The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Derrida, doctrinaires, debate


Seaghán Ó Murchú • 10 October 2004

I'm happy to see so many letters responding to Patrick Hurley's criticism of John Kerry. I agree with his rebuttal that those who reject The Blanket's airing of what Hurley waves as Kerry's dirty laundry fail to notice the subtitle of The Blanket: 'a journal of protest and dissent'. The right to shout that the emperor or his challenger struts sartorially challenged needs to be made by those with whom, I gather, a majority of our journals readers disagree. Otherwise, we are failing to listen to all voices within the community through which The Blanket speaks. Not all those published here are doctrinaire republicans, and the joining of these two words, as many of us have often insisted, is itself a dangerous combination.

My delight at seeing these contentions has everything to do with my own, often iconoclastic, personal opinions. My own take on the election can be expressed when and where I wish. I vehemently support hearing voices of anarchists, Greens, Loyalists, Sinn Féiners, SDLP, IRSP, RSF and 32CSMers. Eamon McCann, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, and the Price sisters have all been granted their own non-aligned socialist statements here. Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh and Liam Ó Comain battle within these bytes. I learn from all with whom I share this public space. I teach, and in my classroom I fight for the right of myself and my students to speak our minds--critically, logically, and sensibly. I do not promote my own political agenda, although it slips out like any of ours do! Freedoms within the academy, the press, and on the street, we all know, are parlous and precious. I cannot dominate my students' discussion any more than they should by half-baked, gut-reaction, rants. Patrick Hurley made his case carefully. Acceptance or denial of it must rest on an equally deliberative examination of his use of rhetoric and facts, and an understanding of how emotion, logic, and reason underlie his case. If Hurley fails to make his claims stick, then his critics need to show this through their own thoughtful rebuttals, not through blurting 'throw the bum out, he's not one of us!' Shades of the Cyclops in Joyce's Ulysses.

Many may say, of course, that my very assertion of an open forum betrays itself my ideological stance. I'm insufficiently Freireian or Marxian or class-conscious in not dismantling my role as a moderator. After all, why should any view be privileged? If so, why continue The Blanket? Scuttle the republican agenda, and let the two-century protracted debate end. Decommission the keyboard, dump the disks.

These musings arise too since Jacques Derrida died today. His eulogy should be a cautionary tale. The glee with which his own fanatical followers (who tried to dominate many a seminar in my studies, all the while doing their damnedest to get published while preaching the death of the authorially centered text) upended cohesive analysis. Sure, it's exciting to see the rise of a new Critical Revolution. Its manifestoes were just as hard to read as the soberly jacketed volumes issuing from International Publishers, Moscow, but we were insufficiently cosmopolitan to be fluent in their dense dialect of miasmatically rendered French. Like adepts to many a cult, we too had to rely upon our own mandarin interpreters--gurus of the post-Maoist generation. During the 1980s, many from this securely tenured, well-paid, but nonetheless radical vanguard insisted that no lasting truth can be found within texts.

Authors are not to be praised but to be blamed for their own statements--critics condemned clarity and sneered at simplicity. This dismantling with often abstrusely argued if Maoist-like revolutionary zeal of past dogmas led to a problem. Late in that decade, Algerian-born Jewish-born Derrida, by now trapped in his own theoretical construction, defended two of deconstructionism's idols. Paul De Man's antisemitic propaganda for a Belgian fascist paper and Martin Heidegger's wartime Nazi affiliation both received convoluted Derridean excuses. What after all, does an author have to do with a text? Connolly and Labour in Irish History? 1916's rebels and their Proclamation? Mao and his red book? Hitler and Mein Kampf? As if all textually built versions of our lives have equal or no validity. And all texts, released into the world, assert nothing but their own confusion. Well, this is where it led: no certainty, unless totalitarian apologia were advanced. Following Derridean denial of any logical consistency within the realm of print, no lasting effect emerges from an anti-Jewish or a pro-Reich text to the Germany or Belgium where its educated writers and sophisticated readers lived. My version of WWII as heard from survivors and recorded by historians apparently was poisoned by liberal bias. How could those who participated in the war testify in any but personally suspect reports? These veterans, victims, bystanders, and refugees should have let the perpetrators, the philosopher-kings, rule.

How does this relate to freedom to create our own versions of the Irish and wider worlds in The Blanket? I leave it to credentialed philosophers and political scientists, who have also enriched our pages, to chastise my naive humanism. My own opponents might counter that Derrida's moral warns us that we need to be aware that those with whom we dissent within the pages of The Blanket deserve to be eliminated from its contents. Their texts invite destruction, for at their core gapes only a void. Therefore, their negations will not infect our own republican, socialist, and left-wing purity.

However, I remember fondly a student (after grades were due!) with quite different principles than mine who contrasted me with a former teacher. Our difference, he told me, was that I didn't tell him what to think, but how to think. We must display this tolerance, in whose name so many on the left claim to advance what may be a narrow-minded groupthink rather than a forum for all informed viewpoints to be discussed with respect and dignity. Surely, so many who read, and disagree within, The Blanket can agree to this liberty.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

12 October 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

George Harrison: An Appreciation
Sandy Boyer

Derrida, doctrinaires, debate
Seaghán Ó Murchú

That Hammering Sound
Michael Youlton

Truth Hurts
Mick Hall

Left Nationalism In Euskal Herria
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters page has been updated.

9 October 2004

Death of George Harrison
Ruairi O Bradaigh, National Irish Freedom Committee and Brian Mór

Can't Deal, Won't Deal
Anthony McIntyre

Update - Youth Suicide Prevention Project
J. Terry Ryan

Father Mc Manus on Ron Lauder, David Trimble, the Orange Order, and Catholic anti-Semitism
Father Sean Mc Manus

Say it in Breac'n English (Part Four)
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Some Inconvenient Facts
Patrick Hurley

Marx, Engels and Lenin on the Irish Question
Liam O Ruairc

The Gates of Hell
Elana Golden

After the Venezuela Referendum
Toni Solo

One for the Road
Brian Mór



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