The End of Writing

by Bobby Sze Chun Ng

I must speak of this broadly because writing is essentially everywhere. Whether you are creating art, protesting on the streets with signs, reading a book, or telling a stranger about your radical thoughts on contemporary politics, the structure of writing is what makes it possible. In fact, our thoughts are often, but never in the absolute sense, controlled and limited by writing. We think only in writing. In this way, all writings are inherently political because we privilege what we write over what we do not write.

Writing is thus, the perfect crime. The moment I write a specific thought, I exclude all the others that I choose not to write. When I choose the left, I exclude the right. When I privilege presence, I exclude absence. And what makes all this even more paradoxical is that the word “absence” is the presence of the sense of absence. Therefore, absence is not absent. The word “absence” is inadequate in representing itself through writing.

However internally contradicting it may appear, this form of selective writing which has dominated human thought is finished. Through Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction, the left is possible because it is constituted by the difference of what it isn’t, which is that of the right. In the same way, presence is only possible because of absence. Derrida shows us that what establishes a privileged writing, idea or thought as such, is only possible through the opposite order of what we do not privilege. We see this in all “binary oppositions”: presence/absence, speech/writing, man/woman, left/right, masculine/feminine, humanity/animality, society/nature, etc.

When people ask my thoughts about contemporary politics on gender, equality, or war, etc., I tell them that unless I am trying to show how we privilege one thought over the other (which makes me a critic for the better), I would have nothing to say. Writing is the violence which has imposed upon us without ever announcing itself. And when we knowingly transgress this writing by proclaiming and selecting a certain idea, we cannot avoid excluding something else. Thus, I do not proclaim. I am writing everything other than what I am writing here. I do not stand on the right or the left. I am neither present or absent, a feminist or anti-feminist. And if society is the privileged home for humanity, then I must also be the homeless animal.

In 1967, when Derrida infamously called for “the end of the book” in his magnum opus Of Grammatology, he actually meant “the end of writing”. Behind the appearance of writing, we witness how its privileged presence is only possible due to its difference to speech. Therefore, perhaps the reason why my writing eludes even me—the author of this article—is because you are imagining the presence of my speech as you read it. But my writing does not speak, it is silent.

 

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