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What Derrida said – Writer-insighter

What Derrida said

I’ve been to two interviews recently, one done by guys in their mid-thirties and one by someone in his fifties. The first two had interesting ideas about how to dress. All three had started their own business. The first two had a list of interview questions they’d printed off the internetwebness and didn’t really know what to do with them.The second one didn’t have the piece of paper.

To some extent, and I’ve been working on my tolerance skills, I don’t mind people not really knowing what they’re doing so long as that’s not what they primarily do every day. I’ve recruited and hired people in combination with someone else and it’s not something I like doing. Firing them less so, because you hope they’re going to come right and justify the investment you made in them. I’m not even talking about the hope that they’d work out, but the cold hard cash you spent on them, the company car you bought for them, the money from the house you sold to start this new part of the company, the part that turned into a pile of steaming crap because it was based on the total bullshit of the person standing there in front of you repeating their mantra that they’re ‘fully confident.’

And relax.

So I didn’t really mind the two younger guys running their thumb down the page and saying ‘what would people say were your worst points?’ I assumed they hadn’t phoned a random selection of exes, not least because the guy only had one sheet of A4 instead of the multiple volume calf-bound Book Club edition a couple of them compiled, each claiming theirs as the definitive text. Hi, babe. S.

And that one’s easy to deal with in an interview anyway, so long as you don’t mention the baby-oil handprints on the bed either side of someone different’s shoulders you only just noticed. Just keep them looking upwards,

“My worst points at work? Well, probably they’d say I work too hard, I’m too much of a perfectionist. Oh and I stay too long and get in too early as well. And I don’t take enough holiday when I’m owed it.”

Of course I said that. If someone’s going to ask standard questions then they deserve a standard answer.

But what are you supposed to say to someone who asks ‘if I said semiotics to you…?’

“No, thanks, I’ve just had some?”

“Is this a sign?”

Expecting bollocks like this I spent a tedious Tuesday reading about it. This stuff from Wikipedia is clear in comparison, even if it doesn’t have handy cartoons.

In his 1989 Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty argues that Derrida (especially in his book, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond) purposefully uses words that cannot be defined (e.g. différance), and uses previously definable words in contexts diverse enough to make understanding impossible, so that the reader will never be able to contextualize Derrida’s literary self.

Or to put it another way, even before the University of Luton was invented, let alone txt spk, Derrida was a self-referential nouveau who made up words to suit himself.

Rorty, however, argues that this intentional obfuscation is philosophically grounded. In garbling his message Derrida is attempting to escape the naïve, positive metaphysical projects of his predecessors.

Rorty. It used to be different.
Rorty. It used to be different.

Rorty used to be what good Brit bikes used to sound like, when someone cracked back the throttle on a Bonneville going down Bythesea Road, but times change.

So far as I understand it, which I’m prepared to say might not be completely, er, complete, it goes like this. What you think something denotes is altered by what happens next, infinitely.

Noam Chomsky wrote “I found the scholarship appalling, based on pathetic misreading; and the argument, such as it was, failed to come close to the kinds of standards I’ve been familiar with since virtually childhood”. Apparently liking Chomsky means you sympathise with Moslem fundamentalist terrorists if I read The Spectator right, so I’m stuck now.

What I should have done is pulled a note out of my wallet, said ‘this £20 is just a semiotic paradigm, isn’t it? Let’s see one of yours,’ pocketed both of them and walked to the station.

I didn’t, because I was still disconcerted from the previous statement, that they were looking for someone who spoke the languages ‘for our business in the BRIC countries; that’s Brazil, Russia, Indian and China.” Well thank-you. I thought it was Belgium, Rwanda, Iraq and Chile. A day you learn something is never a day wasted.

I didn’t actually know there was a language called Indian, nor Chinese, come to that, so I learned lots of things. Maybe when my third sentence in the interview was ‘have you read my CV?’ I should have done what these days I’m more inclined to do, the thing that really, in situations like this, I’m seeing less and less reason not to do.

Stand up. Put my coat on. Smile. And say thank-you for wasting my time.

I walked past my old flat on the way. At the end of the road there used to be a bombsite that got converted to a carpark and in the way of these things got colonised by stray cats, fed by the rufty-tufty huge blokes in big coats who ran the place. Things change. The cats were trapped, sterilised and released. The pub on the corner that used to have its windows put in because gay people used to go there, and not by them, has become a house. The cats car park is a Travelodge now. It’s not quite like that Max Boyce song about the pithead baths becoming a supermarket. But enough to make you tuck your scarf into your coat, smile, put your shoulders back and stride. Maybe it’s a sign.







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