The key to understanding any social movement is to understand the language used to spread its narrative. In his book, Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen R.C. Hicks argues that postmodernism has become the language of the political Left. He writes, “Many deconstruct reason, truth, and reality because they believe that in the name of reason, truth, and reality Western civilization has wrought dominance, oppression, and deconstruction.” The creed of Postmodernism is a skepticism toward metanarratives – the overarching stories of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge that our society adheres to – and a tendency to lean toward relativistic points of view. In a sense, our traditional narratives have been reopened to interpretation.
While on the surface this may seem innocuous or trivial, the reality is much different. One of the tools used to do this is the literary school of deconstruction. Conceived by Jacques Derrida, deconstructionism “assumes that all discourse, even all historical narrative, is essentially disguised self-revelatory messages. Being subjective, the text has no fixed meaning, so when we read, we are prone to misread.” During my undergrad, I took a course on literary criticism and my professor explained it as a means of exploring a text through a new lens. Instead of a traditional reading of “good/evil”, reading through the lens of deconstruction would result in reading it as “evil/good”, turning the traditional reading on its head.
So what relevancy does this actually have?
It is my observation that a postmodern world has led to an identity crisis – particularly in the Western world. While I have no problem with reopening the traditional means of interpretation, my problem is that there is not a foundation waiting for people to land on. When we challenge our identity, we are left reeling and trying to find something to latch onto to give us some sort of stability.
I think this is ultimately what is leading to a rise in nationalism around the world. When most of our identities are becoming increasingly fluid, one of the base things we can latch onto is where we come from. From my observations over the Trump presidency, what I saw and heard was someone who took advantage of this and gave a “foundation” for people to land on – namely, to “Make America Great Again” or to put “America first”. While ultimately I think this was unsuccessful given the division it caused, I saw it as a reaction to the cultural swing in the United States.
What any leader does is try to provide a foundation of identity for their followers. Some hold up stronger than others, but the key to understanding the trajectory of a leader is to understand the language they use. However, we cannot just take what they say on the surface. What is lurking beneath their words? What are the motives behind what they say? If what Hicks argues is true – namely, that postmodernism is the language of the political Left – then we must scrutinize with a critical eye the language that is being used just as we scrutinized the nationalistic language of the Right.
These questions of discernment are crucial for us to consider. What foundation of identity are we giving those who follow us? What language do we use?
 Khan Academy, “Deconstructionism and Literature” (2021), https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/critical-analysis-and-reasoning-skills-practice-questions/critical-analysis-and-reasoning-skills-tutorial/e/deconstructionism-and-literature