deconstruction

A postmodern critique of postmodernism

The postmodern mode of critique is to try to “read between the lines” to discover what structure of power the text is supporting. A person who reads the Bible and sees in it support for a patriarchal society might actually be “reading patriarchy into the Bible” rather than “reading patriarchy out of the Bible”. Humans are often hopeless bags of prejudice who cannot touch a thing without distorting it. Postmodern critique aims to be a perspective on the world that sees what is really going on without it being part of the world itself.

In colloquial terms, postmodernists always ask “Where is the money?” when they read a text. Who are you supporting and empowering by thinking the thoughts you think and writing the things you write?

But this perspective can be turned on postmodernism itself. What structures of power are you supporting by deconstructing texts? There are tens of thousands of individuals whose careers, salaries and social positions are largely derived from marching through culture and parroting “Where is the money?” at every juncture. This itself is a structure of power; it is a new structure of power that is fed by seeking to undo other structures of power.

The postmodern critique of the world can only be taken seriously as long as we imagine it to be a disembodied perspective on the world, observing the world while being somehow detached from it. But this is nonsense. The postmodern worldview, based on asking “Where is the money?”, is merely a new structure of power that empowers some people at the expense of others. The only person who can truly perform a postmodern critique as postmodernists think it should be done is God, someone who can look at the world while detached from it. Postmodernists, being part of the world, are merely biased and prejudiced humans (as they claim everyone is) who merely repeat the rather banal question “Where is the money?” while deriving power from it.

Postmodernists are no different from another ideological group that asks “What structures of color does this text support?” in their critique of texts. Since there is no objective truth, since every perspective is subjective, the truths arrived at by this stupid question are just as valuable (or worthless) as the truths arrived at by postmodernists. If we posit a world ruled by color as its most important variable (as postmodernists posit power to be) (meaning that when humans reach certain conclusions about a text, it is merely due to their liking for certain color schemes as opposed to others, rather than because there is anything objective in the text), then we have every right to critique everything based on this variable and to go on to derive nice salaries from parroting the question “Where is the color scheme?”

I expect someone has made a similar critique decades ago.

Decolonization

The critique can be extended to the theory of decolonization, the postmodern idea that Western efforts to understand non-Western cultures and traditions are inherently flawed due to Western bias. There is a need for decolonization, for taking the narrative back from the colonizing Westerners. The problem is: based on what foundation do you decolonize? Decolonization theory is a Western invention created by a group of intellectuals who feed upon the structure power upheld by these postmodern theories. Their pretense that they are unbiased observers who are helped the rest of the world open its eyes to Western colonialism is just that, a pretense. They are merely a new breed of colonizers who have invented a new structure of power that allies them with non-Westerners, helped the postmodern power structure continue its process of weakening other power structures.

But to what end? If there is no objective truth then why should I let some rich and privileged academic tell me how to open my eyes? The rational assumption toward these people should be that they are cultural subversives who are merely attacking the present culture in their efforts to establish a new culture that gives them more power.

As someone who studies Islam, I am well aware of the many biases present within Western discourses about Islam. But rather than turning this into some Illuminati nonsense about how there is a Marxian “false consciousness” that we all live in, upheld and maintained by people whose power and prestige is coveted by postmodernist cultural subversives, I see the bias as a logical byproduct of human existence. Muslim discourses about the West are every bit as ignorant and biased as Western discourses about Muslims. There is not one big bad guy who also happens to be a white Christian man who is holding the ropes (postmodernists want you to think that, since such a man has been the object of the envy and hatred of Western cultural subversives since at least Marx’s time).

We are all bad guys in our desire to portray people dislike as worse than they really are and in our desire to portray people we like as better than they really are.

But the biggest bad guys are the ones who pretend that only they are outside human nature, only they are the ones who are aware of bias and try to escape it, only they have the best interests of the colonized in mind, and that all those opposed to them are evil. This pretense of angelic goodwill toward the oppressed enables them to create a new power structure that attacks every other power structure but that is itself immune from attack, because it pretends not to be a power structure.

Taking it to its conclusion

Taken to its logical conclusion, postmodernism nullifies itself. You cannot decolonize unless you have some standard to measure yourself by, but by definition you are a hopeless bag of prejudice, so every decolonizing effort is itself in support of some power structure. Unless you can prove that you are a disembodied intellect with zero desire and bias, every deconstruction and decolonizing effort you engage in is by definition an exertion of power; it is merely one power structure’s demand for power from other power structures.