Les Liaisons Dangereuses


“…keeps the suspense mounting and the pages turning..”

“…delicious witty and gossipy…”

Alas – any of these blurbs still would sell this novel short, for it has all the virtues of your garden variety bestseller du jour – gripping plot, memorable characters, unconventional ending – and far more. Continue reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Juxtaposing deafness in society

Is the word ‘deaf’ a label? How does it denote a person? Today, in this post-structural age, labels are everything. We use labels everyday, speak in labels, and we encounter labels everywhere. Sometimes we use labels for convenience, as shorthand for complicated concepts. Other times labels are used in technical vocabulary, to marginalize error. So, we identify ourselves with labels. Hence, the word “deaf” is a label that connotes a particular characteristic of a person. The dictionary explicitly signifies a person who is not physically able to hear, and that definition is derived from the norm of a society of peers who can. The identification of a person as deaf is a discursive product, because it is relevant only within a set of classification that is established by a particular discourse of deafness.

In the Norma Groce’s book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, a description of an independent community isolated on the small island Martha’s Vineyard, which was rife with a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, serves as an example where “deafness” was not a label of disability. Disability in this sense doesn’t necessarily result from a handicap, but rather is manifested through a society that devalues and segregates people who deviate from the physical norms. Consequently, any label that connotes disability is a socioeconomic passport for institutionalization.

However, this marginalization as a disability is a negative concept and does not satisfactorily answer the question – what is ‘deafness?’ Is there an alternative, more positive, definition?

One possible candidate is a social explanation, which is a departure from biological or existential explanations. As a label, deafness functions as a discursive formation that is socially constructed by discourse. The phrase ‘social construct’ is a celebrated description those radical freethinkers use to question the ideological beliefs of a modernist (that reality is a homogeneous entity, that knowledge is the sole result of a pure, sincere will to truth, and the meaning of anything is disinterestedly given).

Discursive formations are derivatives of discourse, which is the semiotic structuring of all social phenomena as codes and rules. This is practiced by a unity of discourse, by consensual agreement. Discourse defines identity and describes what characteristics are possible for a person. A discursive formation constitutes its object and generates knowledge about these objects. That means our knowledge is discursively determined, and the world is constituted in this way by discourse. However, nobody writes a discursive formation. There are no authors of discursive formations because they are constituted by archives, or anonymous collections of text.

These archives is the sustained recording of the history of the individual, and in doing so, the person has a place, a name, a number, a task, a credit history, etc., and never stray from the steady observation of authorities. This constant observation of behavior leads to a certain discipline: the person behaves as if they were under sustained surveillance. In the deaf person’s situation, especially in the USA, his life is observed, recorded, and probed under a microscope by a collaborative and cooperative effort of specialists (deaf teachers, guidance officers, speech language pathologists, interpreters or notetakers, and audiologists): a continuum of psychological profiles, aptitude test placements, audiograms, educational performance, objectives and other documented efforts.

The increasingly complex and technical serialization of the disabled person is an ongoing process of a biographical production. The biographical sketch of the individual, chronicled to a greater detail than ever, results in the ‘real,’ tangible and physical snapshot of the self! Panopticism is a disciplined, rational, detailed and bureaucratic surveillance, which signifies how behavior is directed by the machinery of society- an ‘automatization’ and ‘disindividualization’ of power.

The individual actively construct their social world, as opposed to having it imposed upon them. Therefore, it seems that the concept of deafness does not necessarily signify a disability, but is contingent upon what context the individual chooses to define himself. If labels are constructs, and language is the limit of thought, then I am nothing more than a social construct, that ‘deaf guy.’ However, I do not identify myself as a deaf person because of my existential nature as a free human being. To act otherwise would be bad faith.

(Originally published by the 49er, the CSULB newspaper, February 6, 2003)

Human Nature: True, False, or merely a construct?

Do you think there must be a human nature? If such a thing exists, at least a relatively fixed one, then true scientific understanding is possible. Because people, with a very limited amount or set of experiences, are capable of learning their own language, as well as use it creatively, then there must be some sort of “bio-physical structure” within the mind that enables individuals to deduce a unified language from the multiplicity of individual experiences. Continue reading Human Nature: True, False, or merely a construct?

Why Buddhism is superior to Christianity

Buddha statue at Kamakura, Japan

Lately I have been distinguishing Buddhism from Christianity in my recent readings. Although, at bottom, both religions are nihilistic and decadent, I have realized Buddhism is a much healthier and more realistic view of life and philosophically superior. Continue reading Why Buddhism is superior to Christianity

Strategy of thought

History teaches us that the mode of philosophical thought predetermines its results. Philosophy, conceived as either a reflective, a contemplative or a communicative discipline – where philosophizing is the act of reflection, contemplation or communication – contains the impulse towards a system. What often entrenches the mind is dogma, in the form of worthless first principles, the advocacy of degenerating metaphysics, and the required lip-service to distinguished intellectuals. In order to resist this solidification of the mind, drop the abstract play of abstractions and return back to the present moment and rethink the situation, the problem, the concept under question. Moreover, a rigorous and honest self-criticism will help avoid the repetition of ineffective methods. Perhaps new directions, even if they are risky, are called for, since by giving up in comfort and security, one gains new ground by boldness. When the mind makes itself fluid and mobile – call the concept into question – war is declared against slothfulness, the inertia of thought, and static views and isolated idee fixes are condemned. Continue reading Strategy of thought

The tragic fate of Tragedy…

A Beautiful Tragedy by Carbine

Recently I’ve thought about how tragedy has been minimized in modern culture if not totally eliminated. If tragedy is supposed to be the aesthetic experience par excellence, the most divine product, then its slow fade to black is worth investigating. It is a given that the greatest of literary geniuses of the modern era consistently fail to produce a contemporary account of tragedy, and the reasons are legion. Continue reading The tragic fate of Tragedy…

Sometimes a spade is not a spade.

The World’s Oldest Metaphor, by Marcello Gori

Aren’t metaphors merely a colorful way of saying something literal, that is otherwise, a non-boring way of saying something boring? Merely the rhetorician’s weapon that subjects his/her audience into compliance? The dictionary of literary terms denote the metaphor as a figure of speech where something is described in the terms of another, or attribute something with a quality that is associated with something else. For instance, Walt Whitman’s metaphor for grass is “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” The relation between the two terms in a metaphor is implicit, unlike a simile, where it is explicit. Continue reading Sometimes a spade is not a spade.