A Theoretical Edition

In Advice, Funny, Life, People, Social Commentary on August 18, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Dear Ally,

Why has Louis Althusser decided to make my life miserable by not clearly defining “ideologies” or “interpellation”?


* * *

Oh Trish. My poor Trish.

I wish I could tell you that it’s because he doesn’t like your face. I wish that I could blame it on Optimus Prime, or an Althusser-zombie-Hitler alliance. I wish it were that easy to explain away.

But the truth is far more painful. Because the truth is, on a basic molecular structure, Althusser is just like you and I.

Yes, despite the fact that I clearly know nothing about “science”, I can still prove to you that theorists – be they philosophical, historical, anthropological, economical, sociological, feminist, cultural, mathematical, computational, ethical, medical, theological, psychological, scientific, or (for the purposes of this blogger) somewhat be able to sort of in some way be loosely considered ‘literary’ in nature – are technically people too. They are (I have it on good authority) basically human like the rest of us.

If you cut them, they, too, will bleed. If you shoot at them with a potato gun, they, too, will flinch and then chase after you with shaken fists. Well, maybe not Einstein – I gather he has a good sense of humour, so I’m willing to bet that he’d have his own potato gun, and he’d have a potato gun war with you, except his would be nuclear powered so you’d lose.
And, on second thought, you probably shouldn’t test Ally’s patented and popular “Potato Gun Theory of Normalcy” on Durkheim… rumour is he carries a knife in his boot, and he knows how to throw it.

But you get my drift.

I know what you’re all thinking: “Ally, you’re wrong. There is no way that Friedrich Nietzsche ever played capture the flag, or stuck his gum under the desk while he wrote On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense. Deleuze and Guattari never made pillow forts. Donna Haraway would never engage in a hearty lazer-tag battle with me.”

However, it is, in fact, you who are the incorrect party. I submit to you that, prior to sticking a bunch of suffixes and prefixes onto existing words and pretending that it gave him license to screw with our brains, Heidegger played the odd round of poker with his mates.

Hell, Derrida himself – an undisputed god of intentional obfuscation – admitted that he liked to play.

I believe that, if we were to follow along this path of reasoning, the evidence supporting my position would only gather into a mound so high we’d risk drowning in how truly indisputable I am. And so, if you’ll allow me, I will assume now that every reader shall automatically recognize my inherent rightness, by which I of course mean correctness, not any sort of political affiliation (although, as you should know if you’re any kind of regular reader, I do in fact adhere firmly to the ideals of the political Right).

(That is not to say, of course, that I don’t fully understand your initial misgivings. Every time I attempt to struggle through even a page of Gayatri Spivak, Luce Irigaray, or Julia Kristeva I find myself losing faith that these people ever did anything but mangle gray matter and laugh at the hoards of unfortunate scholars left whacking their heads against a wall or a large – and useless – dictionary in their obscure wake… which is not to say that their wake itself is obscure, merely that such students of academia are left in the wake of their obscurity)

However, it appears that, 584 words in, I have yet to conclusively answer the heart of your question, which is why on Earth – if we accept, as I assume we all have, that he is technically a human being and likely at one time did in fact act like it in some manner of speaking – Louis Althusser would deliberately make your life (and mine, and many others’ lives) utterly wretched by means of his impenetrably dense theoretical mumbo-jumbo: a veritable jungle of invented terms and tautological techniques with nary a machete of a lexicon to help you slowly chop your way into a more sparsely vegetative area (metaphorically speaking).

Did you know that Noam Chomsky himself accused Derrida of using “pretentious rhetoric” to obscure an otherwise simple idea?

But, your question.

It’s a simple answer, actually. So simple, in fact, that it could be summed up in so few words that with enough training a reasonably intelligent African Grey Parrot (which is, in fact, the parrot with, it is generally believed, the most impressive cognitive and therefore consequently subsequent verbal capabilities) could tell you, if you were to give him the cue, which would most likely involve some sort of parrot-treat of sorts (although which kind I could not tell you, nor would I want to tell you, because of course I would want you to decide for yourself what kind of parrot-treat you want to accept, and then to question that parrot-treat decision, and then to unmake it, but also to question the decision to unmake that previous decision regarding the parrot-treat).

It is, incidentally, interesting to note that, with all of these deliberately obscure theorists out there, making life more confusing and bitter for so many well-meaning young scholars (and deluded indie-hipster coffee-shop dwellers) the majority of those sources which frequently make their most long-winded, twisted, and blood-draining ideas and poorly-defined terminology clear to those who wish to understand it – namely websites, not only ones such as Wikipedia, but others designed specifically by those who have managed to penetrate into the cloudy smog of theoretical hash and are willing and able to communicate their sunny findings to those still holding a cloth to their breathing orifices – have been designated as ‘inappropriate’ for proper academic usage by the mysterious powers-that-be.
I cannot understand why on Earth any free soul would willingly enter into a system that knowingly fosters such an atmosphere of discombobulation in 28% of those who don’t understand the foundations on which their own academic studies, it has been deemed, will be built upon, and insecure pompous false superiority in the remaining 72%.

It’s as if they want to keep something from us, an answer that we are so desperately seeking. We have these questions, which are in the first place created by the dense and obscure texts by these theorists that the ‘higher education institution’ insists we read, and then they withhold from us the answers or the means of getting at them, and instead place us in discussion formats where our own conflicting, imprecise, and semi-formed ideas only serve to further remove the meaning, that answer that we have so clearly asked for, from the grasp of ourselves or our peers.

Those of you not involved in academia, can you even imagine what that is like?

Anyway, Trish, the answer is: a nasty thump on the head. Yep, a whack to the ol’ noggin (Never use the word noggin, children. It is hateful).
Sometimes it makes a sociopathic serial killer, other times it makes a theorist. And inevitably, if you come up against a serial killer, you’ll wish he or she had been made a theorist. But if you come up against a theorist, you’ll most certainly wish he or she had been made a serial killer.

In either case you’re going to be tortured until you wish you were dead.

And now I am off! I have to change the ice in my ice pack.
Good luck Trish.

  1. Your words don’t mix well with my brain. There’s cognitive precipitate in the form of, “I hate you, Trebeck.”

  2. Well, according to some fem. theorists, like Irigaray, Cixous, Rich, Richardson, Showalter, and possibly Kristeva, that’s because you’re a d00d, which means that you’re steeped in a masculine language that is incapable of comprehending – or even recognizing – the uniquely female experience known as the “wild zone”. As a result, you will be drawn to it, then repulsed by it, and probably end up beating me because you’re scared by it.


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