Not Postmodern

What is the West?

Not Postmodern.

Now, a lot of people like to use these terms like “modern”, “postmodern” and even “anti-postmodern” without knowing exactly what they mean. So for the sake of having some common vocabulary for once, let’s define our terms.

Modernism – the philosophical outlook that defined the West through the late 19th and early 20th century. Essentially, a belief in progress, a belief in objective success in human development, and a belief that a better and more prosperous and free world could be achieved through the right combination of technologies and institutions. Modernism requires a belief in an objective truth, a belief in some sort of scale upon which human societies can be judged, and a belief in the power of human intellect and spirit.

The Nobel Prize, the World Health Organization, and the Kellogg-Briand pact were examples of applied Modernism.

So were Colonialism, Communism, and Nazism.

Gulags, concentration camps, and apartheid were seen as necessary means for these grand visions of social progress. In the eyes of many “moderns”, force and death were unfortunate but necessary means of making way for humanity’s future, of eliminating the unwanted vestiges of the old to make way for the new.

It is no surprise, then, that in the wake of the Second World War, some people began to question the tenets of Modernism. “Who are you,” the first post-modernists might ask, “to determine what a better society should be? What does ‘better’ even mean? How is it defined? These are socially constructed terms that don’t mean anything. I am entitled to an opinion about social progress as much as you are”.

In the past few decades, this postmodern discourse has proven startlingly successful. Though initially postmodernists scored excellent political points against racist, sexist, and other repressive ideals, these memetic ideas, having run out of monsters to slay, have been turned in praetorian fashion against some of the core pillars of Western civilization. The attitude that “everything is opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own” and “there are no objective facts, only narratives” have taken the West by storm. This cynical weaponized postmodernism has propelled Brexit supporters to grow “tired of experts”, have propelled Trump supporters to create their own “alternative facts”, and the impulse to “question everything and think for yourself” has subsidized the rise of Flat Earthers, Intelligent Design subscribers, creationists, anti-vaccine advocates, and birthers, content to believe that “what they feel to be true” is just as valid as empirical evidence, for, after all, we are all entitled to our opinions. The pendulum of philosophical dialectic has swung far too far.

To put it squarely – albeit perhaps too on-the-nose – postmodernism is anti-Western, for it is against the large group identities such as those of civilizations. Post-modernism is a critique of all collective values, a critique of shared assumptions, even if those values are freedoms of inquiry and debate, and those assumptions are rational and scientific ones.

Post-modernism says “why should we privilege traditional western freedoms over other kinds of values? Why should we privilege scientific mindsets over other kinds of mindsets?”

The Neomodernist West must respond: “because they make everything better”.

 


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