Monday, November 12, 2007

The Postmodern President

Postmodernism is a peculiar thing.

There is no reality in the postmodern mindset other than my reality (or yours, or yours, or yours). All perception is subjective; all opinions are personal. Truth is not only impossible; it is counterproductive, oppressive, and intolerant. Who, after all, is to say what is true and what is not true? If something is true for me, it is true for me; your truth is your truth. As long as no one gets hurt, “it’s all good.”

Words, postmodernism tells us, are illusory and cannot express the truth. To expect that is to expect the impossible. The value of a word (or a phrase, or a sentence, or a text) cannot reside in its ability to embody truth; rather we measure the value of words by what they can accomplish, who they help and who they hurt.

Absolute values are an illusion. There can’t be absolute, universal values because objectivity is an oppressive social construct; otherwise, I might have to admit I’m wrong or take responsibility for my error.

“Grand narratives,” those mythic stories cultures tell themselves to explain who they are and why they believe the things they believe, are hurtful. They define us, and thereby limit us. They infringe on our fundamental freedom to grow, to change, to be who we want to be.

In the postmodern world – in the postmodern mind – everything is “real” and nothing is real.

And so it is in this context that we have encountered the Presidency of George W. Bush, our first postmodern President. Examples:

Science? Well, postmodernism says that scientific knowledge is nothing more than a function of the symbol system used to understand it, and therefore rejects the notion of a scientifically knowable reality. The Bush administration has been right on top of this, rejecting Kyoto, hiring industry-sponsored “scientists” to challenge global warming, championing creation “science.”

Truth? Well, being entirely personal and subjective, truth is whatever you say it is, right? For something to be “true,” it only has to make sense to me, to have meaning for me, to be useful to me. The Bush administration’s got subjectivity covered. Saddam had WMDs. Forget what the International Atomic Energy Agency, former US Weapons Inspectors, and US intelligence Agencies said. He had them. Links to al Qa’ida? They were there. Yellowcake uranium from Niger? Bingo. Nuclear program? You betcha.

Grand narratives, like the Enlightenment narrative upon which the US is founded, and which is enshrined – precariously – in our Constitution? Sovereignty vested in the people? Sure – but let’s make it difficult for some of the people to vote, or even to register. Privacy? Absolutely. Except right now, and for the next few generations, while we fight this “long war.” Due process of law? Yep. Except right now, and for the next few generations while we fight this “long war.” Protection from illegal search and seizure? Oh, yes! Except right now, while we fight…but you get the picture.

You say you don’t agree with the Bush administration? You’re intolerant. You object to wars that are based on forgeries, cherry-picked intelligence, and fabricated conspiracies? You hate America. You think that there ought to be a clear boundary between science and faith? You’re an elitist trying to maintain a privileged position of power by oppressing the weaker masses. You believe in liberty, justice, equality, truth, and the rule of law? You’re a mindless “Bush hater.”

Postmodernists, beware: as you sow, so shall you reap...

1 comment:

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Peter, can you post the link to that Post story ("Bush Knew")? I would very much like to read it.