Postmodernist Argument


I have of recent date spent a bit of time elsewhere on the web reading the arguments of some well-intended, but grossly misled people. The following excerpt encapsulates my arguments with postmodern discussions of almost anything:

from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There
Lewis Carroll

Chapter 6: Humpty Dumpty

`And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

`I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

And so it is among the postmodernists. Because it is important that everything return to the dynamic of power, whether it belongs there or not, a subtle warping of the language occurs. This is most particularly noted in the fact that "racism" has ceased to mean any program that posits the superiority or inferiority of a group of people based on race alone and has come to mean (paraphrasing Robert Hughes's colorful terminology), the mindset of "the pale penile hegemony." This is patent nonsense. It is possible for person other than white males to be both racist and sexist. It is not completely a societal power issue. It is or can be a personal power issue. When I was not hired for a position that I was extremely well-qualified because that position "required" a female--sexism was in force. When I make a judgment based solely on race, even if I have no power over the individual and cannot affect anything that happens, I am being racist.

So too with any person of any color who makes a predetermination based solely on race or sex. It is racist or sexist--even if they have no power to affect me directly.

I am disturbed by wishing to see the dynamic entirely in the marxist sense of class struggle. Decisions based on race alone are a sin against charity and an offense to God. To remand such decisions made against white persons to a different class of actions is both irresponsible and perhaps even sinful in itself, because it is a step toward justifying them.

The problem is that when the disagreement is this bone-deep, there is no point in discussing it, because you can't even agree on initial premises. A postmodern thinker would wander through and try to convince me that my definitions are wrong--but I could not accede. I would point out that Robert Mugabe's actions in Zimbabwe are racist, and they would respond that they are postcolonial restorative actions. When you are this far apart merely on definitions, what can you really discuss? You won't even be using the same language (which is another part of the post-modern doctrine.)

So I simply state my grievance here because I have spent many hours considering it and it is time to let it rest so that I might return to a more equilibrated state. Words do not mean what you want them to when you define them. Political reality is not the only reality in which to work--in fact, it isn't even reality--it is Orwellian distortion most of the time. And that, it seems, is one of the primary errors of postmodern vision. For those desiring a more intense, but very humorous look, see James Hynes's The Lecturer's Tale.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 20, 2003 8:20 AM.

November Poem--Wallace Stevens--Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird was the previous entry in this blog.

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