The structure is crumbling. No longer is there a prevailing monolithic permeating absolute for us to gaze upon and collectively fall to our knees in submission. The golden calf has forever fallen into the fissures of the earth and the commandments from the heavens cracked and left on the mountain steps.
Even the power of scientific knowledge cannot contain the budding multidimensionality of humanity.
The Gods of our fathers have been torn down from their perch in the heavens and made to dance in our sideshows as we throw them peanuts. We are the children of the post-modern age.
Post-Modernism suggests the succession of modernism hence the latin prefix “post.” Modernism was a school of thought among intellectuals during the enlightenment period .They said human progress came by weight of reason and scientific knowledge. But in the early 20th century the modern age brought with it things like gulags and concentration camps that were built in the name of human progress. Since World War II people no longer agree that modernism held all the answers to our problems.
To explain post-modernism I need to first give a counter example. I’ll start with Feudal society. The twelfth century Europeans had a prevailing structure that formatted their lives. This was the manorial caste system which regimented them into categories and subcategories of Lords, Clerics, Knights, Artisans and Serfs. A feudal society was homogenized meaning that each person existed as a subject part of a larger corporate body. There was a place for every man and every man knew his place. Think of their culture as a chain, each link being welded to the other by one central permeating theme. The theme holding them together is a glue and that glue was the the biblical narrative. The stories of the bible provided a centralized constant by which every man could identify himself as being a part of a bigger history. Big stories like these help groups of people to unify their knowledge and consciousness. The myth legitimizes itself through the society to which it is told. Big stories are called “meta-Narratives” in Post-Modern lingo.
But look at our society nowadays. Historical identity is fragmented we can’t unify past-present-or future to recover a normalized historical consciousness. The glue of the meta narrative is no longer strong enough to hold the chain together and all the links break apart to form smaller stories. We call these small stories “micro-narratives.”
Think of 911 for example. There was the commission report which was basically a government big story which attempted to dominate all other narratives to provide an absolute fact or truth. However because we live in a post-modern society we aren’t satisfied with one single story claiming a monolithic worldview. Now we have thousands of eye witness accounts, micro-narratives, detailing the experience of the attack. There are stories of 9/11 as it happened within the towers as people watched their coworkers cooked alive or the accounts of those that watched from the streets as the last desperate individuals leapt from the smoking heights of the tower. We have the stories of the fire men and police officials who threw themselves into the fray of the furnace and pulled the corpses from the rubble. There are those who watched the cataclysm unfold from the comfort of their own homes and for many the events were interpreted to them through the media. On top of that theres an endless stream of conspiracy theorists and religious clergy completely distorting and rearranging their own interpretation of the events. There is no dominating narrative It is just this onslaught of disjunctive and excessive mediated imagery and information that penetrates our private space like a schizophrenic mania. This is why the modernist intellectual ideal of social progress could no longer dominate as a singular world view. Post-Modernism is a world of diverse interconnected catalogues and rapidly changing codes of identity, reality, culture, gender, technology, economy and cyberspace colliding into one another and growing again into something else entirely constantly changing.
Everything in post-modernism is so drastically destabilized that reality itself inevitably collapses into fiction. We are so incapable of mapping our subject-position to this center less heterogenous world we need to create simulations just to interact with reality.
It’s like the story of the map maker who made a map so precise and accurate that it covered the entirety of the terrain it was meant to represent. This map was so accurate that the people of the country just started living on it as if it were the land itself. In this story the map becomes a “Simulacrum”. Simulacrum is a Post-Modern vocabulary word for a false copy of something which overshadows the “real” thing itself.
Simulacra are used to create hyper realities. A hyper reality is like “Disneyland.” When you go to Adventure land or Pirates of the Caribbean it is meant to be a simulation. If you thought pirates of the Caribbean was real you’d pick up a sword and start jabbing the animatronic pirates, walking the plank and gutting the park patrons. But no, you sit in your boat and quietly watch the simulation unfold. But once you leave the park you think “On I’m in Anaheim, I’ve left the hyperreality of Disneylands simulations and now I’ve entered into real reality.” No! You’ve simply entered from one simulation into another.
Here’s an example of why we are living in a giant simulation. Think of a boy who is raised by wolves. He acts like a wolf and identifies himself as a wolf, he howls at the moon and hunts elk with the pack. Post Modern people are like the boy raised among wolves only they are the people raised among these false copies of reality or Simulacra.
Throughout our lives we are bombarded by endless solicitation from advertisements of market products. These commodities gain their value through a type of fetishism that causes them to take on deeper theological meanings. For example Coca-Cola becomes a hyper-real projection that transcends simple indulgence in a beverage beyond itself toward this point of ecstatic simulation of itself. As consumers these commodities help us to find meaning in our lives until our culture becomes just a hodge-podge of hollywood stereotypes and faux mickey mouse religious experiences. On top of that you have the media no longer giving us reality but instead using competing forms of spectacle and rhetoric try to to convince us of ITS OWN version of reality.
Look at capitalism. It functions on crisis constantly destroying itself and recreating itself with new products on the market. Like the phoenix it dies and emerges a new. Self sustaining, self revolutionizing with new products rapidly changing the landscape around us. Everything is a giant rhizome constantly budding and flowing in such a hurry we have no time for history. We’ve become an amnesiac culture casting off lessons of the past to voraciously feast upon the great spectacle of new products, new celebrities, new technology, new ideals. A battle cry can be heard from the mountaintops of the post-modern, it says: Make it new for the Avant Garde!