Postmodernism is Dead! Long Live Holism!

Friday, 4 November 2011

I’ve nev­er liked post­mod­ernism and I’ve been wait­ing quite some time for the next or­gan­ic, era-bound, ar­bi­trar­i­ly-as­signed “-ism” to show up. I’ve fi­nal­ly no­ticed it, and I ex­pect oth­er folks have as well. I don’t know if it has a name yet, but I’ve ar­bi­trar­i­ly as­signed it with the han­dle Holism.

First, Postmodernism

Since, philo­soph­i­cal­ly speak­ing, post­mod­ernism acts with in­her­ent sus­pi­cion to­ward mean­ing, un­der­stand­ing, and epis­te­mol­o­gy, the nat­u­ral re­sult of de­con­struc­tion is a lack of mean­ing and un­der­stand­ing, and a dis­re­gard for epis­te­mol­o­gy. Postmodernism used to be the idea that you could un­der­stand some­thing bet­ter if you took it apart. It still is, aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly speak­ing. But pop­u­lar­ly, it has has be­come the idea the idea that you don’t need to un­der­stand some­thing if you can take it apart. Everything can be sub­ject­ed to spin, mean­ing is fun­gi­ble.

In this way, every thing, every method of know­ing or ounce of mean­ing be­comes fun­gi­ble, spinnable, and ca­pa­ble of be­ing dis­re­gard­ed. Of course, all of this was pos­si­ble be­fore post­mod­ernism, but the cher­ry on top is that post­mod­ernism ba­si­cal­ly le­git­imizes and en­cour­ages this sort of disin­gen­u­ous­ness.

This has so in­trud­ed up­on every bit of mod­ern liv­ing that it has re­sult­ed in a steady un­steady­ing of mean­ing as a con­cept. No things have mean­ing. Heyho, ni­hilism. We are adrift. Before post­moder­ni­ty, we would nav­i­gate by the stars. Now we lis­ten to peo­ple dis­cuss what na­gi­va­tion and stars re­al­ly mean. Now we look so close­ly at a pointil­list paint­ing that we see on­ly dots. We used to step back and see a field of wild­flow­ers. What hap­pens when you take apart a ra­dio? You get pieces of a ra­dio and no mu­sic. By it’s very na­ture, post­mod­ernism is de­con­struc­tive, not con­struc­tive. I’m quite de­lib­er­ate­ly avoid­ing bandy­ing words about, here. These speci­fic words mat­ter. A philo­soph­i­cal pur­suit that is in­ter­est­ed in tak­ing things apart rather than putting things to­geth­er is mas­tur­ba­to­ry.

So.

We’ve been stuck in this mas­tur­ba­to­ry realm of post­mod­ernism for decades; we’ve for­got­ten about mean­ing and ne­glect­ed to teach oth­ers how to de­rive mean­ing on their own, about the ne­ces­si­ty of a long view, di­a­logue, in­ter­ac­tion and shar­ing of ideas with each oth­er. Instead the goal is to be the best one at talk­ing past whomev­er we’re talk­ing past. We are sur­round­ed by un­nat­u­ral food prod­ucts that are as­sem­bled rather than grown or hus­band­ed. We de­con­struct nat­u­ral habi­tats to ex­trude their fun­da­men­tal parts, and then dump the un­want­ed fun­da­men­tal parts, or their processed residues back in­to nat­u­ral habi­tats. We cre­ate artis­tic state­ments that are so ab­stract or iron­ic that they are im­pos­si­ble to pen­e­trate. We cre­ate tele­vi­sion shows that are com­plete­ly script­ed and call it re­al­i­ty. We on­ly like things iron­i­cal­ly, be­cause sin­cer­i­ty as­cribes mean­ing to­ward what we hold dear. We have a dem­a­gog­ic “news” pro­gram said to be a “No Spin Zone”, which, as disin­gen­u­ous as the name is, ad­mits to the per­va­sive­ness of spin (the fun­gi­bil­i­ty of mean­ing) in all as­pects of our in­for­ma­tion con­sump­tion. We cre­ate strange and fan­ci­ful fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments and eco­nom­ic mod­els that have no mean­ing when sub­ject­ed to the slight­est ex­am­i­na­tion and that, when they fall apart, ru­in the lives of every­one ex­cept the ma­gi­cians who made them. If any­thing, the burst­ing of the hous­ing bub­ble proved the bank­rupt­cy of post­mod­ern ac­tion. The fun­gi­bil­i­ty of mean­ing means that peo­ple has no mean­ing.

Now, Holism

So.

The re­ac­tion to this dearth of mean­ing is Holism. Just as Postmodernism was a re­ac­tion to Modernism, Holism is a re­ac­tion to Postmodernism. The Holists live in the bombed-out rub­ble of the post­mod­ern land­scape, pick­ing up any puz­zling but like­ly chunks of jet­sam they come across and try­ing to cob­ble to­geth­er some sort of mean­ing out of it all. Any item, song, phi­los­o­phy, skill, ethic, eco­nom­ic mode or moral code is just as use­ful as any oth­er for con­struct­ing mean­ing in this space. This isn’t an in­no­cent ig­no­rance; there is knowl­edge about what caused this, and an im­me­di­ate and in­ter­nal­ized re­jec­tion of en­gage­ment with the meth­ods that cre­at­ed the rub­ble. Holists are con­cerned with sin­cer­i­ty, and rather than re­gard­ing all things with some lev­el of sus­pi­cion, the de­fault is to keep an open mind, to provide the ben­e­fit of doubt, rather than its detri­ment. (The ben­e­fit is doubt­ing your own as­sump­tions. The detri­ment is not lis­ten­ing to oth­ers’.) Because of this open-mind­ed­ness, the­se er­satz mean­ings are able to ac­crete in­to some­thing greater than the sum of its parts and sur­pris­ing­ly im­pen­e­tra­ble to de­con­struc­tion.

The #oc­cu­py move­ment is the man­i­fes­ta­tion of Holism that first made me no­tice what was go­ing on.  It is an er­satz boat that floats. It is an ac­cre­tion of var­i­ous mean­ings around a the­me they all hold in com­mon: “Postmodern politi­co-cap­i­tal­ist eco­nom­ics has said we aren’t. Here we are.” The ba­sic re­fusal of oc­cu­pa­dos to en­gage with post­mod­ernists on post­mod­ern terms re­sult­ed in the ini­tial “mean­ing­less move­ment” me­dia spin. Media is not ca­pa­ble of defin­ing a gestalt. They’ve lost the knack. The oc­cu­pado-holist voice says to post­mod­ernists (par­tic­u­lar­ly bankers & politi­cians): “We’re not talk­ing to you, be­cause when you say things, you don’t mean them.” Where “mean” here ex­ists both in its nor­mal us­age and in the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal terms de­scribed above. Occupados know that post­mod­ernists speak from the wrong side of their mouths.

Holists are ur­ban farm­ers and whole foods folks, peo­ple who want to en­gage in nu­tri­tion on a fun­da­men­tal lev­el. Holists are green folks, who see the ne­ces­si­ty and ben­e­fit of pre­serv­ing nat­u­ral or­der. Holists cre­ate art and craft from scrap out of a need to cre­ate. Holists have game & craft nights, bike rides and potlucks in­stead of watch­ing TV. Holists find sin­cer­i­ty to be more ful­fill­ing than irony. Holists share among them­selves and work with al­ter­nate eco­nom­ic mod­els be­cause they don’t have faith in tra­di­tion­al means. (And, of­ten enough they don’t have the mon­ey or the means in the first place).

So. What? (-ism)

Holism ap­pears to be a move­ment by those who have noth­ing to cre­ate some­thing of mean­ing. “Nothing” is de­fined in as broad or speci­fic terms as you care. Holists don’t care what terms you use. Holists are not fo­cused on talk or ar­tic­u­la­tion so much as ac­tion and cre­ation. I ar­bi­trar­i­ly as­signed the name of Holism, be­cause the­se peo­ple are con­cerned with all the gestalts that have been ne­glect­ed due to decades of post­mod­ernism. Holism takes it all in and ac­cepts, where­as post­mod­ernism took it all apart and re­ject­ed even the pieces. Though post­mod­ernists said the paint­ing was just a bunch of dots, the wild­flow­ers were still there. Just be­cause the ra­dio is in pieces doesn’t mean you can’t make your own mu­sic out of the parts.

Metablogging?

Wednesday, 3 July 2002

bleah. i’m tired and my eyes are crusty/​crunchy since i chose sleep over show­er this morn­ing. but on to today’s rant and my first shot at metablog­ging.

what i get tired of see­ing as i search through the morass of the wide­world­ofwe­blog­ging are the sites in which the en­tries be­come noth­ing more than lin­guis­tic ac­ro­bat­ics. how cool can i make my mun­dane life and ideas sound? alas, i have been guilty of this my­self. my beef cen­ters on the fine dis­tinc­tion be­tween writ­ing to be ‘clev­er’ and writ­ing to be pre­cise. writ­ing to be ‘clev­er’ is easy. you just need a the­saurus and enough imag­i­na­tion to be­lieve the weath­er fore­cast. then, util­is­ing Roget’s tex­tu­al in­ter­face a per­son can sub­sti­tute words for words cre­at­ing a ren­dered uni­verse of kaliedo­scop­ic in­tran­sience whose pletho­ra of sub­lim­i­nal gad­getry hides the fact that there is no ac­tu­al con­tent to the damn thing. this ‘clev­er­ness’ is in fact noth­ing but in­ten­tion­al am­bi­gu­i­ty. writ­ing to be pre­cise, on the oth­er hand, does not let the read­ing in­fer any­thing from the post. they are told what the point of the ar­ti­cle is and it is ex­plained suf­fi­cient­ly.

now some might say that i am dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween two dif­fer­ent schools or writ­ing which could be rep­re­sent­ed but not nec­es­sar­i­ly de­fined by artis­tic writ­ing and aca­d­e­mic writ­ing. how­ev­er, what some might mis­take as my rant again­st the artis­tic is by no means my in­ten­tion. what i am rail­ing again­st is writ­ing that has form but no con­tent. neo-Dada writ­ing if you will. the point is that it has no point. fuck that. i be­lieve that those who think they are be­ing clev­er are ac­tu­al­ly con­vinced that their cre­ations have con­tent and mean­ing.

what is nice to run across are the in­stances of pre­ci­sion that pierce to the cen­ter of the author’s in­tent and en­light­en in­stead of mud­dle. when words are cho­sen not for their clev­er­ness but for their apt­ness. where ad­jec­tives are used with the dis­cern­ing taste of a con­nosieur to em­pha­size, in­stead of the hap­haz­ard ar­se­nal em­ployed by so many that mere­ly over­loads. good po­et­ry is pre­ci­sion writ­ing at its best, and it is artis­tic.

i’d like to ac­knowl­edge that the op­po­site is true, writ­ing can be ex­ces­sive­ly ba­nal to the point of mild in­san­i­ty but i’ll talk about that some oth­er time.

Nota Bene: this en­try is al­so an at­tempt at re­flex­iv­i­ty de­spite the fact that i dis­like the post­mod­ern, i am still a child of it. that is prob­a­bly ap­pro­pri­ate for the post­mod­ern it­self. coils with­in coils.