The Utter, Utter Failure of Postmodernism
Almost two weeks have gone by after the riots in Vancouver, city officials, along with provincial administrators are still bewildered with the disturbances that took place in Vancouver city on June 15, after a championship game of hockey ended with the Canucks losing the Stanley Cup to Boston Bruins. Premier Christy Clark has ordered an investigation, as well as an “independent review,” to analyze the possible causes of this behaviour. Psychiatrists also weighed in to see the driving force behind the disruptive conduct of the rioters that day.
Meanwhile, this photo has been floating around the World Wide Web comparing the riots in Vancouver with those in Somalia, Libya and Egypt. The satirical theme behind this comparison is obvious. While all four countries witnessed deadly demonstrations, the reasons behind these demonstrations varied drastically. Somalia, Libya and Egypt were fighting for freedom, while Vancouverites were just plain old silly.
No nation on the face of the planet wakes up one morning and suddenly finds itself looting, stabbing, and setting cars on fire because of a silly hockey game. This is a result of a wrong turn that was made earlier. Somewhere down the road, Canadians have lost touch with the meaningful, and instead, chose to attach their lives to the meaningless. This, in a nutshell, describes the postmodern condition.
For 17 centuries, there existed a large narrative that governed the lives of the majority of today’s highly developed nations. This narrative was none other than God, as revealed through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Based on this narrative, people would choose their path in life and make important decisions; based on this narrative, a man would choose the type of woman with whom he would want to spend the rest of his life. According to the norms set by God, the majority of people in the western nations carried out their daily routines, whether at home, work or on the streets. The majority of the western populations subscribed to this narrative and surrendered their lives to this unequivocal Truth.
Today, however, this grand narrative known as God, has been replaced with countless small narratives, and instead of God governing our lives, it has become gods who are in charge of us now. Rather than the foundational Truth that draws the dividing line between right and wrong, anti-foundational truths have taken the helms of our lives, steering us in which ever direction our unbridled desires wish to take us. These smaller narratives include our area of specialization (our job), or sports; they could also be an illicit sexual relation, or perhaps drinking, smoking cigarettes and even drugs. Today, some people attach their lives to their area of study or their job so strongly that it becomes the guiding principle and the ultimate arbitrator of right and wrong in their lives; others, find in sports the pleasure that keeps them occupied throughout their day; still others, devote their lives to finding a relationship in which they can be gratified and fulfilled. All I wrote so far is nothing new. Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote about it in his essay entitled “The Postmodern Condition.”
Note that every small narrative mentioned above has to do with the means and not the end, the path but not the destination. So long as the means consist of some temporary pleasure, the end is irrelevant. Consequently, anything becomes acceptable so long as it produces a transient moment of satisfaction. This summarizes the utter, utter failure of the postmodern condition, once God goes out the door, everything is permitted. Even though the effect of this condition has proliferated every aspect of human life in the western world, it will suffice to look at three areas where the detrimental outcome of postmodernism has clearly manifested itself.
Due to the removal of the foundational Truth, or the grand narrative labeled above as God, a broader definition has been ascribed to the term ‘family’. As a result, no one can really understand what this term means anymore. Is it two human beings who share residence and resources with each other? Or does it consist of a man and a woman, who live together under a state license that grants them the status of ‘marriage’? Of course, at times the term ‘marriage’ needs a qualifier such as ‘same-sex,’ or ‘gay.’ If the term can be so radically redefined as to include same-sex couples, then why stop there? Why not make this term so inclusive that any group of people, whether it is three men and two women, or five men and one woman, or any number of any of the sexes who live and share resources together also be labeled as ‘family’? This endless confusion is not a random result of human evolution, nor is it some free libertarianism that attempts to free humanity of its “mind-forged manacles,” to put it in Blakean terms. Instead, it is a direct result of human beings abandoning the source of all order, the grand narrative, the author of all Truth, God. Redefining family has had a devastating effect on today’s society. The population of some countries can no longer sustain itself because of the abortive measures employed by the postmodern ‘family.’ Life is no longer a sacred gift, but rather has been reduced to a “choice.” Parental roles are being exchanged in an attempt to paint a false image of equality. Females are even encouraged to be leaders of the household, and any talk of submission to the husband is immediately dismissed as misogynistic or inequitable. All this confusion in the make-up and role-definition of family unit has caused so much turmoil, that currently there are only a few households left, whose members are not suffering from some sort of domestic breakdown or relational trauma.
The most prescribed of all drugs today are antidepressants. People are just not happy. The confusion of postmodernism has made us embark on an endless search for happiness. Some people attempt to find this happiness in sports; others remain content with sporadic and temporary pleasures by gratifying their fleshly desires; still others try to find a meaning in their lives through their area of specialization, as noted above. When all this proves futile and incapable of producing a lifelong happiness, people turn to drugs. This phenomenon is mostly prevalent in the most secularized societies in the west. In 2008, the United Kingdom, issued 36 million prescriptions for antidepressant drugs, which is “nearly one for every adult in the population.” In Sweden, nearly 9% of the entire population is diagnosed with depression. Over the last decade, “the use of antidepressant drugs has skyrocketed” in the United States. In 2005 alone, 113 million prescriptions were given out. These statistics are very telling re the nature of effect postmodernism has had on the western world.
Once the author and source of morality has been removed, everything becomes permissible. Dostoyevsky articulated this same notion in his Brothers Karamazov. If there is no defining Truth that acts as a measuring stick to the rules, which govern our lives, human beings begin to construct their own sense of morality. As a result, the dismemberment and skull cracking of babies who sleep peacefully in their mothers’ wombs is a “choice” that belongs to the individual rather than an objective evil. Human definition of right and wrong has gone so astray, that anyone who defiantly opposes the foundational Truth, is not only accepted, but also praised and exalted. Patrick Madrid recognizes this in his book, The Godless Delusion. He notes the striking similarity between the eugenic practices of the Nazi regime and current leaders of the bioethics represented by Peter Singer, a world-renowned atheist bio-ethicist.
“In the Nazi Doctors, Robert J. Lifton quotes a 1973 interview in which the father of Baby Knauer [the first victim of Nazi infanticide] recalled the reasons Brandt and Hitler agreed to the killing of his son:
He [Brandt] explained to me that the Fuhrer had personally sent him, and that my son’s case interested him very much. The Fuhrer wanted to explore the problem of people who had no future – whose [lives were] worthless. From then on, we wouldn’t have to suffer from this terrible misfortune, because the Fuhrer had granted us the mercy killing of our son. Later, we could have other children, handsome and healthy, of whom the Reich could be proud” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/who-is-a-jew-38).
In his book, Practical Ethics, Singer writes:
“When the death of a disabled infant will lead the birth of another infant with better prospects for a healthy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second [even if not yet born]. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, according to the total view, it would be right to kill him” (The Godless Delusion, 95-96).
Note the similarity of the two views expressed by the Nazi regime and Peter Singer. Brandt was hung during the Nuremberg trials. Today, on the other hand, Peter Singer holds a very prestigious tenured chair at Princeton University. If there is no ultimate Truth to which we must measure everything in our lives, then no one can blame anyone for committing the most depraved acts of violence and wickedness. The perpetrators of these acts are simply acting based on their own sense of right and wrong.
The Postmodern condition has done a great damage to the fabric of the western society. Premier Christy Clark and all the psychiatrists in the world do not need to be analyzing the situation any further. The cause of all this insanity in Canada and the rest of the western societies is not some psychological defect or some hidden deficiency that needs to be brought to light through the use of human intellect and resources. Rather, it is the postmodern condition. It is the determination to forsake and completely abandon God, the author of all Truth, the giver of all morality and order. Once God departs from our lives, all sorts of sicknesses begin to creep in.