Discover more from Layman Pascal
Toward the Establishment of Alternative Pathways Through Postmodernity
The Peril of Postmodernity
The Puzzle of Postmodernity
The Promise of Postmodernity
A Deeper Look at Our Project
The Real Progressives
The Real Critique of Modernity
The Real Deconstruction
Practices for Setting up Alternative Postmodernism Zones (APZ)
ADDENDUM - Precautionary Contexts (Becoming Antifragile to False Postmodern Attacks)
THE PERIL OF POSTMODERNITY
Postmodernism, deconstruction, progressive politics & systemic critique may be considered collectively as mutual, interlocking facets of a general socio-cognitive operating system.
Into this mixture, we could add poststructuralism, anti-hierarchy, multicultural relativism, active anti-racism, post-rationalism, somatic psychotherapy, environmentalism, etc. We could add that the scale of the modern cosmos (atom-to-solar-system) was radically expanded, pluralized and decentralized (multi-pathway-quark-to-relativistic-multiverse). Recognition of our psychological plurality was coupled with heightened sensitivity to give birth to therapeutic culture. Leading-edge people stopped thinking in terms of “regular meals” and started investigating “the actual ingredients.”
It has been called pluralism. It has been called the Green vMeme or Green Wave.
Popularly, but also misleadingly, it is conflated with the “Far Left” — treated rhetorically as an exaggerated liberalist position along the (naive) modern political spectrum.
And it’s a problem.
THE PUZZLE OF POSTMODERNITY
Cancel culture, reactionary social justice warriors, anti-humanist political correctness, radical “woke” infiltration of boardrooms, chatrooms, politics, spiritual communities, business, entertainment at all scales is an increasing danger to democracy, liberty and healthy human development. Every day, more people are mutating into this destructive and widely disliked cultural attitude. It is so disliked, in fact, that it produces artificial waves of support for corrupt pseudo-conservative attitudes — as long as they promise to fight against this proliferating menace.
What are we to make of pathological postmodernity?
Consider the following questions as examples of a huge number of analogous cultural puzzles:
How did the liberal free speech movements on 1960s college campuses turn into angry, thoughtless outbursts that invoke moral purity to de-platform anyone who is rhetorically disobedient?
Why did a genius like Foucault seem to support senseless Maoist violence?
Why did so many well-meaning, mid-20th century Western socialists not notice or care that Stalin was an authoritarian mass murderer?
How is it that anti-racism has so often taken overtly racist forms?
What are we supposed to make of the fact that people are openly asserting that the amazing discoveries of contemporary science are dismissible, merely social constructs reinforcing the “hegemonic narrative of whiteness?”
Why did so many revolutionary youth, in the twentieth century, end up inflicting terrible violence upon the innocent — in a tragic parody of the very fascism they sought to root out & overthrow?
There is a puzzle here.
The beautiful moral & humane gains of the last hundred years — universal voting rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization, child protection laws, greater sobriety about rape, awareness of implicit systemic bias, recognition of the deep international need for ecological action, labor battles that won weekends & safe working conditions from brutal modernist oligarchs — must be preserved and furthered. BUT they must be preserved and furthered without falling prey to regressive progressivism.
The old answer, the traditional answer, is that individual spiritual or existential maturation will slowly but eventually overcome these problems by adherence to mystic traditions, inner practice & developmental self-exploration...
Meanwhile, the problem is getting worse. And the scale of difficulties that it is preventing us from solving is becoming more apparent. We cannot wait. Nor can we simply take solace in our own private lives & inner practices.
Neither is it sufficient to imagine that we can skip over this problem via the mass implementation of a more advanced “integrative” or “developmentalist” or “metamodern” worldview that simply replaces postmodernism.
New, higher visions — which are often only very partially embodied in their adherents — will require larger numbers of (healthy versions of) their structural and maturational predecessors as the raw material with which to begin. Post-postmodernism or Metamodernism will either be served or sabotaged by the quality of postmodernity that is cultivated in the world. We need a good and strong postmodernism.
THE PROMISE OF POSTMODERNITY
Anyone who resonates with the impulse to cultivate a higher, more integrative cultural operating system, a paradigm that authentically transcends-but-includes postmodernity, must commit themselves to cultivate, critique & tweak the pluralistic episteme.
Cultivate - We must cultivate it because it produces the people and ideas out of which a metamodern or integral operating system draws their key constituency and many of their key insights.
Critique - We must critique it so that its healthy & legitimate forms are clearly, openly distinguished from its pathologies and imitations.
Tweak - We must tweak it towards versions that work more constructively with all the other socio-cognitive operating systems. The responsibility of selecting between alternative possible postmodernities lies with those who are capable of seeing the mixture of virtues and errors that are involved.
Our job, in this respect, is to outcompete the problematic memes of pluralism on the territory of their own legitimate concerns. That means we must more deeply assimilate and upcycle postmodernism to provide a version of it that suits us & serves the world.
If these variants are not provided then default variants will evolve into dominance. The anticipated and already culturally-insurgent forms of pluralism will exhibit whatever mixture of partial, imbalanced, superficial and quasi-premodern forms of postmodernity that can be cobbled together and weaponized under the current conditions of degenerate modernity. This will inflame and destabilize the whole set of major cultural operating systems while continuing to inhibit the emergence of higher platforms by obstructing the leading edge of cultural developments AND by failing to accomplish its mission of sufficiently challenging, revising and upgrading the economically and technologically dominant modernist institutions. The plague of insufficient postmodernity is identical to the non-establishment of healthy, robust, developmentally-friendly postmodernity.
So we must be able to tell ourselves a story that empowers us to produce a developmentally-friendly, wisdom-oriented, alternative route into & through pluralism.
We require, in essence, a real deconstruction, an authentic postmodernism, a viable progressive politics, a more complete systemic critique, a deeper and more nuanced anti-racism, a more powerful and inclusion comprehension of privilege, a more humane and harmonious relativism, etc. Otherwise you necessarily get a hegemonic, racialist, crypto-fascist & suppressive postmodernity
The key to doing this is twofold…
A DEEPER LOOK AT OUR PROJECT
What are the fundamental elements needed in order to cultivate an authentic, healthy and more complete alternative form of postmodernism?
Firstly there must be a deeper literacy about postmodern thought. This includes both its advocates and critiques in their classical and contemporary forms. We have to operate from a continually deepening appreciation of what postmodern critical terminology could mean, how powerful these conceptual approaches could be (even beyond how they have been hitherto implemented) and the real profundity of the values, virtues and insights that we can discover underlying both toxic & benevolent variants of pluralistic, postformal, socio-cognitive operations.
Secondly, we must cultivate a greater multiplicity and stability among the diverse aspects of human beings that can potentially reach this level of sophistication.
This operating system (or “level”) is not active only within self-proclaimed forms of academic and social hysteria surrounding aggressive speech policing, counter-hegemony, social justice and a narrow reductionist theory of power, identity and intersectional groupings. That is only one of the possibilities for a narrow, incomplete and imbalanced manifestation of this style of being in the world.
The pluralistic operating system is also naturally entangled with ecological awareness, the empowerment of working families, multiplistic physics, ingredients thinking, advanced individualism, electronic networks, complexity models, paradigmatic history, interactionism, the art of reframing and juxtaposition, the economics of enfolding externalities, new currencies, nuanced self-reflective speech, religious creativity & playfulness, back to the land movements, return to the body, intra-psychic dynamics, partnership culture… and the new styles of art, music and entertainment that have been constantly emerging since the early mid-twentieth century.
Anyone who is adapted to only one dimension, or only a few popular aspects, of this contemporary form of social cognition, will exhibit a predictably lopsided, ugly and problematic variant of these skills and insights.
For example, a revolutionary who has no therapeutic self-understanding is trouble. An academic anti-racist who has premodern moral instincts could become a serious problem. A communitarian environmentalist who cannot think about multiple simultaneous interpretations of their own truths will fail to grasp the real ecological background of our situation. A socialist who merely “believes” in socialism probably cannot take us into a better capitalism or something beyond. A new age spiritualist who thinks she is “beyond politics” might be failing to help the world. A postmodern artist who is not moved to eat in a healthier, more holistic and naturally nutrient-rich manner is getting sick. A transhumanist out of touch with his bodily sensitivity is getting stuck in failed relationships. Academic theorists of economic transformation who cannot bear to hang out with the actual working class.
Postmodern technology used by premodern groups under the control of modern systems is not going to produce exemplary results.
These are all examples of disharmonious imbalance in which one subjective system or dimension of experience is exhibiting postmodern traits while being sabotaged in its expression by more crude pattern in other dimensions.
The authentic demonstration of postmodernity or the pluralistic operating system must take place as evolving patterns across our outer, inner and shared lives. It must be trying to show up naturally in our ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, kinesthetic, spiritual and other forms of talent or “intelligence.”
The rampant social danger of people who can speak in postmodern concepts while remaining premodern, or merely modern, in their emotional, moral and social attitudes is the primary form of imbalanced pluralism that has led to enormous problems around false wokeism, pathological forms of socialism, reactionary social justice, racist anti-racism. It has also provoked the many misguided attempts to thwart these phenomena as if they represented the very essence of postmodernity or the Left Agenda.
THE REAL PROGRESSIVES
Postmodernism does not characterize the “far left” in contemporary politics. This is for two important reasons.
Firstly, there is a — largely dismissed — form of conservativism that shares many progressive insights and social commitments. Secondly, we can see that actual progressives (by any name) have had to struggle for recognition against the dominant internal power structures of so-called “mainstream liberals” who, behaviorally, much prefer a kind of outraged-but-complacent form of the corporate-woke attitude which privileges representationism and sensitive messaging while maintaining a commitment to the agents of ongoing political & economic corruption. These are both indicators that the notion of the pluralistic politics has to be decoupled from the notion of an exaggerated, or radical, subgroup of left-leaning centrists.
Who are the conservative pluralists? Right-leaning “progressives” who are thematically concerned about tradition, liberty, patriotism, rural life, family values, classic roles, etc. but nonetheless critical of modern institutions, steeped in multiple interpretations, favoring progressive candidates, highly sensitive to systemic economic critique, able to think outside of linear progress models, advocates of more powerful social safety nets, etc. The difficulty in thinking about these people as postmodernists is related to our enculturated social assumption that postmodernity is a “left” phenomenon. But think about people like Nassim Taleb, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Camille Paglia, Nietzsche, Sagaar Enjeti, Eric Weinstein, Jesse Ventura, (Feel free to remove the one you least agree with and replace it with an example of your own!).
These people are naturally quite often mistaken for either reactionary modernists (opposed to postmodernity) or else higher-level “integral” thinkers who are critiquing postmodernity from above. Either could be true in any individual case, but if you have talked seriously about environmentalism with an aggressive, non-racist, gun-toting martial artist, who works with acupuncture needles, grew up rural and would definitely take up arms against the government to protect both the rights of cannabis enthusiasts and union workers, then you’ve got to think outside the standard definitions of left/right that are embedded in, and serve to reinforce, the mainstream liberal-conservative alliance that is procedurally in charge of modernity.
Understanding and empowering postmodern thoughts requires that we sample the broad diversity of its forms and look for patterns that are not isolated only to the examples that dominate popular and institutional political discourse. A real enactment of postmodernity will require a broad coalition of disparate types of people who have explored the sets of solutions in the trans-modern space.
Of course, it may often be easier for people who are temperamentally left-leaning to achieve updated intellectual progress by adapting to the expert social discourse of the moment. This is part of their evolutionary specialty (working in tandem with the “conservative” specialty of waiting, validating more slowly, preserving heuristics, treating personal & local experience as superior to universal and socially asserted realities).
This means that new ideas (some of which may even turn out to be true!) and new words are typically embraced and asserted by the more liberal cohorts in any social period. Often they merely mouth these terms without understanding them but nonetheless, contemporary insights into the need for more egalitarian systems, network logic, collective intelligence, the dynamics of solidarity, the expansive opportunities of sensitivity and mutuality, interdependence, symbiotic realities, etc. show up more frequently in the speech patterns of the left and are (a) mistaken for postmodernity (b) equated with a communion-orientation.
The assertion that pluralism, like traditionalism, is more social as opposed to individual, is a distorted view that neglects the full range of pluralistic conservativism and individualism as well as the rich forms of communal existence that are typical of modernity. The international mechanistic consensus, the ethos of the boardroom and the “club,” the communities of hobbyists and sports enthusiasts, the warm reasonable family, the shared veneration for progress and innovation, the IMAX audience, the shared spirit of the public library, the invention of the news-receiving “public,” the mass audience, the shared veneration of individual liberty… these are only some of many ways that modernity expresses itself in communion. Every socio-cognitive operating system has individualism and collectivism. There is no capitalism without some socialism and vice versa. The movement between these emergent operating systems is not an oscillation between autonomy and communion even though that can be an inspiring analysis.
Progressives are not specially orientated toward the dimension of society, community and systemic analysis. They simply exhibit a postmodern level or stage of understanding and feeling in these areas. Just because a person identifies as a socialist does not make them a postmodernist — they could be doing it as a mere tribal affiliation. The mere articulation of shared values in opposition to modernity’s self-descriptive marketing about individual liberty does not mean that a person is postmodern or that postmodernity sides with groups over individuals. The modern fear, quite justified, is a regression to a form of individual-group dynamic that has less freedom and intelligence than the modern form. And the postmodern form of individual-group dynamic is only valid when it is that much more liberating, intelligent and satisfying.
So we must stand for a real progressive politics along with a real postmodernism that meets our minimum standards for authenticity.
Otherwise, we only get a random, untutored, free-range type of narrow and superficial faux-postmodernism pumped out of universities and media ecosystems to convert inexperienced adolescents into premodern fanatics armed with sophisticated conceptual tools.
And of course, this is not merely the result of the “infiltration” of these institutions by pathological postmodernists… it is the result of the predictable sabotage and hacking of these institutions by pathological modernity’s self-predatory instincts…
6. THE REAL CRITIQUE OF MODERNITY
Postmodernity, almost by definition, extends, deepens and multiplies the thought-tools of modernity while also applying them to a critical analysis of modern systems and assumptions. This is crucial for the world because modern systems still largely control the world and, despite their virtues, currently resist many important improvement while remaining behaviorally blind to it’s negative side-effects and ignored externalities. An alternative postmodernism has to perform this examination with greater sincerity, depth and analytic novelty.
Early criticisms of the modern world are associated with romantic artists, Marxists, anarchists & nostalgic folk-philosophers. A large chunk of that could be classified as regressive — the premodern spirit fighting back against, depressively sulking or becoming inflamed by the emergence of a powerful rival system. However, there was also a great deal of insightful, implicit critique which open new pathways of understanding self, nature and society. The incomplete, misleading and disastrous elements of modernity generally, and of its toxic variants in particular, need to be illuminated, even when they are confusing and counterintuitive, while we also value, protect and enhance any real gains produced by modern thought, economics, technology and social organization. Here are some examples of attitudes that are genuinely postmodern (because they appreciate, understand and attack at the same time) rather than premodern:
A non-reactive, broad-ranging postmodern critique of modern civilization combines the general human appreciation of poverty-alleviation, successful innovation, individual liberties and access to information with the deep moral disgust at massive wealth inequalities that sabotages national spirit and undermine the general physical and emotional wellbeing of citizens.
People need meaningful work that contributes to the progress of the human spirit but we don’t want to breathe coal fumes or have our water supply poisoned by industrial effluents.
We want free speech and representational democracy but we don’t want 99% of that freedom and representation to act on behalf of massive international corporations who pay no taxes and exploit us in the workplace.
Most human beings are fans of rationality but we don’t want our intuition rejected, our complexity reduced, our lives regimented, .
We understand that the world is available but we also know that local communities will always be the primary source of meaning and relationship. We want large abundances of delicious food available but we don’t want to get fat, hacked by processed carbohydrates, juiced up on corn sugar or spoon-feeding toxic metals into our babies’ mouths.
We want enough military to prevent wars… not to launch them on false pretexts against unnecessary adversaries in order to enable massive profits for the already rich. We love the idea of sober, well-balanced, incremental change but how can that possibly handle radically accelerating changes in the world?
So we AGREE with the need for a powerful criticism of modernity. Not all opposition to modernity is correct. Powerful critiques do not imply that nothing is true or good about modern civilization. Yet if we are to replace narrow, superficial and toxic postmodernity with full, authentic and world-changing postmodernity then we must outdo them in this respect and arm ourselves with an even deeper and more powerful attack on the problematic underlying structures of the modern worldspace.
Modernity’s style of institutions dominate this planet so thoroughly because of specific features that make it aggressive, scalable, meta-stable, expert in marketing & ultra-adaptive. Naive postmodernity underestimates the danger of modernity. The narrow critique, like the simple anti-modern revolutionary, will discover that their values have become a subgenre of commodity marketing, that their group was actually started by agents of the modern state, that their blows against the system trigger the system to get stronger and that, anyway, the system is built to run on oppositional dynamics — the conformists and the revolutionaries are part of the same modern machine in much the same was that positive and negative poles creates the electric circuit or prosecutor/defender or “two parties” form the engine of the corporate, international, technocrat status quo that cloaks itself in the modernist virtues of civility, moderation, incremental change, individual choice, interventionism & representationalism.
If the implicit dynamics and correlated value claims of modernity, whatever their historical utility has been, are currently the primary obstacle to the overall development and well-being of humans then our problem is this:
How to replace it without regressing to something more primitive and less useful?
And to answer that question we have to see it a lot more clearly and disentangle ourselves from our embedding in its systems, attitudes and self-claims.
Corrupt modernity arises from a trauma inflicted in unhealthy traditional communities. Children, lovers, inventors, scholars, artists, philosophers, explorers, entrepreneurs, entertainers & foreigners were so often attacked, belittled, murdered, slandered and intimidated in traditional folk-nationalist authoritarian hierarchies that many rational, scientific and humanitarian individuals, still today, harbor a deep moral grudge and emotional suspicious against religion, tradition and community. That’s understandable. However, the traumas that give birth to reactionary forms of modernity are not the sole problem. The sheer scale is a huge issue — many forms of pollution are tolerable in a small town but not when amped up to industrial factory production. The inability of modern systems to clearly distinguish themselves from sociopathy is an enormous problem. The famous disenchantment or slow erosion of the feeling of meaning and wholeness in human life is a serious problem.
Corrupt modernity is also limited in its ability to achieve liberty and fairness. It begins with half-enlightened positions such as those expressed in the founding documents of the American Republic and evolves to expand the rights of individual citizens beyond racial, gender or sectarian identities. But that’s about as much as it can do. It does not see and redress systemic and inter-systemic biases. It does not know how to heal inter-cultural traumas and deliver quality of life to multidimensional human beings. It is blind to many aspects of complexity, randomness, embodiment and half-deliberate inequity of outcomes.
The fake, weak, sick or narrow imitation of postmodernity simply dismisses the modern as a militaristic, chauvinistic, imperialist, racist, misogynist, technocratic hierarchy. The true devilry of modernity must be under with greater nuance and less reactivity. When the postmodernist falls back on premodern identity blocs such as gender, race or ethnicity then they risk devolving away from the actual liberty and empowerment that they seek.
And this failure of postmodernity can, in important respects, be laid at the feet of corrupt modernity. It sets the stage for the failure of attempts to go beyond it.
We are indoctrinated to associate liberal enlightenment with the articulated values of a few advanced philosophers like Locke, Hume, Descartes, Kant and Newton who created powerful cognitive tools for going beyond the mythic-membership and ethnocentric version of human society. Yet the powerful systemic critiques of the postmodernists reveal that modernity should not be naively associated only with its most laudable claims about its own intentions. Yes, it certainly invented the form of double-checking (reason, measurement, science) that asked people to think more carefully about their statements but it also invented enormous machinery of tactical and strategic (deceptive) communication in the form of propaganda, marketing, press releases, and other game-based forms of interference with the information ecosystem. Yes, modernity has been innovated by it also incentivized monopolitics businesses that thwart the innovations of rival organizations and technologies. Yes, it has proposed free speech but always within limits, for some people more than others, practically limited by access to distribution tools and always policed by “moderate” control agents who enforce saying-on-message and quasi-professional virtue signaling and are willing to execute people’s careers and livelihoods for whistleblowing, violating the branding, etc. Modernity is primarily characterized by its claims about its own virtues even when we can see and feel the significance of those virtues. This is just as true as the fact that organized fans of the God of Love can commit mass murder and torture — their actual behavior is not foundationally related to the virtue claims that define their aspirational horizon of meanign. Modernity should not be judged on the highest values it was capable of proposing but upon the mixed-effects it has had upon its lowest members.
Corrupt modernity inevitably cancels the market mechanism... asymmetric data, artificial demand, sabotaged worker families, misinformed non-rational consumers, automated transactions, obfuscated financial instruments, state-bias toward corporate control, etc.
Modernity re-generates toxic traditionalism. This may be viewed as accidentally side-effect or part of the intrinsic logic. It is a double move whereby the lifeworld of the folk is sabotaged while apparently modern systems breed usefully hackable premodernists. The modern machine needs a lot of workers and consumers who are ready to serve, just a patriotic soldiers once served their king or pope, by buying what they do not need and performing tasks that they find meaningless and disempowering. Rote-learnign based on expert claims and elite worldview consensus is demanded of children in environments guaranteed not to elicit their full rational humanist modernity. They know to repeat the fact that the world is round but they only viscerally comprehend it as a demanded, repeated symbol — thus it takes the same form of premodern education. In their instincts, the world is still flat. Meanwhile their farms are aggressively taken over by international conglomerates, their habit of trusting nearby food sources, bread in small town life, is hacked by deliberately addictive low nutrient highly processed food products that generate ill healthy and bad moods. The local community is replaced by an onslaught of corporate media through modern communication technologies. This is the purchasing audience. Towns are tox
The premodern attitudes (a) largely have their normal social and ecological environment removed (b) are deliberately targeted with addictive degenerative material and cultural products (c) are educated with a shallow modernity that both separates them from traditional ideas but does not really install the modern soul or capacities.
Shallow modernists can be treated almost like premodernists — divided and conquered by feeding half of them a culturally inflammatory mediated propaganda about disrupted nativism & the other half a propaganda about the urgent need to achieve moral progress by treating people as racial, ethnic, national and gender blocs. These are people who can be manipulated in their purchasing and voting, who make predictable the power alternation between the two captured poles of modernity and whose periodic derganced manifestations can be used as evidence to disparage both progressive and conservatives while driving the mainstream public back toward corporate centrism.
Authentic postmodernity must get much better at describing, communicating about and embodying critiques of that system.
7. THE REAL DECONSTRUCTION
Critical individual intelligence exploded in modernity as “free thinkers” struggled to think and feel outside of their local traditions and cultural dogmas. An intelligible narrative of rational progress challenged the metaphysics of ethnocentric societies, questioned assumptions and tried to read the text of the world more carefully. Postmodernism can and should take this to the next level by deepening and expanding the critique. Not just in a few areas (e.g. the discernment of historical privilege in popular discourse) but very broadly and very deeply — and also within the people and movements who are doing the critiquing.
Very deft mental fingers are needed in order to actually start untangling the overlapping paradigms, epistemes, contexts, biases & cultural lenses that are found in every attitude and system. It is not enough to discover one or two emotionally upsetting layers of interpretation. It is not enough to deconstruct your cultural foes while reifying and simplifying your own moral certainties. It is not enough to discover the competition of group identities without also observing the competition of intra-group identities and intra-psychological identities within yourself and within the groups for whom you have the greatest sympathy.
The deconstruction must go deeper.
Modernity already exhibit incredulity toward metanarratives in the form of its suspicious “Says who?” about clan lore, religious theology and culturally-enforced simplifications of history. Postmodernity expands the power of this new attitude. It applies it also to modern notion of progress and conventional histories. But incredulity is not hatred, dismissal or suppression. Postmodern entertainment is full of strange new shows, series of perspectives and odd juxtapositions that exhibit overarching metanarratives. It is simply that some irony, play, critique, interpretive plurality, analys of power relations and rethinking of identities are allowed to explore and interpenetrate these metanarratives. This ought to be a puriyfing and empowering process — not a limitation or nullification.
Interaction, uncertainty, bias & contextual alternatives put us in contact with a very deep layer of human knowledge. This seeming void or ambiguity appears to operate between and below all systems of thought. A fearful awareness for people whose social status, spiritual truths or emotional relationships are dependent upon simple, fixed certainties. It is this deep layer of apparently null reality that prompts people to escape into simplified social, linguistic and psychological assertions. Yet this same problem besets the hasty and incomplete postmodernist who concludes, “since there is nothing down there we must return to the conventional world and choose our own lies in order to participate in the inherently unjust power games of society.”
But is there really nothing down there?
The simplistic enemies and simplistic advocates of postmodernity have not explored this territory thoroughly enough. It is possible to go a level deeper into the ontological ground of the apparent void. It is possible to learn to balance in ambiguity as if it were a new solidity.
While Nietzsche observed that most actual nihilism is latent within forms of corrupt idealism, the corrupt postmodernist takes nihilism as an excuse to become idealistic (irrational & one-sided). The incomplete deconstruction reverses and re-reifies the biased ideas and social emotions.
So we need a more intense, thorough and deeper deconstruction that feels its way through the pressure of the reversal, allows the social and intellectual critique to become an embodied existential competence and extends this process fearlessly into all areas of society and self — deconstructing “their” beliefs and “your” beliefs alike…
This is the form of postmodern fullness that can, through postmetaphysical spirituality, reconnect and rephrase the great transcendental and developmental human potentials in a way that amplifies rather than diminished their validity.
8. PRACTICES FOR SETTING UP ALTERNATIVE POSTMODERN ZONES
Okay, you want to set up alternative postmodernism in your school, business, spiritual group, legislature, township, social network, etc.
What are some practices you can encourage that will bring people into postmodern insights, deepen them and expand them without falling prey to the trap of narrowness, imbalance or regression?
Steelmanning is a powerful technique designed to respect and validate the excluded Other. Unless you can present a version of their argument and values that “checks out” against the feelings they are trying to articulate then you are being exclusionary and marginalizing.
Privilege exchange is a form of discussion in which people are convivially available to attempt the difficult work of acknowledging their own privileges in a context where everyone is understood to have at least some privilege and some ways in which the deck is stacked against them. If only one group or type or person is classified as privileged then the analysis quickly begins to collapse into a parody of prejudice.
Hierarchies of inclusion is a classic way, analogous to the universality of relativity, of articulating the implicit contexts of the people who are becoming context-aware. There is inevitably an embodied sense of superior truth among those who challenge hierachies and critique power structures. Unless this is honestly examined within each postmodernists, s/he will be haunted by it as an invisible shadow seen only by others. We are better when we more clearly see the errors of dominator hierarchy.
Deeper systemic inquiry. I have tried to hint at this in the current article. A more thorough, more novel and more personally assimilated insight into how systems operate generally and how the operating system of modernity functions specifically — even apart from the knowledge of its individual agents.
The pre/trans fallacy is important in understanding the difference between actual postmodernism and premodern aping of
Moral Certainty Inquiry. A full deconstruction must de-reify our own moral certainties and our own inherited and socially-constructed idea about the identities and groups that constitute the creative battlefield of culture. If we do not have the courage to examine biases and assumptions in our own framing of social reality then we will inevitably regenerate, out of ourselves, the very problems that we wish to change.
Real Deconstruction. See above in this article.
Right/Left Versioning. Postmodernity must be explored in its multiple modes which include the attempt to articulate health left-wing and healthy right-wing versions.
Recognizing Indoctrination Dynamics. The modern and traditional ideologies that are exposed to postmodern critique tend to operate like cult indoctrination — even when they claim to oppose modern and traditional prejudices. Actual postmodernity must study the procedures of ideological capture on the left and the right, in traditional and anti-traditional, modern and anti-modern forms.
Spot the Difference. Draw up lists of real and fake pluralistic traits. It must be known, anticipated from the outset, that postmodern spaces and networks will fill up both the real and fake/narrow/superficial postmodernist. This should never take us by surprise. And we should have simple tools — even a short, side-by-side comparison chart — to help people see this difference clearly as they are trying to navigate into pluralistic consciousness.
Counter-Counter-Hegemonies. The system of power must be opposed by a counter-system but that is also a system of power that must be opposed. Postmodernism imitates all historical rebellions by constellation an oppositional power movement against the dominant social forces while also splintering fractally into smaller and smaller subgroups of rebels. This process must be understood historically along with the critical systemic insight that “rebels” are also part of the power structure — keeping it going through oppositional dynamics. The identity of any given counter-hegemony must be deconstructed. The interplay between power centers must be seen as the opportunity for actual postmodernism to flourish and make changes.
Expand the definition of Power. The great-grandchildren of Nietzsche should know that power is a flexible and proliferating reality that is not primarily fixated on language habits, social thuggery and violence. Policing speech, intimidating people, acquiring official social status & achieving a peasant’s idea of an aristocratic life represent very low levels of the human empowerment experience. The enemies of postmodernism are joined with the inauthentic postmodernists in thinking of the critique of power as a reduction of all cultural activity to a simplistic contest between identity groups vying for resource dominance through control of symbols. That is only one of many dimensions of the rich, organic rhizome of evolving, multifarious and nuanced nature of the critical perception of power flows and power plays.
Expand the Terms. Narrow postmodernism takes on board, rather than challenging, the implied biases in the simplistic definition of the terms of our critiques. Consider the classic socialist observation that labor is exploited in the production process to create capitalist profit for the risk-taker — which ought to be redistributed. The notion of undervalued labor must be expanded to include even the social and intellectual tasks of the entrepreneur. Risk-taking is not simply undertaken by the investors but by the workers and their families and the community. Redistribution of profit is not an alternative to maximizing shareholder value — for that it is itself a form of redistribution. Thus the issue is a smarter, more moral and more comprehensive understanding of distribution. Etc. The formulae of postmodernism must have their validity examined after a rich deconstruction and expansion of the meanings that are involved.
ADDENDUM: ANTIFRAGILE PRECAUTIONARY CONTEXTS
Healthy postmodernity involves as much free speech as it does sensitivity, as much humor as compassion, as much individuality as collectivism, as much body as mind, as much masculinism as feminism (and vice versa). It wants to enfold excluded externalities that will transform and benevolently upgrade from modernity. That means not just excluded racial concerns but also excluded outrageous commentary. You are not yet a full postmodernists if you reactively conflate “dangerous ideas” with whatever expressions happen to trigger you (or remind of the possible triggering of others).
I have noted Nassim Taleb, a famously difficult person, as a possible example of a conservative postmodernist. His signature idea involves attempting to use heuristic strategies, oten archaic strategies, to increase our odds of favorable outcomes from complex, interactive, relational systems which have been excluded from modern, linear, top-down control and prediction systems. Antifragility goes beyond resliience in that it does not merely survive shocks, time and distribance but is empowered by them. Our postmodernism, and any post-postmodernism that it might feed into, must be antifragile in the face of social stressors and attacks.
Real postmodernity must be prepared to profit from attacks upon itself by deficient and false postmodernity — just as much as it must be prepared to listen closely to well-meaning, intelligent criticism from actual postmodernists.
This requires a radical rethink of our public responses, messaging and decision making. What should you do if you are unfairly accused of racism, sexism, transphobia, etc by people who demand a show of allegiance or punitive removal of your voice from a platform?
We need to anticipate that this is going to happen?
Part of the solution is setting up a context in which we do anticipate this — so it will not be a surprise when it happens. We should have protocols in place. (E.g. This is a safe space for tongues as well as ears. People here have the right to be offensive and morally incorrect in their statements).
Part of the solution is doubling-down. Are you able to affirm the accusation and then spin it constructively — depriving your accuser of the moral energy of being on the right side of history? This is a tricky political aikido skill often better demonstrated by assholes but “owning it” is an important tool that is too often rejected by our egoic and habitual concerns. (You’re damned right I am… and here’s why…)
Do you have alternative networks of friends, allies and comrades who will support you and help you access you ongoing projects and goals through other pathways? (Bret Weinstein supported by and then moving into podcasting).
Can you hold on for a while? These issues are often time-sensitive and teh modern business cycle in the media, equivalent to quarterly reports, often allergically reacts to an accusation and then, for good or ill, resintances normal business once the issue is not longer top of mind (Louis CK, Mel Gibson, etc. Heck even Hitler was popular again in Germany after a few decades). In fact, once the news cycle moves on, people may even forget the visceral impact of the accusation and simply remember you as “famous for some reason.”
I am being slightly facetious but we must begin to examine the situations and methods by which people have profited from — rather than only suffered from — polarization, condemnation, cancel culture, public outrage, insurgent accusations, etc. This are coming for most of us at some point. Actual postmodernists are perhaps in the best possible position to start figuring out beneficial solutions to the attacks of premodern, modern and false-postmodern agents…