fighting against each other, fighting over this strange creature called authority.
If discourse is not made, that doesn't mean one couldn't contribute to it, it doesn't mean one couldn't attempt to control it. The control of discourse, the control of what is said, what remains unsaid, what is never supposed to be said, has always been a crucial point for any authoritarian approach. Burning books, killing preachers or Civil Rights activists, these are all forms of controling what is not supposed to enter the discourse of one's very own and dearest surroundings. Society thrives on taboos and stigmatizations, which can also be seen by how desperately art always tries to overcome established boundaries, how new movements and reformists always have to deconstruct the before, the things traded over, the things believed because of their very presence. Rap is about that, Rock'n'Roll also, as are the Hippies and Black Power, even Marx, and what's related, including the Jesus movement. There is one crucial moment in the creation of something new, the very first, unspoiled (dare I say revolutionary) impulse, the true and truthful intent of making things better, of thrashing down dogma and canonization and official authority, of eliminating the corruption of the minds, the bondage of the spirit, and in stead, celebrating the Human spirit as such. Mostly, such a burst of energy very quickly gets slowed down and eventually drowned not only by its own inertia, but also by the inertia of the entire discourse. You cannot just make a complex system of norms and speech-rules snap into a paradisal situation. Nor should you ignore the necessary balance, the need for a counterweight. There are not two fronts. There may be two sides to each story, or more than two, but not only are the lines always blurred, the contrast is a needed one. The dichotomy, the dualism, is in fact a monism, leading back to discourse, to the whole of it.
What was then can be said as being in contrast to the now, as much as the then of the future will be. Now - and then. Here - and there. The known - and the other. However, one could also see the past then in connection to the now, favoring continuity over competition. One could ignore the time frame at all and see everything as present in the discourse as is. Plato and Marx and Emerson can be as real to me as any contemporary figure. The temporal distance doesn't matter. Both are present in the contemporary discourse of culture, they are actively at work still. What has entered the discourse, doesn't simply disappear. Not only does anything not disappear without a trace, there is hardly anything whose trace is totally lost. Some traces may be more overt than others, more poignant, more discernable, but who says that size matters? Things are there. You cannot take something back which has been said. It stays, and it may stick. The discourse never gets smaller, it gets larger all the time. Even the future is a parameter of the now, as most of our thoughts and plans and intentions deal with the future. That's the teleological element that can be found in almost everything.
So now then, after such initial and initiating remarks, I shall move this essay into the direction of the argument. This is not a simple thing. I cannot just restrict myself - after having spoken of the general whole-ness of everything - to a single thing. That's a brutal necessity. However, I may try to see the issue at hand in a greater light, and so it shall be done. And remember, deconstruction is not destruction. Speech should be possible. Speech is never the crime, the silencing of unwanted speech is. Authority is a dangerous monster in the hands of anyone.
June 30th, 2001