Monday, 30 April 2007

The Personal Impact of Postmodernism

Postmodernism sounds like such an academic sort of issue, doesn't it? Why should I care about such an abstract idea? Why should I even bother to understand what it is, when it's so -- well, Ivory Towerish.

Unfortunately, postmodernism has long since escaped from the ivory towers of academia. It is well and truly at large in the world. In fact, postmodernism has probably had an impact on you even today, so pervasive is its influence.

In my last post, I talked a little about one of the impacts of postmodernism: the destruction of context. With all context stripped away, we are deprived of any meaningful way to make sensible and wise decisions. This doesn't bother postmoderns, who don't believe in such things (everything is right for you, after all), but it has serious consequences on those of us who live in the real world.

But there is another personal impact of postmodernism. I know, because I have been whacked by this. It's taken me a long time to write about this, because it was, frankly, so painful. But the time has come, so let's get going.

Imagine you had a small group that, every week, got together to study and learn and share together. Over the years, sharing in each others trials and triumphs, and learning about the world and reality together, you grow closer and closer. Eventually your group is so comfortable with one another that you really are a group of friends. And, as with all friends, you become casual and relaxed with one another, welcoming each other into your homes without any great formality, and sharing together with absolute trust.

Now imagine that, into this group comes a new person (or two). Obviously the group has to make concessions for this new person. People are on their best behavior, trying not to be too casual or over-relaxed. Still, the nature of the group, it's interests and character, won't change just because someone new comes along. The new person has a few splutters, but then seems to fit in, and the group flexes appropriately to make them feel welcome and as much a part as possible.

Then something happens. The new member finds an excuse to feel excluded from the group, it doesn't matter why or how. A power struggle ensues, with the new member threatening to drag the group leaders before the leadership they are responsible to. The new member demands that the group change its behavior to his or her preferences, or face the consequences. The new member (well, now a thoroughly ex-member) even makes legal threats. Eventually, at the request of the group's leaders, the leaders responsible for all groups get the two parties together: group leaders and new ex-member. The ex-member makes bizarre claims, demands, and outrageous racial slurs. When the mediating leadership is unimpressed by this, and the group leadership unable to comply to anything so unreasonable, the ex-member leaves the larger community and moves on to who knows where. Maybe the cycle repeats.

What is going on here? Well, what has happened is that one of the results of postmodernism has reared its ugly head. Postmodernism denies absolutes. There is no objective truth for the postmodernist. The new member was heavily influenced by postmodernism, and as a result, was open to all sorts of strange influences (since there's no way to tell strange from sensible when context is stripped away). He or she was offended by the group's robust camaraderie, and doubly offended by the group's agreement on a range of issues that they had carefully studied together, and come to agreement on.

Now, to a postmodernist, there is only one way to achieve agreement. Argument, debate, and careful instruction are not possible when there are no absolutes. No, only propaganda and force can bring about agreement. The group's consensus was clearly not the result of force, so the new member concluded that it was the result of propaganda, or brain washing (or the cultic force of personality). When attempting to undermine this failed, he or she resorted to the only alternative open to a postmodernist: force. He or she attempted to use the threat of authority (initially ecclesiastical, then legal) to force agreement. Attempts by the group's leaders to reason about this failed utterly, almost as if the two parties spoke a different language. And, in a sense, they did. There was no common ground: in postmodernism there can never be any common ground. Eventually, the only resolution was to part ways.

This tragic little drama will be played out in increasing numbers in the coming decades, as postmodernism sinks deeper into the modern psyche. With no hope of common ground, more and more people will resort to force when they encounter what they can only interpret as coercion.

And more and more innocent people will feel the terrible, personal impact of postmodernism.

1 comment:

Peter said...

For PMs, not only is beauty in the eyes of the beholder, the meaning of anything is found in the mind of the subjective interpreter. To a PM, their perception of things is the only true reality, and it does not matter what others intended to mean. Whereas most non-PMs are willing to admit they may have misinterpreted the intentions of others, a PM knows what others intended, or at least is willing to overrule it, because by definition their interpretation is "true."