Thursday, November 17, 2016

realities and politics

When I was in grad school, we read a certain amount of postmodern theory. I found it fascinating, particularly in its explanation of how representation starts altering how people perceive and process reality. In our age, saturated by media, representation tends to stack up. This obscures reality to the point where the representation starts to be seen as more real than reality.

It's an interesting theory. While it's nothing that anyone would hold up as an ideal, it does explain an awful lot of how image, reality, and opinion converge. But, as one reads more and more of it,  one starts to feel about it the same way one would that style of art which consists of large color squares on canvas. The thought is that someone is playing a con on someone...but who's playing whom is a matter of opinion.

I've been out of the scholarship game for a while, though, and postmodernism isn't really the kind of thing one reads for giggles. But lately, it's been washing back into my consciousness. I blame politics.

My country has taken some weird turns over the last week. Quite often, those changes seem to be relatively contrary to reality. People voted against their own interests. But they also voted for a businessman because they thought he would be less money-hungry than a politician. This has, for a while, made very little sense to me.

I think that the postmodernism is starting to help make sense, though. But it's not, I'm beginning to suspect, because people are too tied to the media representations of reality as postmodernism would argue. Reality, as a concept, is not really all that definite of a concept anymore for a lot of people. And in the absence of reality, people don't settle on a mediated reality. It's not like there's only one of them. It's a verifiable buffet of competing realities, a potpourri dish of reality options.

If there's no real anymore, then why not chose the alternative that helps you sleep better at night? No matter what the consequences?

The fault with this logic is also the fault with postmodernism. There actually is a Real in there. Even in the absence of narratives, there is a right, and there is a wrong. There is help, and there is harm. Stories are just stories, no matter how seductive they might be. And there is a way back to sanity

I just hope the path is easier to grasp than postmodernism.

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