dear social constructionism,
Belgium, 4th of March 2013
Dear Social Constructionism,
In some way I left you some 10 years ago. Silently in the night, no farewell party. Not even intentionally; it simply happened. From that point I’ve explored the integral approach of this other Ken (Wilber) and from there I travelled on to the expanded fields of this other “ism”: Buddhism. But let me first remind you how we met. In the 90’s I was a psychology student reading Friedrich Nietzsche and I felt alienated from most of the teachings of most psychology professors. And then, in my third year, I met professor Rene Bouwen. What he taught sounded like music in my ears. I felt a big relief: there is an intellectual community out there that proclaimed my intuitions back then.
In these early days, I must admit, my affinity for postmodern thought had a somewhat relativistic, even nihilistic twist - completely in line way with puberty in a fin-de-siècle ambiance. I regarded constructionism mainly as an ontology: we co-construct inclusion as well as exclusion, equality as well as inequality, genius as well as mental diseases... The larger, prevalent scientific community co-constructs positivistic research, and a smaller, marginal one co-constructs constructionist inquiry. Divers communities construct distinct practices and ways of talking about reality. You, dear constructionism, helped me to take a stance against a mere mechanistic, dualistic and objectivistic view of a world. It opened up a larger and richer way to comprehend and apprehend life. But all love for something, is temporary, and consequently also the love for you… Two questions, each of these reflecting some disappointment, came up:
• I got bored reading constructionist literature and caught myself thinking “Yeah, I’ve got the point – five years ago”. At first I felt exited to explore social constructionist implications for situated actualities within divers domains. But in the end it’s a frame of reference, and frames are self-confirming and, consequently, we can get caught in endless semantic loop. Are we creating a better world with this intellectualisation of the relational?
• What are “social constructionists”? Self-contained individuals reflecting on and from social constructionism? I hope not and I don’t want to sound rude. My question is: What makes social constructionists different? And what makes the constructionist community different?
How do you, constructionism, inspire us to explore practices that not only liberate our abstract/academic thinking, but also our “way of being in the world”, and how can you liberate the world? How can we co-construct an engaged constructionism? My conclusion was: constructionism can only do that if we create a freer relationship with our constructionist identity. How do you do that: being a constructionist not being captivated by constructionism itself? Well, I found an answer in Buddhism. In this world we constantly co-construct, and meditation allows us not to be hooked by our own constructions. “Not being hooked”, i.e. freedom, seems to me a good and almost necessary supportive practice for these other potentially “liberating” practices which are interrelated such as deconstruction, dialogue, “cocreation”, emic and etic inclusion, taking into account interdependencies and leaving room for chaos, organic emergence, appreciation, community building, … This liberation has got nothing to do which the autonomous individual who tries to get what he wants, express what he thinks and feels and needs. Even not with a constructionism avoiding to be an ism. Liberation: the co-creation of a transitional space in which we can explore and play again, and create better possibilities. Co-creation is intrinsically ethical. As Jean-Jacques Deridda would have said: “deconstruction is justiceship”. It’s about rediscovering humanity and putting it back into the centre. There is a kind of truthfulness/righteousness in this inquiry. What we liberate is our responsibility: a search for what is the right thing to do in each particular situation, without having the pretence (to be able) to know what it is (Emmanuel Levinas).Life is change, but self-preservation is everywhere. “Self-preservation is everywhere, but love conquers all.” (David Brazier)
We can co-create an inner relationship with ourselves. Noticing that our thoughts, emotions and actions are constructions, allows us to take a more “loosely coupled” stance towards them. So, we step out off a mainly reactive mode into a more improvisational mode in which we are more responsive to the cry of the world, the cry of our relationships. When we notice that our constructions serve as shields/shelters that cover us up, give us a false sense of permanence and alienate us from the world, we can look through these and “dis-cover” something. “In the beginning there was relationship”, Martin Buber, suggesting that we can meet the world by, through and beyond our constructions.
Dear social constructionism, let’s make a difference together and engage in this perpetuating process of on-going inquiry in which there is searching without finding and finding without searching. This practice is possible if we relate, if we interrelate with others and intra-relate with ourselves. That’s how we honour the relational nature of reality.
"Can you free yourself enough to be able to experience the reality of life as it goes on before and with you, and as you go on as a part of it? Or not? 'Cause if you can't, you stand on square one [playing a lead role in a cage] until you die" - Rogers Waters
See you around, and let's dance whenever we meet again,
Sven De Weerdt
PS. Please, read Peter Hershocks Liberating Intimacy on Ch’an Buddhism!