Letters To a Post-Modernist – The Ease of Definition

Modernism, Post-Modernism, Meta, Post-Post, Pseudo, Capitalist, Fascist, Totalitarian, Marxist, Imperialist, rich, poor, straight, gay…  What does it all mean.  I don’t know.  It’s complicated.  There are easy definitions and there are complicated definitions, but ultimately it is all a way of naming things so you can, to some degree, control those things.  Those ideologies.  Affiliate yourself of disassociate yourself with certain ideologies.

But the ideologies don’t define you or limit you.  Quite the opposite.

I took a couple courses in post modernism in art college.  And I occasionally correspond with my old professor.  I guess I don’t really understand the stuff, but I try to keep my brain active.  Based on these correspondences I have composed a series of pieces called “Letters to a Post Modernist”.  I don’t think the post modernist exists.  I don’t even know if post modernism actually existed or if the name is just a sad attempt at trying to define and control some things.  I don’t think intelligent people – who are trying to describe things in society, i.e. problems, as they see them – jump up and down shouting “I’m a post modernist.”

Nevertheless, based on various emails in an attempt to understand I have started listening to Slavoj Zizek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1Kb4JZGpA0, who is an interesting and dynamic speaker.  Clearly, this world has problems.

I have also been reading Malcolm X.  Clearly, problems are universal and stretch forwards and backwards and sideways in time and ideology.  Ok, it is clear this world is messed up and if you are intelligent and sensitive you are looking for solutions, and if you look at history many of these “solutions” have led to bigger problems.  So, one of the questions we may have is: “What can we do?”

The first scene of The Matrix makes reference to Baudrillard’s “Simulations”. I was thinking of the essay I wrote where I basically used “Mirror of Production” and then a couple later chapbooks of poetry to illustrate Baudrillard as moving from a hopeful communist to a jaded postmodernist, distressed at the impossibility of positive change. Don’t the post modernists say that if a philosophy makes sense it becomes dangerous? Questions are ok but answers lead to authoritarianism. I am re-reading Simulations because I am considering trading in my Baudrillards for a set of John Galsworthys.

Don’t trade in the Baudrillards. You may want to try looking up books that have “Post-post Modernism” in their title.

I like Baudrillard. As for the Galsworthys, a 90 year old three volume set printed on rag paper in very good condition. Printed in an era when things were supposed to last. There is a lot to be said for hope. Yes, I know the argument is that that “belief” and “hope” led to two world wars and more, but if we look even further backwards in human history we will see even more genocide and violence. It may be a sign of hope that we have survived our own monstrosities. However, perhaps the “hope” that is manifest in the postmodernist thinking is that people will see the message and transform themselves. Perhaps the postmodernist is naively looking for some sort of metaphysical transformation of the human race before we destroy ourselves with our own technology…

The problem, I think, is that books like Baudrillard’s “Simulations” (and his attempt to define a working Marxism in “Mirrors of Production”) are extremely relevant, but they can also lead to disillusion because the world is so messed up.  So what are the answers?  And where are the answers?  And what is the danger if someone can convince others they have all the answers and try to impose their ideology on others.

The first precept of any “post-modern” philosophy is that any ideology carries the seeds of it’s own destruction.  The individual should think for themselves and discard ideology, including “post-modern” ideology, which is a belief that all ideologies are detrimental to our thinking, which is a circular logical trap and very frustrating.

So perhaps I shall now read a couple of Slavoj Zizek’s books in an attempt to teach myself to think for myself.  Or perhaps, like Baudrillard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Baudrillard I should just look for cool bars and write obscure poetry in uniquely shaped chap books.  But I know that statement is doing Jean Baudrillard a great injustice, because he has written a great deal of relevant and meaningful material.  Still the world remains as terrible as it ever was, and we only have the philosophers to assuage us.

And yet we continue to survive.

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One thought on “Letters To a Post-Modernist – The Ease of Definition

  1. The great fear here is that people will actually believe me when I say Baudrillard is a jaded Marxist. He may well be a jaded Marxist who likes a good pub. Who isn’t? Yes, I know he is dead but his impact is not!

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