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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Monday, May 10 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Postmodernism

For several years the term "postmodern" has been seen more and more frequently, especially in reports about crime and moral issues and immorality. I've asked my best-read acquaintances to explain it and have looked up web pages using it, but the explanations I've found haven't seemed adequate to explain the context in which I've been seeing the term. The official definitions are generally similar to this one from the online dictionary linked below: "of, relating to, or being any of several movements (as in art, architecture, or literature) that are reactions against the philosophy and practices of modern movements and are typically marked by revival of traditional elements and techniques."

Where I've been seeing it used, the term seems to provide a context for social and political philosophies. It might be the 21st century replacement of "existentialism," the dominant philosophical context of the previous half century, as the philosophical foundation or at least the explanation for what the younger generation is up to, or to explain criminal, antisocial, or immoral acts or movements. For example, the photos of the US military officers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners, were explained by some "postmodern" commentators as an example of "funny photos" rather than of torture. Where, I asked, is this point of view coming from and what does it really imply?

Thinking it through, I'll put forth a few propositions for our general consideration. What is "postmodernism" in popular philosophy or commonsense religion or worldview? "Modernism," dating from what is called "the enlightenment," starting in the 1700s, was the philosophical structure built on belief that the emerging "science" and "scientific age" were going to render religion little more than superstition and in the course of its evolution would solve most human dilemmas. From the upper elechon intelligensia it seeped down through the strata of European and American society until, around 1950, it had reached its peak of influence. By that time, virtually all "educated" people in those societies were post-Christian in their worldviews and calling upon humanistic theories to create the long-promised utopia.

But in the 1950s those same societies were becoming more painfully aware that where "modernism" had had its greatest success, in German scientific circles, it had produced the most horrorific holocaust in modern and probably all of human history. And what Hitler had started in his Third Reich was being emulated to equally antihuman effects by Stalin, Khrushchev, and Mao in Russia and China. Was science really capable of saving us, or was it closer to destroying us? In the next half century, "modernism" became passe. "Existentialism" was one of the first attempts to reconcile western intellectual thought (French, American, British) with that great letdown.

So a new era is upon us. Existentialism has also played out its course for the most part. Now the thinking is called postmodern. Science isn't the savior. Again religion is being considered seriously as having something to believe in. But once the genii of sexual revolution and anarchic taking of liberties in film and literature (pornography and its less sordid but closely aligned "erotic" cinema and literature) no one expects or much wants to put it back into the bottle. We're now educated scientifically to not rely on science, being encouraged to dabble in religion, but in everything to have it all our own way, as though the whole world of academics, arts, and theoretical thought is one big Burger King buffet.

Next time: some of the down-home ramifications, or how then shall we live?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Will Rogers' wisdom

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

—Sent by Carl Essex 

Thought for today

Believe nothing against another but on good authority; and never report what may hurt another, unless it be a greater hurt to some other to conceal it.

William Penn

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