Second Chances

Having been the recipient and donor of this practice lately (as well as witnessed such patterns among others recently), second chances can be viewed as an interesting anomaly in human interaction, if human behaviour is indeed supposed to be self-interested. It’s true that we never forget the deepest injuries done to us, but the fact remains that without forgiveness, life would be a lot more impractical due to an immense lack of cooperation and common sense. The presence of some sort of punishment or understanding of the consequences of a repetition of the injurious action would also serve to evade blindness and stupidity in giving out second chances to the less deserving.

It’s alarming but Jacques Derrida doesn’t believe that true forgiveness exists because it will always be conditional, that it is never finished or concluded. It is a much a power construct as any other pure ideal championed by blind rationalists and bandied about by charlatans. Derrida explicitly argues that when we know anything of the other, or even understand their motivation in however minimal a way, this absolute forgiveness can no longer take place. In other words, there is a necessary gap in knowledge between the act perceived by the victim and the guilty, the act itself as revealed, and the act of forgiveness, which may entail a memory wipe in terms of overlooking the injurious action.

I can see how Derrida is right concerning the conditionality of forgiveness, but its imperfect conditionality should not mean a discontinuation of the practice of forgiving someone in order to recommence a process of rebuilding trust. Although Derrida may imply that we should dispense with all oppressive constructs of guilt that we are burdened by in order to confront the aporia in forgiveness, it would be even more inhuman to dispense with the mechanism of guilt altogether. Indeed forgiveness can be seen as a form of resistance to the power constructs of guilt and override the meanness and narrow-mindedness of our identities trapped by societal norms and genetic behavioural inheritances.

In short, the choice between forgiveness and utter alienation is no choice at all for those of us with human hearts. Unfortunately, I have had to resort to alienating my fellow man on occasion, though a better hell could not be found than in the experience of utter alienation oneself.

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