Thinking Politics of the Tomorrow in Today

Image Source: Shutterstock

The political stands in the tomorrow. We cannot easily trace how it will unfold itself. Jacques Derrida’s thought can assist us to face the future that we cannot see coming. Derrida teaches that there cannot be politics of the presence. This does not mean that there is no politics in the present. The perfectibility of the future makes the present political. It is the promise of the future that pushes us to be political in the present. Even those who wish to give a future to what is deemed or imagined as a golden past also construct the politics of the present to usher in a future of a past. Because the political has a promissory relation with the future, Derrida can be insightful because his politics is a politics of the future, one that is not given in accordance to any knowable model. It is a performative and transformative critique that opens itself to the unpredictable and unknowable future as the arrival of the other. This is why the future remains open-ended and is always alive. We cannot foreclose this future in advance with our knowledge. It remains unknowable. Derrida enables us to give chance a chance and opens us to give the other its due by creating a space for its arrival. The arriving other is an event of irreducible alterity. It is the arrival of the other that may be the people to come, institutions to come, democracy to come, justice to come that we cannot see coming. We may vaguely see the horizons of the alterity to come but cannot foresee it entirely.

The present, therefore, becomes only an arrival or the intervention of the possible tomorrow while tomorrow, in reality, is never given to us. Tomorrow lies ahead of us. It lies in the unknowable and unpredictable horizon. But we are concerned about tomorrow. In fact, this concern comes from our finitude. We cannot know the exact contours of tomorrow. Therefore, we have the challenge to humbly take our finitude seriously and give history a chance. The present is constituted by its futurity. The present cannot be fully present as it carries the seeds of the arrival of the future as other/unknown. We cannot speak of the present by insulating it from the future. The past has a role. The wounds of the past remain open before a future and are seeking healings or resolution in the present. The future as a quest to bring justice for the errors, injustices and fault-lines of the past can be worst than those wounds that we have experienced directly or surrogatively from the past. We have therefore the task to mourn the past and not post it into a future and seek its arrival in the present. Hence, we have to understand how the present is happening under the incessant weight of the future. This may also illumine us why history is not the thing of the past. It is always a question of the future. All history is written with the alphabets of the present about a past but with closures in the future.

Clearly, the signs of the coming future exist in seminal form in the present. It is for us to discern them and anticipate them. It is never really possible to fully trace these signs. We can trace them in the manner we intervene in the present and render it political. We do imagine the future differently and therefore there are different and plural interventions and their contestations in the present. The present is in the chaosmic state of mutation and it is under the weight of the arrival of the future. We cannot tame or domesticate its arrival. It always remains the other. This is why the present becomes profoundly political. The past died. But it lives in us as dying and we wish to bring it back to life. We cannot do it in the present. It remains dead to us. We can only wish to resuscitate it in the future by pushing the present towards the future of a dead past. We are captured by the birthright of the past and thus place its coming in the future that puts its weight on the present. All politics whether it is of the right-wing, left-wing and the centrist is, therefore, the politics of the future. This is why it is a challenge for us to decode the lines of the future in the present by understanding the pressures that are working on the present to usher it. This is how we can intervene positively to remain open to the future that is other as well as emancipative. This means we may be able therefore to allow the future to have a future without letting it be a future of some past or even that of the present. Such a future has a right to be born. It is the future that can rupture our present anxieties which generate the politics of the present.

This is why we need to be vigilant about these anxieties and discern how they imagine a future that is then bent back to fast forward the present towards it. The fact that we have pluralities of these bending backward energies of the future impinging on the present, our task becomes difficult and complicated. Our task is to open space for the arrival of the unforeseeable future. Such a future cannot be a future of some past, present or the future of one eliticized community, caste, race or nation. This ability to say ‘ Here I am ‘ to the arrival of the totally other future is not easy. It is possible to remain open to this future that we cannot fully know or foresee. It will emancipate the present and free it from egoistic and narcissistic anticipations of the future. It will deconstruct all energies and forces that wish to bend the future towards the present and force the shape of the future to suit their vested interests/ ends. The open future that is proposed here in the light of the work of Derrida is democratic. It opens the space for all. It is a just future. It can bring justice and equity in the present. Let therefore think about the politics of tomorrow in our today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao