As I scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday afternoon, a thought popped into mind: the world has adopted postmodernism hook, line, and sinker. While modernism is holding on by a fragile thread; postmodernism seems to rule.
So, what is postmodernism? In a nutshell, it is architecture, art, music, and philosophy that is characterized by broad subjectivity and skepticism. The postmodern mind is suspicious of reason and rationality. There is distrust of ideology in the establishment and maintenance of economic and political power in so far as one’s individual beliefs.
In the philosophical arts, postmodernism is the rejection and/or parody of modernism. We see this in the cherry-picking of facts and the overall rejection of objectivity in social media and reflected in the Balkanization of the mass media into various political camps. The resulting array of “echo chambers” is both fuel and fodder for today’s postmodern belief systems.
Through the postmodern lens, society interprets facts as meaningless trivia. Equal weight is given to science and pseudoscience; factual data is dismissed as “fake”; and propaganda is accepted as truth. This dismissal of objective data and scientific fact-finding is intellectually and culturally crippling. When the very fuel of intellectual thought is corrupted, sophisticated thought and progress are hampered or made nearly impossible.
“Postmodernism is among other things a sick joke at the expense of revolutionary avant-gardism.” British academic, Terry Eagleton
We 21st century humans live in a world vastly different from that of even a couple of centuries ago. Furthermore, the life we take for granted today would be utterly imperceivable to the ancients. Such people wouldn’t be able to imagine life in the 21st century even in their wildest dreams. Meantime, it is tempting for us moderns to reject much of the complexity and nuance of our contemporary age in favor of “simpler” times. It is easy to imagine that people who lived long ago lived in Utopian beauty and that their world was a better place in which to live. When we moderns indulge our most nostalgic fantasies, our thoughts border on postmodernist dreaming.
Indeed, it is difficult for many of us to understand the workings, technology, and science in our modern artifacts. The processes of a microwave oven, transportation systems, electrical and sanitary utilities, indeed, the devices we carry seem like magic. Ironically, society exploits that same modern technology in order to condemn modernism and promote postmodern ideologies. The promotion of myth as truth and scientific fact as myth is a manifestation of the most cynical aspects of postmodernism.
Postmodernism isn’t always harmful. Skepticism about traditional thought has helped remove many social barriers that have previously oppressed minority people. Postmodern architecture has softened the hard, geometric lines of modernism. The various directions of postmodern art are basically offshoots of modern art. In a sense, careful, thoughtful postmodernist thinking has weakened dogmatic systems to allow for more freedom of thought.
The way I personally see things is that the world we live in is a technological, modern, sometimes intimidating one. We can soften this technocratic industrialism with a well thought out share of postmodernism. We need to practice discernment and objectivity when doing so.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes American artist, Brad Holland. “In Modernism, reality used to validate media. In Postmodernism, the media validate reality. If you don’t believe this, just think how many times you’ve described some real event as being ‘just like a movie.'”