A month ago I was flattered that the blog Trial of the Century mentioned me in a post about an interesting infographic “If your blog were a beer” and named my blog an IPA, which are “blogs that make you feel something.” Thanks Joe! With that in mind, after spending a month away from home driving across the Western US (scroll to bottom for boring landscape pictures), I’ve had plenty of time to let my thoughts brew. So I thought instead of just skimming the surface of Millennial culture, why not just dive into the depths of philosophy and talk about…*drum roll*… Postmodernism!
Postmodernism died in 1990?
While on vacation, I read the article The Death of Postmodernism and the Beyond that has some interesting implications for millennials, and clarified some gut feelings I’ve had for a while. But I’ll get to that later. To sum up one of my opinions about postmodernism, while it’s a complex philosophy, at times it can descend into nothing more than essentially turning all punctuation into question marks. For example, and emphatic, “Lemons are the best!!” Could turn into “Lemons are the best?” So in saying Postmodernism is dead! you may be thinking:
Wait, I hear you cry. How do they know? And what was it? Postmodernism—I didn’t understand it. I never understood it. How can it be over?… You are not alone. If there’s one word that confuses, upsets, angers, beleaguers, exhausts and contaminates us all, then it is postmodernism. And yet, properly understood, postmodernism is playful, intelligent, funny and fascinating… It has been the dominant idea of our age. –Postmodernism is Dead, Prospect Magazine, Edward Docx
I guess the gut feelings I have, and implications for millennials are TWO things:
1) Postmodernism is our common sense. How is a philosophy that is meant to question common sense able to do so if it is our common sense? Millennials were taught to have no preconceived notions, or at least question them. In that light, postmodernism seems quaint and irrelevant.
2) Many of the first cultural references of postmodernism are from a world millennials never experienced.The article above goes as far as to say millennials find postmodernism about as “hip as shoulder pads.”
Another cultural example is the trailer for the Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense from 1984 (1984!!). The video flashes questions like: “why a film?” “Why the Big Suit?” “Why the odd movements?” But I think the novelty is lost on millennials, leaving us wondering why he’s asking those questions. Perhaps the break from postmodernism is that a millennial thinks “why ask why?” Maybe a millennial says: “The suit, film, movements are really none of my business, and totally the prerogative of the artist.” Or perhaps a millennial would have a simpler answer, as we have the advantage of historical retrospect: “Because it’s 1984 in your video. That’s why.” Hindsight’s 50/50!
Acknowledging the time frame of these cultural references shows that perhaps millennials are the first outside critics of postmodernism. We were raised in the midst of postmodernism, and now we’ve inherited a world formed by it’s ideas.
Millennials + Postmodernism
So now that I’ve clarified a couple problems with postmodernism for millennials: it’s our common sense, and we have the advantage of historical critique, what do millennials bring to the smorgasbord table of ideas? Millennials are not afraid to make up their mind, or have an opinion. Postmodernism perhaps assumes that humans can remain inconclusive, but millennials know better. Why ask why, unless it’s to allow the individual to eventually answer “because.” No truth is innately better than another truth, but millennials know that humans have an intimate relationship with their chosen worldview, truth or opinion.
Think of a worldview as a child. No child is better than any other child, I think we can all agree to that. But it’s emotionally dishonest to say you don’t value your own child more than any other child. Even if a child is 40 years old and living in the basement of his mom’s house, no doubt a mother will still love him. When he wanders up from his domain, and his mom’s friends ask “Is he going to move out?” he may triumphantly interject that “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is!” His mom will proudly gives him a affectionate squeeze, before he bounds down the stairs to continue watching Battlestar Galactica.
This 40-year-old man, in my mind, is personified postmodernism. Though not doing much, he is still a prized and beloved child by some. And he is still up to his cheeky ways, by occasionally shuffling up the stairs to cross out exclamation points and replace with question marks, before returning to his den after a hard days work. Gah
As post-1990s children, millennials know that “why” tends to become “because” eventually. To not acknowledge that is cloying because finding your “because” is liberating and very human. And perhaps, at least for millennials, the honest reason to ask “why” at all? Like cupid striking our hearts, our values/opinions/worldview/truth tend to kill questions. I think millennials aren’t afraid to be intellectually honest about this.
Postmodernism is dead
Whew! I usually try to eschew obfuscation, but hard it’s difficult when discussing philosophy. If you got through this article, what do you think of postmodernism, and it’s place in the foundation of Millennial thought?
I’m biased but I think the Western US is pretty beautiful.
- Boise, Idaho
- Reno, NV
- Bay Area CA
- my son, what a trooper