January 7, 2012 / The Church & Postmodern Culture
This Christmas season I had the privilege of attending a memorial service, a vigil in …
March 4, 2012
If you missed it, postmodernism died on September 24th, 2011. Yup. At least if you take the word of Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which opened its “Postmodernism—Style and Subversion 1970-1990” on that day. You can read about it here and here (and find that I shamelessly took their pics!).
But if postmodernism is dead, is over, is done with, what comes after?
Isn’t this the question we always want to ask, that we have to ask? If postmodernism indicated that which follows modernism, which being integrally an extension of it (i.e. modern is still with the very name), don’t we have to ask what is after it? Which is really not a postmodern question, but a modern one, for modernity trained us to expected the new, the next, the upgraded against the old, traditional, normal.
But let’s stick with the question (now that I’ve accomplished the proper deconstructionist preparation).
Either/Or | Both/And
As was common, let’s defined the modern and postmodern according to the slash (“/”) between words. Modernity was characterized by “either/or” of binary oppositions, structured hierarchies, and oppressive exclusions. Modernity was obsessed with identity through definition, with foundation made from decisions. To these modern antitheses came the postmodern “both/and” of identity through difference, of the deferral of closure, of perpetual openness (as the story goes of course). The more philosophical approaches took this slash (“/”) and put it through the subject (S) to indicate the divided subject ($) who is always “both/and” of something else, and put the slash through the object (O) to indicate the divide object (Ø) which is incomplete in its existence.
But what now? What of that which comes after the postmodern? Well, while reading about the above I came across this post which at the bottom mentions that perhaps the typical response these day is, “true, but still.” I think this is just right.
Could the pithy slash-phrase of the “after” postmodern be “true/but still…”?
“True all politics is corrupt, but I’m still going to vote in the hope for change.”
“True capitalism is functional rigged, but I’m still working on the margins to create sustainable business models.”
“True all claims to truth are partial and contextual, but I’m still living from this truth and toward it.”
Maybe it is wishful thinking, but that which comes after postmodernism, while acknowledging the deep wounds and cynicism of deconstruction, doesn’t allow this as a reason for inaction or indifference, but moves forward with a second naïvete.
Maybe “true/but still” is the contemporary rendering of Mark 9:24, “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
Of course it is true that “true/but still” is just the ultimate gesture of cynicism coupled with cooptation:
“I know it’s true that TV corrupts my ability to critically think, but I still love the Simpsons.”
“I know it’s true that voting is really just a way to pacify the masses into thinking they are involved, but still voted for Obama.”
“I know that buying organic coffee at Starbucks doesn’t really change anything, but I still love the taste.”
So, it is certainly is true that maybe people still don’t really care about the truth, but I’m hoping maybe they might.
Geoffrey Holsclaw is a co-pastor at Life on the Vine (www.lifeonthevine.org) and a PhD candidate in theology and society at Marquette University. He is an editor for the Church and Postmodern Culture (http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/) and writes at geoffreyholsclaw.net.