Saturday, July 30, 2005

Postmodernism vs. Pre-Futurism
The Seismic Rift In Our Culture

Neo-neocon brings us a quote from Milan Kundera's book Immortality, which touches on our postmodern lack of perspective on reality. In this passage, Kundera uses the word Imagology to mean media-transferred images, or in some cases soundbites, or choice morsels of partial information, all of which are the stock-in-trade of the media:

For example, communists used to believe that in the course of capitalist development the proletariat would gradually grow poorer and poorer, but when it finally became clear that all over Europe workers were driving to work in their own cars, [the communists] felt like shouting that reality was deceiving them.

Reality was stronger than ideology. And it is in this sense that imagology surpassed it: imagology is stranger than reality, which has anyway long ceased to be what it was for my grandmother, who lived in a Moravian village and still knew everything through her own experience: how bread is baked, how a house is built, how a pig is slaughtered and the meat smoked, what quilts are made of, what the priest and the schoolteacher think about the world; she met the whole village every day and knew how many murders were committed in the country over the last ten years; she had, so to speak, personal control over reality, and nobody could fool her by maintaining that Moravian agriculture was thriving when people at home had nothing to eat.

My Paris neighbor spends his time an an office, where he sits for eight hours facing an office colleague, then he sits in his car and drives home, turns on the TV, and when the announcer informs him that in the latest public opinion poll the majority of Frenchmen voted their country the safest in Europe (I recently read such a report), he is overjoyed and opens a bottle of champagne without ever learning that three thefts and two murders were committed on his street that very day.

Public opinion polls are the critical instrument of imagology's power, because they enable imagology to live in absolute harmony with the people. The imagologue bombards people with questions: how is the French economy prospering? is there racism in France? is racism good or bad? who is the greatest writer of all time? is Hungary in Europe or in Polynesia? which world politician is the sexiest?

And since for contemporary man reality is a continent visited less and less often and, besides, justifiably disliked, the findings of polls have become a kind of higher reality, or to put it differently: they have become the truth.

Public opinion polls are a parliament in permanent session, whose function it is to create truth, the most democratic truth that has ever existed. Because it will never be at variance with the parliament of truth, the power of imagologues will always live in truth, and although I know that everything human is mortal, I cannot imagine anything that would break its power.

Go read Neo-neocon's thoughts here.

For my part, I will only say, as I have said here before, that we are no longer in the Postmodern age. Instead, we have moved into the age of the Pre-Future. Kundera's description of our cultural entrancement with images is accurate. However, that does not explain the seismic rift which has opened up in our culture.

What we are seeing is the beginning of the Pre-Future age, which is defined as an age wherein human beings, confronted with the works of their hands, will have to make three fundamental decisions which heretofore only God has had to make;

1) Decisions of Omnipotence. Because of our WMD's, we will have to decide whether to wipe out the human race.

2) Decisions about the creation of life, and the length of a lifespan. Because of biotechnology we will have to decide whether to indefinately prolong human life, and whether to create new life forms.

3) Decisions of Omniscience. The decision of whether to monitor all knowable things on the face of the Earth, at all possible times.

Go here to read of my thoughts on the kinds of anxieties these decisions will bring.

The seismic rift which has opened up in our society is the split between people who are still functioning by the rules of the Postmodern age vs. the people who have already begun dealing with the realities of the Pre-Future age. Just as Kundera's grandmother from the aforementioned passage, was living in some pre-modern age, so a large portion of our population has not begun to sense the seachange that has begun in human culture.

We are living in an age defined by the inevitability of our future capacities. The reality of these future technologies is so inevitable as to be present already, in the sense that we must begin to make decisions about how to handles it's effects right now, in our present time.

In this way, our future is palpable, and with us, almost like another being staring us in the face. And who is this being staring us in the face? The easy answer would be to say that it is ourselves, our capacity for good or evil. But, I think the answer can be expanded from there.

We could answer the question from a Jungian perspective and say that we are entering an age wherein we will become the gods of our myths. That we are entering an age when we will make exoteric all the violence and destruction of the collective unconcious.

Or, we could answer this question from a religious perspective, which I choose to do. We could say that the age of Pre-Futurism is the age when we will become fully aware of the enormous power that God gave us when He created us in His Image. That we, as a human race are finally growing into adulthood, that we will have to take ultimate repsonsibility for ourselves.

And we could go even further, as I do, and know that ultimately, these decisions will force us to confront God, in His Person, in a more direct way than we ever have before. No longer will we be the childlike farmers petitioning God for rain and a bountiful harvest. No longer will we be the nervous adolscents biting our nails, while doing our homework in front of a computer screen.

Instead, we as a human race, like adults coming to grips with parenthood and responsibility, will have to calm ourselves when things look bleak and hopeless, and we will have to say to ourselves, "We must do this. We must get it right for future generations."

And like adults faced with the stress of responsibility we will think to themselves, "Ahh, now I understand why my parents did that," and we will turn inside, to our Father, for guidance and wisdom.

The spectre of a humanity with 1) omnipotence, 2) omniscience, and 3) a life-creating and sustaining ability, on the level of the individual human being is frightening. But it is not necessarily apocalyptic.

We humans were made by our Creator with just such possibilities in mind. The Bible says that we were created in the image of God. More and more we are coming to find out exactly what that means.

Humans seem to have an infinite capacity, limited only by time, and the law that one can not get something for nothing. People from the 19th century would have said there was no way humans could create the things we created in the 20th century. History seems to demonstrate that, over time, humans can achieve whatever they can conceive.

Fear for man, but do not doubt him. Not even his ability to solve the problems presented by the works of his hands.