Sunday, 8 February 2009

Postmodernism is dead; now is the Age of Reinforcement

We are living in a new age, an age of Reinforcement: of beliefs, modes and methods, lifestyles, and enjoyment. The postmodern sneer - emblem of the age of the debunk - is no longer visible on our faces.

The ironic glance, the sudden feeling of self-consciousness - these are not so much of the past. But our dismay certainly is. We no longer demand absolute certitudes - Postmodernism showed us these were not available. But we don't care.

Self-consciousness is not going to rain on our parade. We've taken a leaf out of the books of the protesters of the 70s and we're proud to invest heavily in simulacra. In fact, they sustain us: they reinforce our lifestyle by enabling us to cope with uncertainty in a globalised world.

Uncertain because largely at peace. We are not brought together by the certainties provided by the end of a major conflict.

WWI was the first modern war. Still clinging to ideas of greatness, the people who fought and survived WWI were introduced to scientific methods never dreamed of and the carnage was horrendous. WWII merely underlined this fact, and introduced the utilitarian method of warfare: factory production as warfare.

But while the Edwardians were still wedded to Great Men notions of history, Modernism was forging ahead, bringing with it new certainties about the little things, the details of life, the 'reality' underlying much of what was taken for granted in everyday conversations.

If Modernism were merely a form of scientific Romanticism, Postmodernism saw the dawning of new awareness inasmuch as people around WWII lived, decidedly, in a manufactured world. Even their modes of warfare attested to this fact. If everything was a simulacrum of reality, if surprise gave way to ironic awareness, then we could only skim across the surface of this corrupt planet with its artificial constructs challenging us to find real substance, and try to anchor our beliefs in something more solid than an advertising hoarding.

Well, we've managed to do it. Postmodern concerns have not disappeared, but they've been pushed out of the limelight. No longer anxiety, but stubbornness. No longer irony, but determined attitudes fuel our onward thrust.

In the end there's still only one direction available to avail ourselves of. We've been drawn back and forth so many times that we've now decided we need to function as our own clock. We, ourselves, are responsible for making the mechanism tick. We wind ourselves up.

How do we keep going? Energy is still needed, and it's available if we seek it out. Many of us are given a set of constructs and objects that we cling to. Others make a new portfolio out of their lived experience. In any case, we are all trying to reinforce something, some set of values, some mode of living that allows us to achieve the aspirations we believe are necessary to attain happiness.

Naturally not all succeed. But we all try to reinforce our system, in any way we can. We buy clothes with labels on the inside again. We read mass-market paperbacks in a recognisable genre and are satisfied that the glances we attract on the train are no longer full of disdain, but curiosity. "What if I, too, were reading that book?" they ask now.

We are satisfied with the recognisable simulacra of life, and we continue to consume - as we always have - and produce - as we always have - because there's no turning back. There's no rest. There's only the prize.

Sport has never been so popular. The ultimate simulacrum, sport. The simulacrum of war, of conquest. It's the perfect analogy of the age we live in: the level playing field we think exists, the goals, the teams, the strategies, the tactics. All oriented toward one end: winning the game.

Life, then, is like practice, endless practice. We train while we consume, and read, and watch, and produce. We are the products of ourselves. In order to keep going, we MUST reinforce the superstructure of our lives, on a daily basis. Because we live in the age of Reinforcement. The age of striving after impossible goals in an impossible world.

The age of insoucience in the world of je m'en foutisme.

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