Of the tribe of Derrida

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino
Of the tribe of Derrida
The Trump and Duterte phenomena can be understood through a controversial figure – Jacques Derrida

Donald Trump was a candidate the Republicans themselves were not sure they wanted. And he won. Rodrigo Duterte filed his certificate of candidacy last. He was very un-presidential, in his manners and in his speech. While every candidate wanted to appear and sound clean, Duterte simply did not care. And he won.

Ironies, that is what they are commonly called. But these phenomena occurring in the US and in the Philippines that, despite their many links, are dissimilar on almost every count, points in the direction of a controversial figure – Jacques Derrida – for whom the post-modern was a distinct epoch!  

No, Derrida campaigned neither for Duterte nor for Trump, but he is one of the most eloquent spokespersons of a movement that goes by many names, in large measure because it cannot identify itself by a single definite description. One of its signature moves is deconstruction – and that is, to me, what the victories of Duterte and Trump are: the maneuvers of différance

Trump was everything conventional politics held a president of the United States should not be. He promised to keep Mexico off by a wall, for which he would bill the Mexican government. He minced no words about his dislike of Muslims. He did not disguise his annoyance at the presence of so many migrants who have jobs that Americans should be having. He did not care to be nice. He presented, in other words, an “alternative reading” of American politics and of the presidency.  It was an alternative to the strait-jacket of political correctness.  

It was a departure from the polite language of politicians under public scrutiny. And when the Americans cast their vote today, they made it clear that they wanted to try out this alternate reading.  

Delight in a promise

TRUMP. Republican presidential elect Donald Trump arrives for an election night party at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on November 9, 2016. Photo by Mandel Ngan/ AFP

Of course Trump is threatening. All deconstruction is threatening. It threatens those who have high stakes in the established order of things, in the definitions laid down by institutions of authority, in those who swear by canonized and sanctioned constructs.  

And probably it is right to be fearful, after all, it is not by happenstance that we have arrived at the established order, but by a painful process of trial and error, through the tedious and meandering ways of cultural evolution.

But Trump won because there is delight in the promise not only of what is different but from what diverges to a sweetly alarming degree from the way things have been. One can say: It is exasperation with what has been that makes what can be so exciting and so promising!

Politics is the text and Hilary Clinton (and Trump’s Republican rivals as well in the primaries) were bearers of the traditional reading of the text. Trump came along and offered a very unlikely if provocative reading – and the Americans, so bored at having the same tired lines repeated each time, thought that it was time to try the untried, perhaps even outlawed readings.  And that is why Trump won.  And that is why Duterte won. – Rappler.com


The author is dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College, and professor at Cagayan State University

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