The Secret of the Cancel Culture

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Cancel culture is a culture of erasure. Cancellation opens fissures. It stands for omissions or absence(s).  It is a blankness in whose place something will no longer be anything. It scrapes out something and tries to annul it. The site of cancellation is an empty place.  Both Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida used the tactic of erasure as a critical means of interrupting old solidified project of proclaiming what is deemed as truth in a single voice. This means they open other possible ways or positions that may be competing with the said truth and ways of enunciating it. These possibilities open other ways of thinking truth and enunciating it. This is necessary otherwise singular mode of thinking truth and enunciating it are thought to be unrivalled.  Erasure is a form of writing. It is a counter inscription.  This is why it is never fully closed.  This is a hope that we have as we face the cancel culture. What is cancelled leaves its marks.  It being a signifying practice leaves its footprints for a counter-reading. Cancel culture deconstructs itself in the very act of cancelling through the remnant of its traces. There is no pure cancelling.  It cannot annihilate itself. Hence it opens host of trajectories of interpretation. Cancel culture can be viewed as a writing under erasure. Such a consideration assists us to open other possible readings rather than join the dots opened by the cancellation in a manner the agents of cancel culture intend. 

Cancel culture leaves behind its material trace. It is like an abject thrown on the face of an innocent person(s) by the thought police on the web. This does not means that cancel culture is a digital phenomenon. Cancel culture does have real impact in our lives. The person who is sought to be cancelled does feel the pain of such annulling attempt. Being a perfomative act of signification, cancel culture does violence to the victims. While not closing our eyes to physical and psychological damage that cancel culture inflicts on its victims who are often innocent, I attempt to open our eyes to a point of failure in the very event of cancellation.  Cancel culture fails on two counts. It cannot fully write off its victims. There is always room for their second coming. Besides, this failure, cancel culture cannot cancel itself as it leaves its marks that become alternate coordinates for new interpretations that may cancel the meaning or signification intended by the inflictors of cancel culture itself. This means the point of failure of the cancellation event is actually a point of emancipation. No one is compelled to take the subject position (Michel Foucault) offered by cancel culture. Hence, by itself cancel culture has no power. It derives its power over us through our submission to its orders of signification (universes of meaning).   

Forbidden fruit is always tasty. This is why books that were kept under index often aroused interest in the people. Hence, the event of cancellation of a person can become counter-cancellation. In fact a person may come under spot light and may draw the attention to the people who is a victim of cancellation.  This means there is always an excess in the event of cancellation. It is this surplus that can provide alternate coordinates to the victim to find escape routes. It also means that the event of cancellation sows the seeds for the new people to come (Gilles Deleuze). May be an analogy will help. Lightening for instance, distinguishes itself from the dark sky but also it leaves a trail as if it is distinguishes itself from something that does not distinguish itself from it.  Thus, there is always possibility to shine out of the darkness imposed by the event of cancellation even while one is being dragged by it into its darkness. This means the cancel culture cannot be univocal. It remains polyvocal much against the intend of its inflictors. This means the cancel culture cannot cancel  person(s), object(s) and event(s). 

Cancel culture is disruptive.  The event of disruption can become a starting point of integration. Cancel culture has an unmaking side. It is not just unmaking the person(s) that are subjected to it. It is unmaking itself. It in this self-cancelling of the cancel culture that we can trace possibilities of emancipation for its victims.   This means cancel culture is haunted by a force of self-destruction. It is in this territory of haunting that we can see possibilities of alternate emancipative orders to emerge. In other words, cancel culture has an excess that cannot be erased. It indeed is a writing under erasure. It puts the person(s), object(s) and event(s) under erasure.  Strictly speaking the event of cancellation is always already absent. It is our submission to its signifying orders that gives it prominence. Why should be Oedipalize before it? Cancel culture cannot truly castrate anyone. It is for us to resists its orders of signification and find alternate spaces to bloom.  We have  to cross the line that cancel culture forbids us. It is a challenge to make a radical leap of consciousness. This of course is not easy. We are often enslaved by its orders of  signification and Oedipalize before its organization of our life. It takes courage to stand up against cancel culture. 

We can erase cancel culture. To this we will have to learn to keep it under erasure. While this Buddha like indifference may be easy for others who are not direct victims of cancel culture, for those who are its victims it is ostensibly difficult. To the victims, I try to suggest the technique of passing the signification orders of cancel culture into a semiotic black hole. Like the black hole that traps light, we can let the meanings, significations and values attached to the orders of the cancel culture be emptied or squeezed out of its meanings/ values.  This opens for us a blank slate as we de-semiotize all meaning out of the coordinates on the chess board of our life.  To do this we need cool and unperturbed mind.  Cancel culture does put our time out-of-joint but as Derrida teaches us that it becomes a precursor of the future-to-come. There is a secret or crypt in the cancel culture. The secret is that it is fragile and we do not have to give it power by submitting to it.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao