Before Paine, Hacking

by Yvy Truong

Okay, so the title for this blog post doesn’t make sense. I feel like I haven’t been making many blogs posts on the texts we have been reading so… Before I talk about Paine, I want to talk about Hacking. Later I’ll be making another post about Fanon, though we read Black Skin, White Masks quite a long time ago. But I think just recording my thoughts on the books are a good thing (even though, in my case, they’re late…*)

Before I begin talking about Hacking, above I shared the trailer for the movie Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, which I would have to say is one of my favourite movies, and in some ways it does relate to Hacking! Briefly, the movie is about a treatment at this place called Lacuna, where they can erase memories. Things that remind you of pain such as the death of loved ones, heartbreaks, failures, etc., those memories can be erased. It’s as if they never happened at all. I would recommend everyone to watch it, I think it’s a lovely film and I know my summary doesn’t give the movie justice but that’s the general gist of what it’s about.

So on to Hacking.

Close to the end of Hacking’s Rewriting the Soul, he questions the idea of “knowing thyself”, the ability to be self reflective, to rely on narratives, and memory to understand who and what we are. But from Trouillot’s work that we read earlier in the year Silencing the Past, our narratives change the event. Hacking as well gives examples of instances where the narratives, how we speak of the past events that generates our identity, may be far from what actually happened (that to Trouillot would be how the two historicities affect each other). And what also stood out to be was in the case of Pierre Janet, how we may be able to base ourselves upon lies, a believe it so much so that we become and entirely new person. So the command of know thyself is a bit… Vague. I want to use the word trivial, but that wouldn’t be the right word. Absurd, maybe. Do we really know who we are and what we represent? And if so, what is it based upon? This also reminds me of Fanon when he wrote about “the Other”. That we know who we are because we are not “them”; the people we compare ourselves to. So, is it possible to know who we are? Well, the answer seems to be that… No, not really – haha. We are who we are in the context of society, in the context of history, and in the context of our narratives. That seems a little bleak, but here is where I think there is a silver lining! We are given so many narratives, so many interpretations, opinions, etc., The past will always be reinterpreted and will always be analysed in a new light. Because we are presented with a plethora of opinions, to know thyself is a challenge. And though we may never fully be able to know who we are, to strive to understand and to be self-reflective I think, is the more tangible thing to do. 

*February New Years Resolution: (1) Stop procrastinating. (2) Stop taking naps in the evening after school.