Terrorists and Deconstructionists

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Terrorists struck in Paris on Friday. A bomb blew up in the 16th Arrondissement, not far from our home. Our neighbors said they heard the 5 a.m. blast — aimed at a nearby embassy — but we slept through it.

Jacques Derrida died. Derrida appeared at a conference in Baltimore in 1966 and announced a new fashion in philosophy. The structuralism of Claude Levi-Strauss was “pass,” said the young French intellectual. The new thing was “deconstructionism.” The point of it was that the surface meaning of literature, philosophy and history was neither permanent, nor particularly important. Instead, the texts needed to be deconstructed in order to reveal hidden, contextual or new meanings. Many philosophers tried to deconstruct Derrida’s own writings. He wrote 40 books. Few people could make any sense out of any of them, perhaps not even the author himself.

“How do you think the election will come out?” We are asked the question at nearly every social gathering. They pose the question hopefully, eager for news that Bush is falling in the polls and that there is still a chance of a new direction in American foreign policy.

“Bush will probably win,” we say.

They almost cannot believe it.

“I don’t understand how Americans can vote for someone who lied to them and got them in such an awful war. You Americans can’t be that dumb,” said a friend on Friday night, smiling.

“Sir, as the president himself would say, you misunderestimate us,” we replied. “Besides, there is Monsieur Kerry on the other side.”

“Yes, Monsieur Kerry is a cousin of one of our politicians here in France.”

“Yes, but in America, he doesn’t mention it.”

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.

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