“Postmodernism was a reaction to modernism. Where modernism was about objectivity, postmodernism was about subjectivity. Where modernism sought a singular truth, postmodernism sought the multiplicity of truths.” – Miguel Syjuco
I’m not really sure what path I’m going to go down with this one but that seems to be a current theme with my writing at the moment. I suppose I’ve only really chosen to write about this to validate my own inconsistent understanding of the subject matter and attempt to understand something that I’ve never quite been able to grasp. If I’m honest, it’s one of those terms that I’d heard on a daily basis but was never all that bothered about really understanding its meaning or impact.
I should really start by giving postmodernism a definition. To make sure I’m in the right ball-park, I’d usually do a few searches on Google to find the definition and then I’d carry on writing. What I found from said search wasn’t a definition, but a lot of different theories and examples of where it fits in the current world. As I wanted something a little more black and white, that doesn’t really help so I’m going to give my own two cent’s worth and hope that I hit the bulls-eye. From looking at Miguel Syjuco’s quote, for me the best way to look at it (as I always do) is to look at how society has developed over the years. As anything progresses, be that society itself, technology or politics, we need new terms and machinery to help us define change. Postmodernism is exactly that. Let me break it down.
Premodernism – Religious reasoning. Taken as truth and fact without question.
Modernism – Political and Scientific reasoning. Taken as truth and fact without question.
Postmodernism – Deconstruction of ‘truth and fact’.
If I said that (a few pockets of history aside) up until the mid-point of the 20th century, the human race was primarily a species of sheep; it’d be a pretty fair assessment. In the age before science and real political thought, religion told us what was right and wrong. It told us what kind of person we should be and what kind of lives we should lead. When science came along, it provided different arguments and became the first real thing that challenged religion and offered people a different way of thinking. It was rational, based on fact and still holds true today. Politics is slightly different and has similar characteristics as religion. Fact is based on what we’re being told and we’re expected to believe it. We were expected to believe it and we willingly agreed.
After the Second World War, things changed. We were still told what was right and wrong and how we should behave but more questions were being asked. After all, no one person is the same so do universal truths in relation to human beings really exist? I and postmodern theory, would argue no. Everything is relative to each person and fact is accurate to the individual, not the collective.
My favourite definition is this:
“For this reason, postmodernism is highly sceptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.
Postmodernism is “post” because it denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind.”
As far as I’m concerned, this makes for a much better world. If you look at politics, we elect our MPs, but history has taught us to question the facts that they give us. On far too many occasions we’ve been let down by politicians in their pursuit for power and we’ve been guilty of forgetting that they should be answering to us, their constituents. Not anymore. Everything that we’re told is questioned. Everything we’re asked to place trust in is scrutinised until proven accurate. That’s what postmodernism is and it’s relevant to every nook and cranny of society. Art, music, literature, politics, religion and even food.
I like the way things are. I know that my decisions are my decisions, my life is my life and I will trust what I’m told when I can validate it for myself. That’s how things should be. There’s no master race of human beings. We’re all just flesh, bones and water. It’s our right to question anything we want to question.
Subjectivity and relativity are the only universal truths for us and these are governed by experience. Experience is governed by the choices we make. The choices we make are governed by the type of person we are. We choose who we want to be. Some people will blindly follow religion; some will question it as a philosophy or belief.
That’s my understanding of postmodernism anyway.
The sheep are all dead. Long live the shepherds.