Self As The Other


Language is political. Language also makes us political. Language along with culture constitute us as an other and enables us to other others. We become an other through language. We then other those that do belong to us/what ever it may mean to us. Actually, there is nothing same. What we consider as the same is the other that puts on the mask of sameness. Our language manages otherness by reducing it to sameness. What we have is the difference between the other and the difference of the self. When we view the other from the difference of the self as sameness, the other looks different and is placed in dialectical contrast with the difference of the self. The other then looks to be on the other side and not alongside. The dialectical pulsations that contrast the difference of the other with the difference of the self makes the other appear as siding against our side. Our side is the difference of the side of the other. We domesticate it and constitute it as self-sameness. Language becomes the instrument of naming the self-difference as self-sameness and provide firepower to other the other. Hence, we do have the challenge to awaken to our own self difference. Looking at oneself as other can usher in a new hermeneutics of the self and its other that forgets that the self itself is an other.

There is the other in the self that thinks that it is the same and contrasts its self-sameness with the otherness of the other. The forgetting that self that is actually an other produces politics that can go on to marginalize the other. Recognizing one’s self difference can open us to a new world and lead us to live and embrace new ethics. It has the power to dismantle the ethics that demands sameness from the other. It interrogates and disrupts the conception of self as self-presence leading to the conception of self-sameness and makes the way for self as the other. Self as other than can be viewed as being side by side of others. It is on the side of the other and the other is on the side of self. It is not a self that is siding against the side of the other. Both being others are on the same side. Thus the discovery of the alterity of the self enables us to de-hierarchize both self and the other. Both stand on the same side and on the same ground. This is why both can easily say yes to each other and live the ethics of care/ love. We now enter the undecidable zone as we think the self and its others who are on the same side are on different sides and posse one against the other using the structures of either/ or thinking. The undecidability is also because it is never certain that the other will not harm me or also that I will not harm the other. We have the challenge to live with this vulnerability. If there was no undecidability, we would need no ethics. It is undecidability that warrants the need for ethics.

The self and the other mutually inhabit each other while remaining unreducible to one another. As other, the self cannot be reduced to the other neither can be contrasted with each other. Self as an other can only embrace the other as an other without laying a demand on the other to become the same. Therefore life becomes living with others for better or for worse. Who and what of the other remains forever open and cannot be closed or reduced to some digestive sameness. The other is singular as much as the self and cannot be assimilated by the self in its difference that posses as sameness. Self-sameness is a construct. What we have is only difference and otherness. We have only unshareable otherness to share. We can share our unsharabilty . We belong together at the level of our shareable unsharabilty. To share our unsharability,we have to deconstruct the self of the sameness. The self that thinks self-difference in the frame of sameness has to get out of the frame. It has to break this image in the mirror of sameness.The sematic traces of sameness that cover the otherness of the self has to be dusted off the self so that the self of difference and otherness can come to full visibility. The self of the sameness only shares its shareability. Its unsharabilty or otherness is then forgotten or rendered conflictual.

Otherness as unsahrability of the self can share with other-selves who are also other unsharable selves. We can share our unsharable otherness. This sensitiveness to the self as other can enable us to see every other with respect, dignity and care. Self as the other belongs to a different signification/ sign system. It does not belong to the sign system of the sameness of the self. Belonging to the sign system of otherness, we can see the self as one among other others. There is no othering of the others. The others of the self who is also an other stand on the same side. Paradoxically self of the same sees its others on the other side while the self as the other sees its others on the same side. But being dynamic, they both the self who is an other and its other others remain always in the play of coming to be. This is why the ethics of the self as other can only remain in the coming. It is an ethics of love that is ever-flowing never reaching the finishing line. Hence, when we think the self as the other and think of its relations with others, we enter the absolute horizon that does not close on us. How will the self that is the other will love its other others remain undecidable and cannot be foretold. A bold embracing of the self as other will bring a Copernican revolution in a world that is lost in the myth of self-sameness of the self. We have the challenge to think the self as other and usher in a new world that embraces self as other and its other as others. To begin this revolution we need to turn the language of sameness on itself.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao