This Is Postmodernism
Serious. In fact, this is going to be a pretty deep and personal one, so come back later if you’re not in the mood for a head trip.
THE FOLLOWING AUDIO CLIP IS FROM A SPEECH BY DAVlD F0STER WAIIACE:
This is the nature of postmodernism. If you do not worship the intangible, if you take pleasure in sex or possessions, then your life will be empty. All power is just a cover for one’s own weakness. The “real world” runs on the worship of self, and this is an illusion, and not real freedom. The only real freedom is sacrifice to others.
It all sounds so insightful, so thrilling. It’s made to appeal to your sense that reality is not as it is. It’s meant to distort your views and make you think that if one looks at life and says, “I want a nice house, a family and a good paying job,” then they have missed the whole point of it. That somehow seeing the forest for the trees is a sign of ignorance and that only by giving do we receive. Postmodernism claims that if we trust only what we can see and prove with our own eyes and minds then we will become trapped in a world that is innately self-centered.
But what postmodernists are really calling us to do is to trust their reality, or at least the reality they present to us. I do not believe that Wallace was attempting to warp people’s minds here because he was trying to control them. I think he really believed what he was saying. But just what is he saying? He is saying that freedom is not the right to do as you wish. He is saying that the only real freedom is found in service, in subjugation, in submission.
These are the lines that are always repeated to enslave. They are sometimes spoken by those knowingly trying to own you. Other times they are spoken by pitiable fools who have come to believe it themselves. I should know. I used to be one of them. I was raised to think that self-denial and humility were the foundations of morality. And I bought it, hook line and sinker, until a tragedy forced me to face the unreality and dishonesty of my upbringing. For awhile I tried to cling to my beliefs out of pragmatism. The world approved of my politically correct, slightly left-leaning, Deistic world view. Women regarded me as deep and liberal arts professors marked my papers with high marks. Denial was working for me, but I was unable to fool myself. When I spoke to others I used deep sounding language and emotional appeals, and (to my now great regret) I convinced many people of the truth of what I believed, because it spoke so directly to the desires of the weak to feel powerful and the lonely to feel comforted. But when I attempted to convince myself, to comfort and strengthen my own resolve, I could not, because I knew all the tricks, and I knew they were tricks. And I soon had to face myself as a fraud.
So I’m not calling you stupid if Wallace’s words touched you. I wouldn’t think that for a second (I don’t think I was stupid, or am stupid.) I know that saying up is down with the right inflection, tone and phrases can appear deep and revealing to all of us. But it’s a lie, and it does not teach you to live a life of love. It perverts what love really is by telling you that it’s not about admiration and closeness. It tells you that it’s about caring for strangers and people you hate. Postmodernism is about making death the purpose of life. And the reason that I had to post a pirated clip of that speech is because after Wallace committed suicide, the video of him giving that speech was taken down from where it was found freely online, so that the transcript of it could be sold for a profit, even though that runs completely contrary to everything that the author wanted to stand for. At the end of the day, being against profit is just another PR and marketing strategy for turning a profit.
Reality exists. And despite how deeply we desire or want the world to work a certain way, we cannot deny reality. We can claim that Santa Clause is real all we want. We can claim that if we are caring that everyone else will respond with kindness. Yet, we all know that if we do nothing other than hope and believe there will be no presents on Christmas day. And we must admit to ourselves that no matter how kind we try to be, there will always be hatred in this world. It is true that when we do thing for others it can help to build a sense of community and cooperation that will both make us feel a sense of accomplishment and could have reciprocal benefits down the line. I agree with telling people that because it is true. But to lie and say that giving is receiving and to simplify and abstract it to such a point where it is not only no longer true, but a clear denial of reality, will only leave those who are taught it disappointed and unable to cope with the harshness of the world around them.
A reverence for reality must come first. A belief in the pursuit of the truth must come before kindness. I can lie to a disabled boy and tell him that he can be an astronaut, and this may seem a kindness, as to tell him otherwise would be harsh. I think that it is the greater kindness not to lie to the child, however. It is the greater kindness to prepare people for the world than to protect them from it until they are not capable of living within it without self delusion. Integrity is paramount. It is worth much more than momentary joy or sorrow. And I may not always know what the truth is, but I will never claim that no such thing as the truth exists.
Entry filed under: Evil.