This is one of the really great horrors of post-modernism: the refutation of objective reality or truth leads to a greater problem than preceded it, mainly that no greater ethos can exist within this framework as individual viewpoints are both incommensurable and equally correct. This leads to nihilism, the “fuck it – its all fucking bullshit” understanding of realtiy (which is yet another way in which we allow ourselves to be powerless), but more often than leading us over the cliff to a belief in nothingness it leads us to settle for a belief in self, belief that while our views are incommensurable with others, our own beliefs are true – a perfect philosophy for a consumer culture where identity can be defined through commodities. This pervasive idea of greater meaninglessness is a de facto endorsement of the status quo, because it dispossess any real movement for change against the current system of things by disavowing it of any greater meaning or purpose .
One only has to look at the microcosm of the authentic music movements of the last few decades to see this exemplified. For instance this was best captured in the zeitgeist of the early 90’s, felt through bands like Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Rage Against the Machine. There was a general aesthetic of rebellion and yet an accompanying confusion as to what exactly to rebel against. This was perhaps best embodied by the lyric “despite of my rage, I am still just a rat in cage” a perfect definition of generation X. Not surprisingly Billy Corgan and the other music folk heroes of that generation have either sold out or died. This is a ceaseless motif, especially in music - one of the last available forums to authentically comment on injustice and still have that message reach a wider audience. Consider the pre gen X radical hip hop movement: Ice T’s “Cop Killer”, NWA’s “Fuck the Police”, and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. All are songs that were incredibly popular yet very radical in illustrating levels of injustice and inequality throughout the system they exist in… but where are they now? Ice T has been portraying a police officer on network television for years, Ice Cube has starred in two PG family comedy movies, and Flava Flav has had several Vh1 reality shows. Essentially they’ve become established parts of the system the once fought to destroy, one does not have to be a scholar to recognize the pattern – it is always heavily embedded in our culture. Any genuine movement is created out of feelings of alienation, oppression and angst, this message, because it speaks in a great way to many of us, is then incorporated and assimilated by the greater system until it becomes devoid of any real meaning. Which then seems to tell us that every thing is meaningless. That everything is corrupt and everyone is corruptible is the great self fulfilling prophecy of the last two decades which reinforces the greater pervasive feeling of powerlessness.
Unfortunately affirmations of this self fulfilling prophecy of post-modernism exist all around us. It would appear that greater truth, reality, and goodness don’t exist, or rather the appearances/simulcrum of these things exist but they are just facades – representations or tokens of truth, reality, and goodness for a greater manipulation of personal gain. This is the circular logic of what I refer to as a self fufilling prophecy, that a rejection of a greater truth or a rejection of a greater reality (that is not subjective) leads to form of moral isolationism, and one then views that others are acting morally isolated which serves as justification for the ideology that created it. It is no wonder that Fredric Jameson characterized post-modernism as “the dominant cultural logic of late capitalism”. Ironically or significantly post-modernism serves society as modernism had: as a blanket justification for inequality, decadence and nihilism.
And to be fair the problem really isn’t with post-modernism. Brandon Edward Mitchell defines the underlying tenets of post-modernism to be:
Five critical suppositions:-politics is pervasive
-language is constitutive
-truth is provisional
-meaning is contingent
-human nature is a myth
Which is not to say that greater capital “T” truth does not exist, merely that is provisional , temporal and constantly evolving just as we are, or more imporatntly because we are. Our own subjective evolution and our own conceptions of what is the capital “T” truth changes with the ever increasing amounts of data we encounter and the experiences we undergo as our mind struggles to find the greater truth in the reality all around us.
But if post-modernism isn’t the real culprit, why has its meaning been twisted to deliver that message? Nietzsche hated that modernism had resulted in inequality, decadence and nihilism and yet post-modernism in its radical shift from the past paradigm seems to have provoked the exact same consequence. But Why? Why does post-modernism have the same results? My best guess is that the rampant relativism that the sciences have embraced, and more importantly that is rife in everyday culture and experience, stems from the masters of system we exist in. To me it seems that once the door was opened into any discussion of relativism the powers that be jumped on it because finally their actions could be absolved and explained and any opposition would be silenced. This is all too evident in Kissinger’s move to inject Realpolitik into US foreign policy.
Now the real question now is what the hell to do about it, and part of me feels like doing nothing except drowning in that malaise and ennui that all of us who went to Starbucks and listened to Nirvana are all too familiar with, part of me feels like writing poetry about how disconnected I feel in this twisted dystopia of post-modernism (In flannel).
Part of me feels like setting the world on fire.
but despite of my rage I am still just a rat in cage