Go on Ahead, and Write a Letter to Your M.P.

Sound advice is offered by McCarthy in their 1990 song, ‘Write to Your M.P. Today’; indeed, advice to ‘oh, go ahead, don’t be afraid, go on ahead, and write to your M.P.’… The question is, however, is it the same thing to do so today, in 2013, as compared to writing to your M.P. in 1990? (not exactly a golden age of grassroots representation, but there may be important differences between these dates…)

The method of conveyance might be different in the first place; electronic mail is a much more common means of communication now, and an easier and quicker method, too, than snail-mail. But with that also comes new technologies for responding; as many letter-writers’ testimonials will attest, the automated response is now part and parcel of how we hear back from our M.P.s, and this is often followed by a posted letter from the House of Commons – usually a standardised note written from a pro forma explaining why what you’ve written in opposition to is being gone ahead with regardless…

After this the constituent will likely also find that their email has been added to their M.P.’s mailing list, and will thus receive regular policy updates to their email address. The whole of this process of postal relay then begs the question whether McCarthy’s valiant advice still stands, in the face of a technologised postal system so driven by hegemonic market and marketing forces, but it also asks whether a letter always arrives at its destination, which Jacques Lacan argues it does, and which Jacques Derrida staunchly contests.

In Derrida’s words in his essay ‘To Speculate—On Freud’ in The Post Card: ‘the letter makes its return after having instituted its postal relay, which is the very thing that makes it possible for a letter not to arrive at its destination, and that makes this possibility-of-never-arriving divide the structure of the letter from the outset.’ For Derrida, the ‘place of the letter’ is divisible. In our M.P. scenario we may well be able to perceive our letter’s fragmentation: from its originally having been sent with concern over a current policy put forward, or supported, by our constituency’s member of parliament, through its being broken up into a glib response, minimally dealing with, or rather, reinforcing, the decision taken, to thereafter being signed up to an information-bombardment system, and receiving endless Tory mailouts to our email, which is the very last thing we wanted.

In fact, its complete inversion, and it is Lacan who maintains that the sender receives their message back from the receiver in an inverted form… It is perhaps, then, that processes of both fragmentation and inversion go on in writing to your M.P. today, but more so that the destination at which the letter always arrives is already elided.

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