Living a Prejudice

Hans-Georg Gadamer

Do the dance and the play of the self of the internet manifests his/her autobiography? Does he/ she compose/decompose an autobiography through his/ her gymnastics on the web? Is the life that composes/de-composes on the web can be his/ her life alone? Perhaps we have to listen to Fredric Nietzsche to understand how the life on the web may not be one’s own that one is living. Nietzsche says in the preface of his book, Ecce Homo, ‘I live on my own credit. The credit I establish and give myself. It is perhaps a mere prejudice that I live’. Derrida commenting on the above statement says ‘a prejudice: Life. Or not so much life in general, but my life, this ‘that I live’, the ‘I-live’ in the present. It is a prejudgement in the present, a sentence, a hasty arrest, a risky prediction. This life will be verified only when the bearer of the name, the one whom we in prejudice, call living will have died.’ In this sense maybe we can say that the self of the internet is living a prejudice. 

Raimon Panikkar

There is a certain outside to our life. That is why maybe we are all living with prejudice. The term prejudice is not negative. It has been rehabilitated by H. G. Gadamer. He taught us that the prejudice of enlightenment was prejudice against prejudice. When we keep prejudice out, thinking that we are unbiased, we fall into its trap by its own logic. No one is prejudice-free. Everyone lives with prejudice. Gadamer teaches that prejudice is a kind of pre-understanding that we bring to bear on everything. It is like light that illuminates everything. We see everything in the light of prejudice. Nietzsche is more radical. Prejudice is not just a looking glass or a lens. He is not just marking a distance to view his life and world through prejudice. He is saying that he is living a prejudice in the act of living itself. We are acting out our prejudice as we live. This is the reason perhaps the dance of the self of the web is also acting out of prejudice. The wanderings of the self on the web are performative of prejudice. It is embodying prejudice and living it simultaneously. 

This means the ‘I’ in each of us is constituted by the return of the prejudice that turns us forward to embrace and live the adventure of life in our own way. We cannot live the life of the other in mathematical terms. We mime the other. But fail to mime the other accurately. Our mimetic desire fails to imitate the model of enjoyment of the life of the other. Hence what we have is a prejudiced version of the other. It is an I-version of the other. This is why often the ‘I’ is averse to the other. I-version is always a heretical view. But often this misrecognition works. There is a heretic imperative that follows from it that brings two or more persons together. We cannot explain why two people are friends. It is a heretical relationship. The two friends live with prejudice. They live on the credit that they give themselves. 

The same is true of two enemies. They too live their prejudice. They live on the credit that they give themselves. This means there is a calculus of debt that we write with the ink of prejudice. Each of us is living an onto-biography. Our onto-biographies are unique and unrepeatable There is the ontic and the ontological pole of our onto-biographies. Ontic remind us the way we are. Now that you are reading. You are at the ontic level. But at a deeper level, we are ontological beings. There is a dynamism of our being that leads our givenness or facticity in its being as human-in-the-world. As beings-in-the-world, we are always beginning-with and beings-towards-death. Thus we live our onto-biography. These onto-biographies carry the prejudice of life as well as death. They carry our biology, sociology as well as death/ thanatology and eschatologies. . Raimundo Panikkar calls this prejudice mythos. When we enter the mythos of the other understanding takes place. Each individual, as well as the community, share their prejudice/ mythos. In this context, we are not directly concerned with the prejudice of the communities but are concerned with the prejudice of the self of the internet as well as each of us. It assists us to understand his/ her heretic and erratic behaviour on the web and may also give insight into our life. This does not mean that the self of the web is totally insulated from the mythos of his/her community. 

The prejudice that we live assures us that we live several lives simultaneously. We have received prejudice from our communities, reading, schooling and upbringing. This means we do carry several people living as well as dead in us. The dead do not just live in our memory, they live in our prejudice. This means our onto-biography is also a thanatography. We are truly living dead. The dead are still living in us. Perhaps this dimension of our life is clearly manifested by the self of the internet. The self of the internet is a self of the networks. He/she is simultaneously living on several networks taking several identities or avatars on the web. A kind of ventriloquism haunts the self of the internet. There is an oscillation between the anchor self and its larvae or avatars in the web. Thus, there is no one onto-biography but several onto-biographies being lived out at one time.

What is true and made manifest by the self of the internet is true of us all. We are living several onto-biographies in one life. We have several identities. Our ethic, religious, caste etc., all in one person. Like an onion, we can pill only different onto-biographies down to the final peeling point. Nothing seems to belong to us. Even our body, its biology is not ours. It is gifted by our parents and nature. The onto-biographies with their links to several thanatographies are challenging us to be humble and grateful.

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