There was a time when I heard of some quite similar stories many times back in China. Those stories can be simply summarised as: a child who usually grows up in a working-class family or a lower one, was sent to a relatively better primary school by his parents; and the reason why he had this opportunity to go to that school is his parents spent most of their savings over the past decade to buy a flat near that school. There, the essential thing his parents ask this child is to study hard to get into an excellent junior high school where he will be asked to study hard again to attend one of the best high schools and then the most exceptional university he can go. If this child did go to a leading university, he would doubtless choose the hit major, which helps him find a well-paid job in the future. Paradoxically, it might not be his own choice to a large extent, and he might not even know which one he should choose. It is not difficult to imagine such a fact, since all his effort derives from his parents’ expectation of a kind of transcendence, i.e., to be better than his peers and to be better than his parents and himself. Nevertheless, this “better” only means attending a superior school. Insofar as, this child, now an adult, is his parents’ marionette; and he purposelessly strives for his parents’ purposefulness. The story above is never for only a small group of people but is a one for a larger group than we expect. Countless alike people studied for years for a non-existent dream of transcendence, so that they have forgotten how to return to the community where they live. I keep wondering why such stories happen and continue to do so. Other than an argument at the material level, I would try to analyse it from its origin.
1. Investigating the linguistic assimilation between two communities
First of all, to analyse this specific speech and for further research on modes of writing or representations, written discourse, or photography in the artistic area, a seemingly complex linguistic model needs to build. Saussure claims a word does not have meaning through an isolated definition as a pure grasp of meaning: a definition must use the words. Now let us say there are two communities (Community A & Community B) and two words (Signifier A & Signifier B) with their meanings (Signified A & Signified B). In addition to that, we bring in another two words and their meanings (Signifier A’, Signified A’, Signifier B’, and Signified B’). Moreover, in Community B, Signifier B equals Signifier B’ and Signified B equals Signified B’; however, in Community A, there is no such equivalence between A and A’. To initiate our deconstruction of the assimilation, I have to clarify that Signifier A’ and Signifier B’ refer to the same sign in both communities. Yet, we could start thinking what if Signifier A assimilates Signifier B, i.e., a part of Community A’s linguistic system enters the one of Community B to replace it. The positive result, which is also the one we will demonstrate next, is that Signified B is replaced by Signified A, while Signifier B remains the same. Nonetheless, Signified A was pseudo in Community B, which means it never had and will never have the same meaning as Signified B. Insofar as, for Community B, such an assimilation interrupts the implicit equivalence and liquidity between B and B’. This is also to say, the assimilated Signified B is out of control and has lost in definition, and the original Signified B is freeze-framed in a figurative moment when a wire-dancer loses his balance with one foot hanging.
We could find many examples in reality for the argument above. First, I will take myself as an example. I grew up in a small town where people usually speak a kind of dialect, especially at home. In the dialect I speak, there is no honorific for those who are older than us. For instance, when I call my grandfather, I will simply use the word ni as when I call my peers. Years later, I moved to a big city where people usually speak Mandarin, and then I found that I need to call an older person nin, despite I never learned to use it. Paradoxically, I realised the disappearance of the equivalence even though I still call my grandfather ni all the time. I used to think the ni when I call my peers and the ni when I call my grandfather are equal, which means, logically, I can switch or choose any of them to call whether the elders or peers. However, when I enter the Mandarin language system, or it enters my life, the word nin in the Mandarin community, an honorific for older people, assimilates the word ni in a community where I grew up. And by the time the assimilation completes, I no longer think the word ni for older people is there conceptually for me to use. I can still speak it as I always do, but the signifiedof ni no longer exists, which is to say, it leads to implantation of pseudo contextualisation, former ni-ni relation being solidified, the disappearance of equality and the loss of its original definition.
We can go further with this. The essential reason why such assimilation can realise is that Community A, or the Mandarin community in the example above, postulates a kind of knowledge, a memory, a comparative order of facts, ideas, and decisions as it is more extensive, more forceful and universal in a sense along with its relatively dominant discourse. Ostensibly, Signified A obliterates the being of Signified B since it negates the latter’s possibilities of interpretation and inscription; however, it never intends to cause this annihilation. Metaphorically, we could take Sign B’ and Sign B (which is already assimilated by Signified A) as two train stations. There is a train regularly commuted between these two stations, and after the realisation of the assimilation, Sign B is now being contextualised as a pseudo one, i.e., as a station, it is presently absent/nihil. Nonetheless, the train is not aware of this action, so, it will perpetually steam while being ignorant of the end. It is a one-way trip rather than a commute. Those who wait for another train in the station have to face the reality that there will be no train coming to take them and there is no way back once they are in the train; thus, all they can do is to adopt or pretend to adopt the only idea of adoption; which alludes, in such a state of being, being itself is a misfortune.
Next, we need to answer another question. What is its telos if Community A has a collective will to assimilate? First of all, parole is never there to be speech. The so-called parole in Community B is at no time parole per se; instead, it is speech for itself. The contradiction here is, the speech in Community B becomes parole only when it is subservient to the one in Community A. Inasmuch as the occurrence of this kind of appropriation, the pluralism thereupon reconciles with its negation. I argue that there are two different types of the assimilation. The first one, I will call it quiet assimilation. This one has less influence on the whole community, and the assimilating process is smooth and clean. Such assimilation happens when the assimilating signifier is similar to or completely the same as the assimilated one. Insofar as the process could be done without too much will and energy, and it is unrecognisable at large. A family that is assimilated in some respects, for instance, might become an outsider living inside the community due to the communitive malfunction. This family can still live well as an outsider, and it is sometimes regarded as a progressive one. In contrast, the other one is boisterous assimilation. It could affect exceedingly, and the process is afflictive, harsh, and dolorous. In a sheer and extreme example, if the community is assimilated thoroughly, all I can envision is not only the annihilation of individuality but also of Being. I do not fabricate antagonism between two communities, per contra, I would defend that there is no antagonism between them. The telos the assimilating community desires to achieve is to be being there. Paradoxically, being there for Community A (following the use of the model above) depends on the assimilation and only on it. It is the embodiment of Community A’s own vitality, the proof of being there, and the emancipation of individuality(I will explain this soon).
On the one hand, I do deny that Community A dominates in this assimilation under any condition. It is a fierce monster in some cases where the loud and bold collective will exists and acts; however, it is also innocent, childlike, and has weak immunity. The assimilation could have been a positive communication, mutual benefit, and reciprocity. It keeps the relative balance between the two. Since neither of them is static or fixed, I would claim that in two communities with infinite significations, the assimilation rate is always below the rate of reciprocity, just as the exploring rate of human or perhaps extraterrestrial life (if there is) is lower than the expansion rate of the universe. While the balance is internal-oriented as the positive communication’s structure, the outer part arouses meanings in the mind through enticement and a kind of oblique action. In Writing and Difference, Derrida also noted that writing does not know where it is going; no knowledge can keep it from the essential precipitation toward the meaning that it constitutes, and that is, primarily, its future. In such a manner, the assimilation leaves being correlated with both a room.
Here, we should also try to think from the perspective of this assimilating community in my model. Does it know that it is doing such an act with self-consciousness at the existential level? First of all, this involves a problem in principle: the authenticity of this community. I will discuss it in more detail in the second half. We could now make a hypothesis and make an inference based on it. If the assimilating community (Community A again) is authentic, and it knows that it is doing such an act and continues to do so. Then we could envision that it will assimilate all the signifieds that are able to be assimilated in the coming day. In other words, its own fluidity will no longer exist since it ultimately becomes the assimilated community (Community B). And the assimilated signifieds in the assimilated community has a superposition state. When we use (not just speak, write, or think; it has a broader meaning) Signifier B, the meaning (Signified B) it has comes from Signified A; when we do not use the Signified B, it is a superposition state, i.e., the Signifier B owns two notions: Signified A and Signified B, and thus, as outsiders, we can never precisely know what Signified B is unless we use it de facto. So, if we cannot understand its absolute nature from a consistent metaphysical or ontological point of view, we can only be forced to accept its manifestation during use. In such a manner, we cannot recognise that it is authentic, as it is inconsistent with the assumption. Furthermore, we could then infer that nature/being/presence of the assimilated Signified B is absent/ex nihilo for us/outsiders who use it.
In addition to that, if we simply follow Hegel and Heidegger in this model, we will possibly be misled. Hegel posits separated subject and object in order to analyse being-in-itself. So, for our Community A, to come to know itself in the form of “an other”, it must transform or externalise itself into its own “otherness” or its own “other-being”. But in this way, it knows itself as an external or alien object and does not identify itself as itself. I argue that we cannot treat being in such a manner if its authenticity is still to be affirmed. The negation of the possibilities of itself being “other-being”, however, is the very negation of Community A’s own authenticity and self-consciousness; this is also to say, the negation of the rationality and legitimacy of the relation to its counterpart, Community B. Then when we investigate its self-consciousness, we obviously cannot find the answer in this way. In order to resolve this contradiction, we need to search somewhere else.
There is one term that I need to clarify, which is individuality, to go on with the contradiction and for our further discussion with regard to the hegemonic mode of the assimilation. It is the very concept that helps us understand more about the assimilation. I tend to think the individuality as collective individuality at a metaphysical level, and in the following inscription, it differentiates humanity from divinity. So, a question should be put forward first: Is it because of the difference in being that the individuality emerges? I would claim that the opposite is exact; only when the being is precisely the only one can the individuality appears or reveals itself.
Let’s think about these two completely different objects: humanity and divinity. They represent opposite poles of a community in which we will discuss. There is an in-between/spacing or differance in Derrida’s words between them. Here, I would argue it is in-between/ spacing/differance that the foundation of Being/Dasein. The in-between is where only Being resides on, and it is not an isolated system which functions separately from the poles; nevertheless, what the in-between constitutes is neither purely humanity nor divinity, and for both, the in-between is with them and without them at the same time and space. In other words, the in-between is a holistic system that affects both sides though it only offersin-between per se. Here, you might sense a similarity between what object-oriented-ontologist Graham Harman claims, vicarious causation and in-between that I am talking about, I should clarify that first, thing-in-itself does not exist here for me, being is always in a state of withdrawal. It rests on this withdrawal and never enters objects; in other words, being is consistently present in in-between rather than in objects. Second, Harman’s proposal of a notion of substancesexceeding every relation into which they might enter presupposes the elementary relations from objects; however, I hold the view that in-between could be regarded as “a third entity” that radiates relations to objects. Now back to our discussion. This in-between where individuality should appear in a sense, does not reveal it. So, if the in-between is where only Beingrests on, it must have the same nature of Being, which means it is essentially nihilo and in a state of absence other than any other simulacrum such as individuality. If there is no place for individuality in the in-between, then where is it? As we acknowledge, humanity and divinity are entirely contrasting, and individuality is the thing that differentiates them, accordingly, it has to be somewhere outside the in-between. I would indicate that there is an area generally forgotten by us, which is developed by the in-between. That area, I will call it chaos, then engenders individuality. Thus, in such a manner, individuality is able to return to in-between to be present. Yet, back to our question above, there is alone one Being in any respect in the most extensive existing community that we could imagine. This Being is omnipotent insofar as it suffices to trace even absolutely contrasting objects and to arouse chaos from which individuality reveals.
I think now it is time to apply this model to reality. We could think about two communities at the artistic level or even a more general social level, when one’s discourse (Community A) is seen more significant than the other (Community B), this behaviour of embedding pseudo-concepts into the other community can comfortably occur; furthermore, there is separation in Community B when the assimilation develops. Part of people in Community B would tend to accept the assimilation while the rest would refuse it. Paradoxically, bias should not have existed logically, but there are possibilities that the latter is regarded as an alien group. The reason is rather implicit: temptation and deception lie behind the assimilation. First of all, we are living in a post-mass-media dominated world today; this means that we are enjoying the informational and physical fluidity of the network, which put everything available for everyone, everywhere. Meanwhile, anyone can produce information since the network releases its editorial centre. So, the language Community A uses could efficiently enter Community B without barriers. For instance, we can see more and more new words enshrined to the Oxford Dictionary year after year, and most of them derive from our daily communication on the internet. At the same time, the counterparts of those new words are being used less frequently. Some of the counterparts which only exist in dialects are replaced by those used in a universal community. This action would perhaps raise communicative efficiency; nonetheless, it also suggests the higher power of Community A’s discourse. This power roots on its social power that presupposes the accumulated “cultural legacy”. With such power, it could fabricate an ideology to legitimate itself and its power on discourse. Language is similar to capital in a zweckrational society. It incessantly assimilates the others in order to consolidate its status and then makes the assimilated ones its own basis for expansion. In contrast, the primitive accumulation in Community B would be exploited, and thus, it only has two options: obey that ideology to live uncomfortably or reject it to die eventually. Secondly, the assimilation in post-mass-media dominated communities causes pseudo equalisation of immateriality based on inequality of materiality. This is to say, everyone is able to see and know any sort of relatively transcendental life comparing to its current one. The deception is: a better life is there, a better community is there, and it is waiting for you. Nevertheless, few people understand what they have to lose if they endlessly chase the “transcendental life”. A person, for example, is able to learn that a celebrity lives in a seaside villa, in his garage, there are dozens of hypercars and the plate where he put his first-class steak on is worth a thousand pounds, this is all because that celebrity shares his daily life on social media. This person tries to imitate the celebrity, and he knows there is no possibility for him to live like that since he is now working in a restaurant located in a small town as a waiter. Despite the material gap between himself and the celebrity, he could still share the same feeling of at least those fancy parts in his reverie. Compared to his own experience of tolerating the manager in the restaurant exploiting his tips, the person allows such a reverie existing in a way it can never exist, as it is not universal at all. In addition, something worse might come after. If this person accepts the deception, which means that he wants to live like the celebrity, he then will be alienated to an instrument of his reverie. I do not negate “a better life” here; what I negate is only the fact that this person treats himself and the so-called transcendental life as a means, but not an end. One can be easily obsessed with the process of his struggle rather than the effect of it. Thus, this alienated person works like a wheel gear in a big societal machine.
Aside from those above, the assimilation is responsible for withering the pluralism of art. We should start with the equal rights movement in the contemporary art area. When female artists, black artists, or Asian artists ask for their equal rights to entering art markets, galleries, and art history, many of them are actually asking for privileges. We should first acknowledge that a massive group of those artists were or are being underrated, mostly because of their lower social power. However, we should also admit that they still do not have the same power as white male artists in the artistic field today. The ideology will not change without the development of the societal material foundation, and thus when those disadvantaged artists ask for their equal rights, and if they are given more opportunities than before, what they could gain are simply privileges in the name of equality. And those privileges are precisely from the privileged. I would argue here, the process of giving privileges is exactly the assimilation.
On the one hand, there are two types of privileges: the already-owned privilege of the advantaged group, while the other is the privilege given to the disadvantaged. For instance, Native American tribes can run casinos on their Indian Reservation, and they have compacts with the states which serve the “special” tax and “exclusive right” to all classes of gaming except when states do not accept that class, or it clashes with federal law. This privilege used to be regarded as sympathetic compensation from those non-natives, as natives have become the minority and disadvantaged group. Nevertheless, how could they pretend to be humanists by standing in a higher position? Giving privilege to the underprivileged is an “appeasement policy”, it will never go to the very point: universal equality. This action, in contrast, solidifies the privileged group’s social power and then exacerbating the inequality once again. If one is a philanthropist, he can never be a billionaire; he becomes a billionaire only by ignoring the benefit of those who are suffering from poverty and the fact that it is he himself who causes that suffering. Contradictorily, if one has an opportunity to be the advantaged, generally, he tends to exploit the others first and then make up for them. What he desires is not anything concerning material such as money, but social power that could give him privilege over the others. Likewise, a particular type of art or artists cannot be dominant in the field before all else and then promote subordinate types, since it creates the contradiction before it starts to address it. Such an action is a complete deception. Some of those who used to represent white male art, now turn to ostensibly supporting disadvantaged art with their existing power, in fact, they are doing so in order to consolidate their foundation of power. They still restrict themselves in an ideology that gives them the power to control, and the very base of this ideology is the hegemonic mode of linguistic assimilation. In such a manner, the universal equal rights will be simply put on the shelf, and the “eleemosynary” privileges will be the fig leaf for that.
On the other hand, even as a person who already looked through all of it, it is nearly impossible to escape that sort of ideology. Let’s take some of Damien Hirst’s most famous works as an example. What is his response, or as he suggests a universal human response, to capitalism? He made the Shark (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and then claimed that you would find it scary. For me, I have to admit that I watched Alien before Jaws, and I saw sharks in an aquarium for many times when I was young. I have no fear for a shark no matter how big it is since I know when I was in the aquarium or front of Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde, the shark can never get out of that box and eat me. I fear a creature I had not seen before, like the one in Alien, but not a beast I learnt from a popular science book for children. So, here comes the point, the alien and the shark are actually the same things for human beings who see such creatures for the first time. If the shark is as what Luke White says: representation of nature which may be intimately bound with anxieties in terms of capitalism and particularly the transfiguration of the natural world in early modernity by developing capitalist practices, it represents the hidden dark side of it.  However, as an artist who wanted to evoke people’s fear, he failed. The Shark enters that capitalist art market and tries to stay out of capitalist ideology in the name of art. Such is only an alluring dream. Art is unable to revolt as its material base is built on capital today. So, the same thing happens again; he created a contradiction and then addressed it; he tried to go into abyss to escape from it. Besides, he created another work to repeat his failure in the same year. The Acquired Inability to Escape sneers at the office-worker’s prison-like cubicle. It speaks volumes about the experience of being locked within the ideology of the capitalist market, spatio-practical logics of modern, and technocratic society. Even so, it locked itself in it. Hirst’s works make temptation more tempting and deception more real, but what they lose is individuality alone. Is not the loss of individuality the best manifestation of the assimilation?
2. Hegemonic Mode of the Assimilation
To analyse the mode of the assimilation, I would introduce Marx’s dialectic on social relations to the development of individuality in communities. Before the analysis, I would clarify that the term individuality I use here and in the whole essay is not entirely about individuals, in other words, it has nothing to do with anthropocentrism-ontology, and as I mentioned above, individuality is just what comes from, for and dependent on the only being. If we recognise that subject is where being resides, then individuality is what differentiates objects. This means I would regard not only human individuals as objects with/without individuality here but also words, speeches, or language in general (for instance, artistic practice as language) as objects. In Marx’s social development theory, there are three stages for the development, and the relations of individuals or objects is 1. Internal relations that are concretely particular; 2. External relations that are abstractly universal; 3. Internal relations that are concretely universal. The universality here produces the alienation of the object from itself and from others. And hence, it is the soil of the hegemonic assimilation.
First of all, we shall begin by investigating a single community in the first stage. If we inspect this community alone, we would presuppose that being is absent, and thus there is no subject as it relates to nothing except itself. Objects, however, are not merely offered to or uncovered by the subject but are made objects by the subject’s exercise. So, without the subject, such a relation to itself is insufficient to prove the existence of individuality. It is only the self-expression from and for itself, and thus, if it wants to know itself by objectification, it will fall into a constant loop. It could objectify itself as an object, but then the objectified the other will particularly refer to the relations-to-itself, i.e., within the whole, objects are able to build relations, but those relations are internal, rather than external; hence, they are not relations that could exchange information with others but are subordinate to a part-whole relation. In this way, relations depend on the whole, and the objects fail to know themselves. We could also say that with no universality in this community, the dependence is unequal and non-reciprocal. So, at this stage, individuality is not individuality at all. It is under the bondage of particularity, that is, of a particular action or duty without any development or possibility of diversity. When individuality loses its function of differentiation and becomes just particularity, a word or a speech, for example, in this stage, is confined within a bound definition.  The significations of words or speeches are fixed to certain particularities that work as internal platforms for barriers-free communications within this community but fail to undertake external communications.
The second stage, which is the abstraction of the model we examined at the beginning of this essay, is the incarnation of the assimilation’s hegemonic mode. Individuality at this stage does not function as individuality yet but as pseudo-individuality. It replaces particularity through the development from the first stage to the second and, therefore, gives itself a characterisation of individuality. Accordingly, pseudo-individuality is the negation of particularity as the second stage is the negation of the first one; nevertheless, the negation process is not coercive. When communicating outside the community, in the aggregate state, which is also in chaos I claimed above, particularity negates itself and its relations-to-itself to be external and abstractly universal. The relations of objects are outside the others or only for the others, and hence being is present since the subject where being rests on now links to external relations and thus to objects. However, the objects are not utterly liberated since their reciprocal and full-scale dependence forms their connection, and they are indifferent to one another. Therefore, such development is the emergence of the hegemonic mode of the assimilation. With regard to language, in a dialect system we exemplified before, the ni-ni relation is negated and replaced by ni-nin relation. Inasmuch as their mutual but indifferent interconnection, this assimilation could operate stealthily and smoothly. Nonetheless, it is never negative progress or a reconciliation of antagonistic relations; rather, it is and only is a product of history. Insofar as the assimilation gradually proceeds, the reconstruction of the language system could bring a new contradiction, which is a deception in an uncertain state. In this stage, the development of aggregate communities presupposes social inequality. So, there is a marked tendency of transmitting information from the strong side to the weak side. And such a social tendency is the very embodiment of the hegemonic mode of the assimilation and the very apotheosis of the deception. It does not belong to the language system, but it uses language as an instrument. Thereupon, the inner dialectic in the deception is the apocryphal freedom caused by both individual independence and objective dependence. Now that the language as an instrument could be used by objects, and its own power for using it is at large subservient to social power, it is inevitable for a social object to notice and then accept the deception.
Adorno gave us a perfect illustration in the opposite way in Dialectic of Enlightenment. He depicted cultural barbarism via a vivid example: when a jazz musician has to play Beethoven’s simplest minuet, he will involuntarily syncopate, and condescend to start only with a superior smile. Jazz, at that time, was much popular than classical music, and the action of syncopating just revealed how proud the Jazz player was. This player stood in the vortex of the deception of mass culture and was willing to make it stronger. However, when he played the minuet with his Jazz skills, he made a mistake; his own action suppressed the individuality that he wanted to deliver. Allow me to guess, years later, this player might withdraw from his Jazz “habit” and hypocritically follow the notes of Philip Glass’s symphony in a contemporary orchestra as participants in art worlds are often led implicitly by social conventions, shared acceptance that influences their activity and decides the shape of their artistic practice.
Today, no connoisseur can call him or herself connoisseur. This title does not change, but the essence has lost for a long time. Contemporary connoisseurs no longer judge according to the nature of things, but rather to an implanted ideology related to pseudo-material needs in society. They become servants for such an ideology and believe by doing so and by building up the impoverishment of the aesthetic material, a synthesis of cultural products will triumph openly tomorrow in a mocking fulfilment of Wagner’s dream of the total artwork. Nevertheless, the needs of consumers have not been subjective anymore, while the consumers still think they love a specific artwork as they wish or by free will; thus, they become connoisseurs for themselves, or omnipresent agents for art. The economic position of their own society has always been ignored while they could quickly “enter” the higher one via post-mass-media. A solid example can be seen in the fact that fashion is becoming the trend since a revolution happened several years ago. First, I admit that the fashion industry faced a crisis that its sales fell, and earnings decreased; and thus, many brands sought to resolve that crisis. The way they found is so successful in commerce that they choose to neglect the fashion per se. What they did is to deliberately make their apparel, mostly ready-to-wear and accessories look like streetwear, as it can attract a considerable number of young people, who might once away from the fashion world. The promotion is relatively explicit. Fashion brands tell those people that we are designing things you might like, even though you cannot afford it. However, in the post-mass-media era, the deficiency of material foundation was ostensibly eliminated, so that people who could not afford fashion before and who were not interested in it could communicate in their language at present. The acceptance or consumption of streetwear-like fashion commodities is at the heart of this pseudo-response to communication without response. The boundary between fashion and streetwear thus disappears, along with the withering of imagination and spontaneity of designers and consumers. In respect of the future development of fashion, those companies are demolishing the pluralism of the art of fashion by what they assert, creating a new style with the fusion of what fashion has and what streetwear has. In fact, all it has is only the capital.
I also need to describe the third stage briefly. It is the negation of the second one, where pseudo-individuality negates particularity, and thus in this stage, individuality negates pseudo-individuality. Compared to the second stage, individuality here is the emancipation of the characterisation of the pseudo one, the withdrawal of the nature of it, and, hence, absolute individuality. The relations among objects in this stage are internal again but with different logic. We could take communities in this stage as a whole Gaian-like System. The separate objects related to each other as beings for another are now related to each other as aspects of a common species object. And in such a way, being and objects build a communal interdependence together; individuality can thus fully reveal and express itself. As complete emancipation of relations, objects at this stage can know themselves and return to themselves, i.e., they escape from the hegemonic mode, eliminate ideologies, and then form a pure correlation that could fulfil their own individualities.
3. Huge Deception of Transcendence
Back to the story in the very first of this essay, we can finally examine the deception of transcendence here with all that we have tried to show above. First of all, I would like to clarify that the term transcendence I am talking about is more secular than divine, i.e., it is more material than spiritual in a sense. From a general point of view, the motive for such transcendence is derived from the dissatisfaction with the status quo; and for this, I would argue that in fact, the dissatisfaction is only a means of the deception, insofar as, people’s motive is originated from a much universal deceptive system that implanted in our mind.
The deception contains the deception of mass cultural products and is as explicit as it. So, in this case, why do people still willingly be deceived? For instance, from a social perspective, the assimilation process in Community B, as a stage of historical development, how does it happen “naturally”? The implicit cause is transcendentality. It consists of two natures: pseudo-transcendence and non-revertivity. With regard to pseudo-transcendence, on the one hand, in today’s zweckrational society, this secular or material transcendence is the very manifestation of a phenomenon that humans are alienated into instruments. As Marx indicated in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, a worker in such a society only feels himself outside his work and in his work feels outside himself.  This external relation between the worker and labour just reveals not only what estranges the counterparts, but the fact that transcendence is alienated to the pseudo one. And thus, one would tend to negate himself as he can no longer be identified by others nor identify himself. Insofar as, he needs the transcendence for identification, even though he does not know such transcendence is alienated and fictitious. On the other hand, this kind of transcendence cannot realise the pure and absolute transcendence of man himself. It is there for individuals’ implanted endlessly growing needs and only for them. Likewise, the relation between individuals and transcendence is external again; it is not separated from individuals since it is never in them; instead, it replaces the true and absolute one that belongs to individuals themselves. Such an action, is the assimilation’s effect. In respect of non-revertivity, when the original transcendence is separated from the man himself and replaced by pseudo transcendence, he is then estranged to an instrument that only pursuing a better material life and is controlled by a compelling monolithic social power. This social power restrains man from returning to himself as it erases his individuality that differentiates him from the others and from objects. Without the individuality, the very internal relation between him and himself, he thereupon, can only look for external relations to maintain his pseudo being. And thus, he becomes what is external to him, and in such a manner, he is not himself anymore, but the society.
So, how does the deception come about, especially at a mass-media era? Firstly, there is a significant factor: the assimilation of the language. As we investigate in the model for two communities, the language of Community B is assimilated by that of Community A, and individuals in Community B try to enter Community A by taking the assimilated language as guidance. Roland Barthes analysed this phenomenon in Mythologies. In terms of Ornamental Cookery, he claimed that cookery in Elle is an “idea”. Its inventiveness, confined to a fairy-land reality, must be applied only to garnishings. Elle showed the viewers how to make the cookery fancier with the idea of sticking cherries into a partridge, as it knows the readers are genuinely working-class public; namely, Elle intended to create such a magical advertisement for those who cannot easily afford a partridge. Here, such an intention is not contradictory but entirely rational in a deceptive manner. Only when readers of small-income groups are entitled to fiction are they dreaming of better lives after transcendence. They love reading it because it shows what they do not have, and some others have. They are eager to read articles about fancy cookery not to enjoy it one day, but to let other people know that they can afford it (in fact, they cannot). Thus, the ornamental cookery is not only a representation of the assimilation through language but also a symbol of the withering of individuality. Nonetheless, this deception begins with language and will end at language. As a communicative instrument, language connects external relations between and within communities, and this only works at the second stage we discuss in the last chapter. In the third stage, the language will lose its current function since all relations become internal. I am not saying that the form of language will extinct; instead, at the third stage, the language will turn into a non-language language that only focuses on internal relations, and hence the assimilation stops. Secondly, the sharing mechanism of mass media plays a vital role in the deception. Due to this mechanism, the deception acts on both the one who transcends and the bystander, and the deception further expands through the bystander’s observation. As Derrida suggests, meaning happens in the unstable and shifting space between the sender and receiver. So, even the observation is static, the meaning the bystander received might still vary. For example, one of the most famous political propaganda — “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” — could be received differently. Not only to consider the intense political background during that time, but concentrate on its nature, what I see from it is the dialectic that it has in a sharing mechanism. The initial logic of “ask what you can do for your country” is that an individual is first dedicated to his country; thus, he becomes a virtuous man and might be materially or spiritually rewarded by the country. The reward is always a bonus, something alternative and implicit. Nevertheless, such a process could be observed and interpreted by a bystander as the opposite. For this bystander, he sees the bonus first and then regards it as his objective. In this way, the essential purpose of the propaganda is put on hold and turns into its own negation; namely, the propaganda alters to fiction for people. The purpose that should function for itself now act only for what is not itself and hence comes the deception. This is why that influential propaganda had been criticised as implicit recruitment advertisement, even though it was a symbol of the climax of American patriotism. The impact of it on Americans only lasted for a short period of time before it turned to a rare “naive time” memorial relic. After the Vietnam War, Americans have long forgotten true meaning of the propaganda, but only remember the wounds for it. To sum up, inasmuch as such a deceitful action deceives the man who transcends ceaselessly by pursuing an objective that does not derive from himself, and his act of transcendence deceives the bystander, an ever-expanding deception system is thus formed.
4. Who is deceiving who
At the very beginning of the language system, the development of the primordial language is from the minority to the majority. The relation between these two is like what Hegel described Chinese to Europe; Chinese hieroglyphic writing is only suited to the exegeticism of Chinese spiritual culture. And that type of writing is reserved for a limited group of people who are exclusively dominant in spiritual culture. Without the explanation from the ancient Chinese priests, the invented language would not exist for the majority of people; and the explanation for them needs not only the hieroglyphic to be visible or spatial but also audible or temporal, which is why Derrida claims that writing itself betrays life if in its non-phonetic moment. However, whether phonetic or non-phonetic forms are both metaphors of external relations that withhold equal and just communication. Furthermore, along with the explanation, comes the elementary assimilation in the primordial linguistic system, and then inevitably comes the deception. The non-language language I talked in the last chapter is a higher form of this primordial language; however, only a few people owned the latter, and every individual and object own the former, as it would be, a Gaian-like community. Non-language language is not the negation of communication; in contrast, what it negates is the origin of language, and it is the highest form of communication since it discards all pre-set ideas and ideologies; this is to say, it emancipates the inequality of the solidified meanings. This non-language language presupposes the unity of the whole nature and represents the equality and reciprocity of relations between the subject and every single object. And only in this way, the assimilation ends and is replaced by pure communication.
If we trace the origin of the deception, I would like to make a bold assumption that as what I allude in the above, humans, as a whole, make full use of the deception as a means of development, whether in cultural industries such as fashion and art; in daily life or political life. Human nature alienated into an instrument of the deception in historical development; in other words, we, as human beings, create the deception to deceive ourselves. There has never been Community A; humans as a whole (or objects that correlate with being) fabricate various ideologies and admission criteria, and those who meet the criteria enter the concoctive community, thus become the supervisors. In order to reveal their individualities, they name such a separation “pluralism”; behind the rhetoric, paradoxically, suppressed is the “pluralism” caused by the unbalance of individuals’ social power. The process of the deception is active for humans as a whole, but for an individual, it is rather passive. He is first subservient to the imperious deception and then tries to escape from it by producing deception for himself and the others. In this way, he can extract himself from the explicit unbalance just like Elle’s readers or the man who fails to imitate a celebrity’s lifestyle. However, what an individual cannot preclude is the fact that he is the society, which exhausts him so much that he sees his pseudo-individuality as real. This individual can only treat himself as a means but not an end. Even if what he is after is a tiny objective, he will end up like K in Kafka’s The Castle. In the deception, no pure transcendence exists, nor an end. The efforts in his whole life, as what the landlady told K, will only be deep footprints in the snow.
All in all, before the realisation of the non-language linguistic system, every fabrication and deception are the affirmation of the fact that human’s alienation into the instrument of deception and every affirmation of that is the evidence that humanity is lost in pseudo-individuality; insofar as, being is nothing, and nothing is being.
 Barthes, R., 2006. Myth today. Cultural theory and popular culture: a reader, 3, pp.117-142.
 Stocker, B., 2006. Routledge philosophy guidebook to Derrida on deconstruction. Routledge, pp.27.
 … the core of Derrida’s analysis, or “deconstruction,” is a sustained argument against the possibility of anything pure and simple which can serve as the foundation of the meaning of, signs (xxii). Derrida, J., 1973. Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs. Translated, with an Introd., by David B. Allison. Pref. By Newton Garver.–.
Marx, K. and Engels, F., 2009. The economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist manifesto. Prometheus Books, pp.62.
 Merleau-Ponty, M., 1964. The primacy of perception: And other essays on phenomenological psychology, the philosophy of art, history, and politics. Northwestern University Press, pp.8-9.
 Derrida, J., 1978. Writing and Difference. University of Chicago Press, pp.11
 Gould, C., 1980. Marx’s Social Ontology: Individuality and Community in Marx’s Theory of Social Reality. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, pp.6-7.
 Derrida, J., 1973. Speech and phenomena, and other essays on Husserl’s theory of signs. Northwestern University Press, pp.142-143.
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 Marx, K., 1973. Grundrisse, translated by Martin Nicolaus, New York: Vintage Books, pp.162.
 Gould, C., 1980. Marx’s Social Ontology: Individuality and Community in Marx’s Theory of Social Reality. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, pp.41-42.
 Ibid., pp.13.
 Marx, K., 1973. Grundrisse, translated by Martin Nicolaus, New York: Vintage Books, pp.163.
 Ibid., pp. 156.
 Adorno, T.W., 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Stanford University Press, pp.101-102.
 Acord, S.K., 2010. Beyond the head: The practical work of curating contemporary art. Qualitative Sociology, 33(4), pp.450-451.
 Adorno, T.W., 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Stanford University Press, pp.97.
 Debord, G., 2012. Society of the Spectacle. Bread and Circuses Publishing, pp.162-163.
 Marx, K. and Engels, F., 2009. The economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist manifesto. Prometheus Books, pp.30.
 Barthes, R., 1972. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: The Noonday Press, pp78-80.
 Biro, M., 1990. Art Criticism and Deconstruction: Rosalind Krauss and Jacques Derrida. Art Criticism, 6(2), pp.42-43.
 Hegel, G.W., 1991. Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (1830) (Vol. 33). Felix Meiner Verlag, pp.273-76.
 Derrida, J., 1976. Of Grammatology, John Hopkins U. Press, Baltimore, pp.26-27.
 Kafka, F., 1997. The Castle, trans. JA Underwood. Penguin Books, pp.107.