The Postmodern Condition

I was asked to explain Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition in a brief, simple way. The book is older than I am but it’s still the best and the most concise explanation of postmodernism.

The postmodern era begins after WWII. People are so horrified by what happened that they lose faith in all grand narratives. A grand narrative is a coherent way to explain everything. Religion is a grand narrative. Marxism is another. Feminism, psychoanalysis. These are grand narratives because they purport to explain everything in the world to the believer.

But after WWII, it became clear that the world is so complex and incomprehensible that there is no narrative that can explain everything. It’s useless to look for an explanation. Nothing has any meaning.

Since nothing has any meaning or leads anywhere, all one can do is have fun and follow whatever whim possesses one at any given time.

So that’s the postmodern condition as it was described in the 1970s. Fifty years later, we can see that people are still desperately looking for a grand narrative. The current fad is anti-racism. It’s going to fail because that’s the postmodern condition. They all fail.

Of course, on the level of individual lives each of these grand narratives can be very satisfying. There are people whose grand narrative is raw food dieting, and they are perfectly content with it. But it’s always going to be an individual hobby or, at most, a very small, niche thing.

That’s all there is, really. Postmodern art is the art that expresses this emptiness, cynicism, and lack of depth.

I’m open to questions.

Good-bye, Enlightenment

The greatest achievements of the Enlightenment era were:

  • The belief in the primacy of human reason
  • Sex-based rights for women
  • Individual rights, such as freedom of expression and association
  • Nation-state
  • The idea that children are different from adults and should be treated differently
  • Comprehensive education for everybody

Enlightenment has its problems but any point on this list is a gigantic achievement of human civilization.

We are now walking them all back out of obscurantism, ignorance and prejudice.

Adultism

Adultism is a new fad in education. It’s the idea that treating children as children and not as adults is discrimination.

It obviously is discrimination in the sense that we discern that a child is different from adult. But the new fad is that we should stop discerning. I’ll let you guess who wins from erasing a boundary between children and adults.

Who Needs God?

The majority of people need religion because they have nothing except God. The minority needs religion because they have everything except God.

It’s s quote but I don’t know the author. If anybody remembers, do let us know.

In the meantime, we are off to church. Haven’t missed a single weekend this year because we keep lucking into empty spots on the roster.