My decision to distance myself from such matters is simple, I'm just not the type of person who likes immersing himself too much into something as it would affect my rationality and judgement. Hence my mild annoyance, back in October, when, after a meeting with dear old Kenny Sia at Perth, I was repeatedly asked by some others who were also present at the meeting to help... 'clean up' some mess that involved a certain beauty pageant's little sister who wanted to keep her own identity private. I was annoyed because non-issues were blown out of proportions, and that was the particular period when I started the whole 'I am a guy with a blog, but not a blogger' thing.
So, while my attention is usually on foreign blogs ever since my Sellout Week, I am not entirely oblivious to some going-ons in both the local and Singaporean blogosphere (... updates usually provided to me by bloggers on my MSN list).
Obviously, I know about Xialanxue's existence, how the hell not? That blog is a favourite gathering place for all Xiaxue haters. Where discourses of sheer intensity would usually occur between the haters, and the apologists, whilst Xialanxue would just sit back and laugh, and giggle at the traffic he's getting. I had never considered Xiaxue to be important enough to really give a rat's ass about her opinion (it also had to do with the fact that I can't seem to muster any emotions when I'm online), thus I was just as easily indifferent towards Xialanxue as well.
Then, the whole Dawn Yang fiasco occurred. Which coincided with my Sellout Week. People began capitalizing on Dawn Yang's name to get some free hits upon their blog by simply peppering their blogs with Dawn's name.
"Dawn Yang! Oh, I thought it was her, but it wasn't actually Dawn Yang, it seemed that I was thinking so much about Dawn Yang that every women I met I would thought that they were Dawn Yangs, which was a bad thing when you have so many Dawn Yangs floating upon your heads, why, Dawn Yang, are you doing this to me, Dawn Yang?"
((Of course, Dawn Yang had officially became Dawn Yeo now, which elevated my suspicions that we may actually be distantly related, and thus making our subtle, and somewhat imagined romance rather icky and incestuous))
Where was I? Ah, yes, Xialanxue, being the smart opportunist he was, decided to take advantage of this situation by positioning himself (or herself?) as the ringleader of the Dawn Yang witchhunt, the one who screamed the loudest when calling out to her to explain about her surgery. Whilst my Sellout Week was a blatant attempt to score some publicity for my underrepresented, underrated, underappreciated self. Xialanxue's tactics somehow put me to shame. For a while, I had wished that I would be just as devoid as conscience as he, but that would make me a paparazzi, not the idealistic and thoughtful, and very poetic and romantic writer filmmaker I am now.
Of course, despite being mildly annoyed with Xialanxue's over-the-top methods to generate traffic (narcissistic I may be, I'm still sensible enough to remain silent when someone tries so hard to steal away my limelight), I had not said anything until I noticed that Dawn Yang was writing back to him. And then, I interfered. But that is not a tale I intend to share here.
So, months have passed, I was in semi-hiatus (more with experimenting on video blogging, gathering ammunition to improve my blog, look at how 'Web 2.0' it is now) for quite some time, masking my disgust with certain machinations of the blogosphere in general with silence and indifference.
But today, I'm finally pushed to the edge. A rare Xialanxue ping emerged upon Project Petaling Street. I clicked it. Knowing that it would either be related to Xiaxue or Dawn Yang, since only these two topics (most probably the former) would really draw any interest from Malaysian readers. So, based on that Xlx entry, there was more drama at the Singapore blogosphere. The feud between Blinkymummy (another renowned Singaporean blogger... maybe er, Singapore's version of 5xmom?) and Xiaxue had somewhat escalated to the point where Xiaxue created a hate site for herself and imitated Xialanxue to diss Blinkymummy.
That's the gist of it. I might be wrong about the details.
Normally, I would've just read through the entry, grin in amusement and move on. No big deal, not much for me to really get involved in. I was disinterested. And then, some weird shit happened, despite all the efforts I've made with protecting myself from popups, spyware and such, A FREAKING POPUP AD APPEARED when I was there.
Hmmmm. I frowned slightly. And closed the popup window.
There were some screenshots on the entry which Xlx asked readers to click. Inquisitivity had always been an unfortunate trait of mine, thus I clicked it. And gasped in horror when the thing was a FREAKING ADVERTISEMENT.
I thought I might have been affected by spyware, thus I went back, refreshed, and click the pic again... ANOTHER ADVERTISEMENT.
Outraged by this... violation of privacy, I've decided to leave a comment on the blog, to reprimand Xlx for taking advantage of me LIKE THAT!
... clicking to the comments box led me to another advertisement.
I shrieked in anger, ripped out my monitor and flung it against the wall. I've never been that angry. I kicked at the ruined computer until my leg started bleeding profusely, I screamed until my voice went hoarse. I had no idea how long I've lose my consciousness, but when I woke up, I was lying on a puddle of blood. Gritting my teeth in pain, I struggled to get up, and limped my way towards another computer at home. And so, I ended up writing this entry.
A vulture of commerce, preying upon discord, benefiting endlessly from the seeds of dissonance. I had long known Xialanxue to be this, yet my carelessness had made me another fool who fell for his trafficmongering, moneymongering ways. You people can say all you want about Kahsoon or LiewCF, or say all you want about ME, but when it comes to traffic whoring, Xialanxue has no equal in both Singapore and Malaysia. Once again, it's unfortunate that I have a conscience.
And what have I done? By launching myself angrily into writing this entry, I had unknowingly contributed free publicity for Xialanxue again. And I don't have the heart to erase such a long entry after spending such a long time writing it. Now let's see whether I can latch myself upon every single one of Xialanxue's blog entries with the backlinks feature.
The Great Swifty had sunk into the level of normal mortals by posting this entry and participating in this mudslinging. And because of this, I have positioned myself at a tricky position as well. Despite everyone's anger towards George W Bush's infamous 'you're either with me, or against me' quote, we DO live in a world of binary oppositions*. You're either with the haters, or you're with Xiaxue. There's no in-between. It's a sad fact I learnt when I wrote an entry which I agreed with Xiaxue's 'person with a blog is different from a blogger'/ 'person who swims is different from a swimmer' comments. Some started denouncing everyone who agreed with her as, what? Xombies? Grunts? WTF? It sucks when you're with the minority, eh?
So, it seems that by lashing out against Xialanxue, people will now look at me and label me as a 'Xiaxue sympathizer'.
What. Have. I. Done????
(Imagine the last line spoken like Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 3 after he helped kill Mace Windu....
(... man I'm such a geek)
Edit (13/1/2006): Seems that Xialanxue had listened to the Great Swifty's roar of righteous anger and made the necessary changes on his blog. The Great Swifty is content and will not press charges nor demand for the medical fees needed to nurse his broken foot inflicted upon himself when he kicked his computer in frustration last night.
* In order to gain a clear understanding of the term “binary opposition” it is of primary importance to acknowledge its origins in Saussurean structuralist theory. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, the binary opposition is the “means by which the units of language have value or meaning; each unit is defined against what it is not”. Essentially, the concept of the binary opposition is engendered by the Western propensity to organize everything into a hierarchical structure; terms and concepts are related to positives or negatives, with no apparent latitude for deviation: i.e. Man/Woman, Black/White, Life/Death, Inside/Outside, Presence/Absence, and so on. Thus, the binary opposition is fundamentally a structurally derived notion which acknowledges the human inclination to think antagonistically. Significantly, the primary elements of binary oppositions are delineated by what they proscribe: for example, Black excludes White, Man excludes Woman, and as long as these divisions are sustained, then the entire hierarchical structure can operate agreeably. Essentially, it is the desire for a centre which generates binary oppositions, and it is, as Derrida’s work illustrates, distinctive of deconstruction to reveal the problematic character of all centres. Derrida states that all of Western thought forms pairs of binary opposites in which one component of the pair is privileged, arresting the play of the system and marginalizing the other component. With the application of deconstruction, Derrida employs a tactic of decentering; destabilizing the primary term so that the secondary term temporarily overthrows the hierarchy. For example, in the case of the speech-writing opposition, where speech has been deemed the privileged medium of meaning by Western philosophy, Derrida shows that writing comes before speech, thus inverting the standard hierarchy. However, Derrida acknowledges that this practice in fact merely reinstates the hierarchical structure, thus he recognizes that the new hierarchy is equally as unstable as the old one, thus, the only remaining option is capitulation to the complete free-play of the binary opposites in a non-hierarchical way. A propos the text, this decentering and acknowledgment of the free-play of opposites results in the realization that there is not merely one, or even two readings of a text, but many. Therefore, deconstruction operates on binary oppositions in a threefold manner; first, it illustrates how the opposites are related, and how one is privileged over the other, secondly, it temporarily destabilizes or decentres the hierarchy and thirdly, it deconstructs both terms and advocates the unstable, “play” of meanings. However, this promotion of “play” within texts is not the haphazard, chaotic “free-play” that some commentators misinterpret it as being. Rather it is the notion of “play” within a limited structure and with a specific purpose. As Derrida makes clear in the 1967 essay “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, “play” translates as “give” or “tolerance”, which is opposed to the establishment of fixed meanings and instead encourages the undoing of texts with a view to stirring up their fundamental levels and exposing their limitless interpretative possibilities.
It is crucial to recognize that Derrida in no way concurs with the structuralist notion of binary oppositions; in fact, this oppositional method of classification is one with which deconstruction is completely at variance. Derrida argues that these oppositions are fundamentally unreliable and intrinsically flawed. Although he acknowledges the human inclination to think in terms of opposites, he does so in a way which suggests that the opposite of Man is not Woman, but not-Man, and the opposite of Alive is not Dead, but not-Alive. The unsteady character of these repeated bifurcations can be demonstrated by presenting the possible intermediary states which frequently inhabit these supposed “binary” oppositions: i.e. Man-Androgyny-Woman, Alive-Zombie-Dead. With the application of deconstructive theory, these oppositions are destabilized, or at the very least, shown to be mutually undermining. As one commentator astutely notes, Woman is the opposite, the “other” of man: she is non-man, defective man, allocated a predominantly negative worth in relation to the male primary element. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that man is recognizable as man only on the strength of interminably excluding this Other or opposite, distinguishing himself as Man only by virtue of this total exclusion of Woman. Therefore, Woman is not merely an Other in the sense that Man cannot directly comprehend her, but an Other connected to him as the representation of what he is not, and therefore she remains a crucial reminder of what he is. This Other is essential to Man, even as he rejects it. Thus, the attention shifts from the dominant term (Man) to the dominated term (Woman), from the centre to the margin. It is characteristic of deconstruction that it functions within the conditions of a particular structure with the specific intention of disrupting the structure. Essentially, Derrida’s strain of deconstruction exposes the conditional foundation of the dual structures of binary oppositions, and it does so not with the objective of supplying a superior basis for knowledge, but in order to displace the supremacy of one oppositional term over the other, and to produce an aperture that allows for absolute diversity. Derrida’s deconstructionist position on binary oppositions implies that the division between two terms can no longer be validated or established by the exclusive primacy of one term over the other. Thus, Derrida elucidates how deconstruction is an expression of the significance of alternative ideals rather than an extremist, destructive mode of criticism.
Derrida embraces the cause for “undecidables” in his analysis of binary oppositions. Essentially, undecidables disrupt the oppositional logic which is fundamental to hierarchical structures; they skim across both sides of an opposition but don’t appropriately correspond with either. They exceed the clearly defined boundaries of the opposition, and therefore challenge the very tenets of oppositional structures themselves. Having established that binary oppositions classify and structure the world, and indeed, texts themselves, the play of undecidables within this ostensibly ordered system generates confusion; the limits of order are thrown into disarray and categorizational stability collapses. Taking Androgyny as an example of an “undecidable”, it is clear how oppositional logic is disrupted with the acknowledgement of this intermediary state. An androgyne is the inscription of the failure of the Man/Woman opposition. Like all undecidables, androgynes contaminate the oppositions clustered around them. These oppositions ought to institute steady, unambiguous, enduring categories, but when undecidables are brought into play, the entire oppositional system is called into question. As one commentator shrewdly asks; what happens to Man/Woman, White/Black, Master/Servant, Life/Death, Civilized/Primitive, when white colonialists can also be the androgynous zombie slaves of black power? Undecidables therefore devastate classificatory stability and the oppositional logic which characterizes these classifications. It would seem that the most favourable course of action when dealing with these undecidables would be for them to be restored to order, for their undecidability to be neutralized so that the conceptual order may be reinstated. However, a restoration to order would require a complete removal of undecidablility, which presents further difficulties, in that the androgyne and the zombie must be returned to one side of the opposition or the other so that order may be restored. They must be “decided” as belonging to either Man/Woman, or Life/Death respectively. However, as one commentator accurately notes, zombies are already dead (while alive), thus they are neither dead nor alive. Similarly, androgynes are simultaneously Man/Woman, yet are not entirely either. Quite apart from the fact that the resolution of these undecidables would appear to be impossible, it would also seem that Derrida’s deconstructive standpoint demands that they remain ambivalent, unresolved concepts; thus illustrating the contradictions inherent in the world, uncovering the inadequacies of Structuralist thought and offering an alternative to that thought. Derrida’s perspective on binary oppositions also illustrates the contradictions inherent in the textual sphere. Fundamentally, deconstruction strives to illustrate how oppositions, with the purpose of sustaining their antithetical condition, occasionally cave in on themselves. In order to maintain their dichotomous position, these binary oppositions need to eject certain awkward minutiae which may reappear and beleaguer them. Derrida’s own distinctive practice of reading texts is to capture some seemingly negligible piece in the work – an annotation, a minor idiom or idea - and carry it insistently through until it reaches the point where the oppositions that preside over the text are irrevocably endangered. For example, in Plato’s Pharmacy, Derrida draws attention to Plato’s use of the Greek word “pharmakon”, the meanings of which range from “poison” to “remedy” to “cure”, and explores the ambiguity at work in the pharmakon and its complex signification. Similarly, in Dissemination, Derrida concentrates on the word “hymen”, ultimately declaring that it occupies a sort of “non-space” between inside and outside, that it illustrates what happens in the unspecified, uncertain “place” of the in-between. Therefore, deconstruction toys with the binary oppositions which appear to govern ideologies and texts, ultimately illustrating how these oppositions are in fact unreliable and frequently self-destructive. In his discussion on the hymen, for example, Derrida ultimately concludes that while the hymen inhabits a type of “non-space”, it also functions to establish the distinctions between interiors and exteriors. Thus, the hymen thrives on its own simultaneous absence and presence, in that its existence is paradoxically affirmed by its non-existence, its “non-being”, which in turn establishes its being (much like Man distinguishing himself as Man by virtue of the total exclusion of Woman, the Other who stands as a representation of what he is not, and therefore serves as an essential reminder of what he is). This “third place”, the hymen, may therefore be considered as the third component to the Inside/Outside binary opposition, belonging to neither, yet at the same time, both. Thus, by revealing the unreliability of the Inside/Outside opposition, the hymen acts as the undecidable, that which, like the Androgyne or Zombie, cannot simply be restored to one side or the other, as it inhabits both. This hymen, this marginal place is, according to Derrida, also the site of writing, since writing is what happens in the in-between space between author and reader.
Fundamentally, it is evident that by affixing itself to the contradictions and endless possibilities for interpretation inherent in the text, and moreover in the world itself, deconstruction constructively challenges the tenets of classical structuralism and offers an alternative to the rigid boundaries which typify binary oppositions.
- From the Literary Encyclopedia