Postmodernism

I didn’t get a single question, not one since the last post.  I guess this just means you all decided to see what I would come up with on my own, or there is no “you all” in the first place.  Nevertheless, I cannot let this stop me, so I have used my horribly limited creativity to decide that this post will be about Postmodernism.

Before I embark on an expedition of the way in which humans express ideas and relate to the observable world, I would like to start by apologizing.  If I apologize ahead of time, I figure that excuses me from offending a few people in the near future.  Unfortunately, my views of Postmodernism do not include reverence, awe, respect, or any positive regard whatsoever.  In fact, I think Postmodernism is one of the most destructive and dangerous ideas existing in modern society.  And that is why I need to apologize.  Those are strong words, and many people faithfully hold to the theory of Postmodernism.  What I say to you is do not be offended.  I am attacking an idea, not you.  You should feel free to disagree, in fact, please do so for the sake of good conversation, but do not feel that I am insulting you or trying to make anyone look stupid.  I am simply trying to critically analyze the world in which I live.

Postmodernism is the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place (thank you Wikipedia).  Now, Postmodernism is also more generally an era of literature, and it has other definitions and ideas it embodies, but at the heart of Postmodernism, you will always find this idea: that everything is relative.  By extension, if everything we experience is relative to our environment, it does not matter what the author or creator of a work intended, what matters is how we experience the art.

There are some examples where this is just fine.  Some poems do not have any apparent meaning or purpose, and are simply up for interpretation.  Now, I have no idea why anyone would be interested in spending time writing such a poem, but they already exist, and in those cases, sure, feel free to interpret away in ridiculous, disparate ways.

That being said, in almost every other case, Postmodernism can be dangerous.  Refusing to consider the author’s intent and only focusing on the reader’s interpretation can lead to terrible misunderstandings.  Though some people might say this is no big deal, that Postmodernism only encapsulates a small portion of the artistic population, this is not true.  Many of the ideas of Postmodernism have crept into society and become engrained in the people of modern culture.  All around me every day I can see pieces of Postmodernism is other’s people’s opinions, words, ideas, and lifestyles.

Clearly, it is no small deal.  The first problem with Postmodernism is the Relativism it implies.  By saying that everything is up to interpretation since everyone’s perspective and environment is different, Postmodernism assumes the doctrine of Relativism, which states that there are no objective truths.  Personally, I find Relativism silly because it cannot stand up to the most basic logic.  Let me demonstrate.

Relativist: “There are no objective truths.”

Objectivist: “Is it possible that there is one objective truth?”

Relativist: “No.”

Objectivist: “Are you absolutely sure?”

Relativist: “Okay, I guess there can be one absolute, and that absolute is that there are no other absolutes.”

Objectivist: “Is it possible that there are two absolutes?”

Relativist: “No.”

Objectivist: “Are you absolutely sure?”

And as you can see, the logic falls apart, there must be some absolutes in this world.  So in that regard, Postmodernism is illogical.  The second problem is not simply one of a lack of logic, but one of danger.  Postmodernism is a dangerous idea, and this is most horribly apparent in the Supreme Court (hey, we might as well start at the top).  Many of the newer judges on the Supreme Court and others interpreting the Constitution have started to express the ideas of Postmodernism, however subtly.  They like to talk about how it is “up to interpretation” and how it needs to change to fit the times.  Obviously, certain components of the Constitution are not still applicable (such as the three-fifths compromise), but the fact remains that there are certain ideas that should, and must remain absolute.  If our Supreme Court Judges begin deciding that it is all open for reconsideration in light of our new circumstances and environment, our Constitution can be ignored in some cases, rewritten in others, or possibly even eradicated.

Don’t just take it from me.  Here’s what Jefferson said:

"In the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place which in particular passages… obscure the sense of the original languages….  The effect of these changes is that some words are… being now used in a sense different from that which they had… [and thus] present wrong signification or false ideas.  Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced…. mistakes may be very injurious."

This implies that we must be very careful when interpreting the Constitution not to misread it.  Expressions today are not the same as they were 224 years ago.  However, Jefferson does NOT say that this means we should rewrite it when it gets old, he says that we must be all the more careful to properly interpret it so as not to make injurious mistakes.  I think it needs to be said again, “Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced…. mistakes may be very injurious.”  Jefferson would have hated Postmodernism, even cursed it if it had existed in his time.  Postmodernism rests on the idea that things can be reinterpreted in different ways, but clearly this is dangerous, especially with the Constitution.  Because of the way Postmodernism has infiltrated our culture, I worry for the future.  If we begin to lose sight of the idea that some things need to remain absolute, we will no longer entirely believe that “All men are created equal” and that there are certain “unalienable rights.”

In the end, certain parts of Postmodernism are fine.  If you want to write in stream of conscious, go knock yourself out, but ideas of Relativism and reinterpretation have the potential of unravelling the framework of the single most successful society in history.  Despite our flaws, the American system has been the most successful, and let us not forget that we were founded on ideas that superseded time and place, a belief that Postmodernism threatens.  For that reason, I believe firmly that Postmodernism is a danger and needs to be combated, if not eradicated.