Square Pegs, Round Holes
Ali Eteraz has written a impassioned (though at times, obtuse) piece on postmodern and traditionalist politics and world view. Cleansing with Sunlight: Traditionalist Inadequacy And Terror,is an excellent post and a worthy read. He raises some excellent points and offers considerable food for thought. We will not get into the minutiae of his post, nor will we engage in a discussion of the various arguments, points and justifications he employs. Instead, we want to discuss the premise of his post.
He equates post modernism and traditionalism as the extension of political beliefs, with post modernism reflecting the left and traditionalism as the opposite hand, the right.
In fact, I should simply like to remind all enemies of pragmatic postmodernism that it has not gone and destroyed a civilization, enslaved a race, or carried out a war on false pretenses. Iraq, if I may remind everyone, is being conducted by a right-wing leader. It is not postmodernism's fault that right-wing "emerged." The fault belongs to the right-wing, and its version of traditionalism that it is behaving as it has. Eteraz tries to be balanced and present a cogent case. In fact, his call for a 'pragmatic postmodern' is admirable and worthy- but hardly relevant. Post modern ideologies and sensibilities helped shape America- and for that matter, much of the west. The disdain for religion and the abandonment of the moral principles that once made the left so compelling have given way to partisan politics and self serving ideologies. The heartland- 'Middle America'- have been abandoned by the party and ideologies they once clung to, exchanged for the slick- and detached- social mores of Hollywood. They were only too happy to become politcized. Before being embraced by the liberals, Hollywood was on the outside, sharing few if any moral values of the left or right. Now, in a self serving frenzy of moral relativism, the 'rehabilitation' of Judas is iconic in it's significance.
For liberalism to reclaim Middle America, they will have to repudiate much of what they now hold sacred (the disdain for religion, for example) and recover and reinvent what they have abandoned (social justice).
In the end, Ali Eteraz does not and cannot evade a clear reality. In fact, it is precisely because of post modernism that the right wing emerged.
Eteraz contends that post modernism is a 'revolt' against traditionalism. That is patently untrue. Post modern expression reexamines and redefines the strictures of conventionality- no more, no less. Modernism and post modernism have stood the test of time- and that is what post modernism has in common with traditionalism. The great art, ideas and politics of those redefinitions, all persevered because they were all recognized as positive contributions. That is not the case of the post moderns of today. Eteraz tries to force us to accept certain notions- and if we don't. We are 'enemies.'
If you allow the right-wing to blame its transgressions on the postmodernists, you suffer from an intellectual bankruptcy that cannot be cured. As to the War on Terror, we have seen what absolutists can do (that would be: make more terrorists). In a war of information and ideas, perhaps it is time to let those in the world who are most capable with using information take the lead: us pragmatic postmoderns.Ali Eteraz isn't happy with the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. The only fathonable response is that his unhappiness in predicated on the fact that we are actually prosecuting the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
There were no liberal voices to be heard when the GIA raped and dismembered children in Algeria. There are no post modern voices discussing the ongoing slave trade in Mauritania and there are no post modern voices that have made Darfur the first order of business, any more than there were no post modern voices that spoke out for slaughter in Sierra Leone or the butchery in Rwanda. The excesses of the past that Eteraz notes and references, are in no way relevant to events of today. That thousands of years ago excesses were committed is not relevant to excesses committed today, nor do they attach a credibility or relativity to modern day excesses.
While the total death toll from these atrocities numbers in the millions, the post modernists obsess over Israel and the Intifada (and the resultant 3,000 plus deaths). Only America is the target of more hatred.
To put things in perspective, FGM 100 million women have been subjected to FGM. That's right, 100 million women have been mutilated and the post modernists are more concerned with the State of Israel building a fence (that's right, a fence. Less than 5% of that barrier is a 'wall'- and those sections were erected to prevent indiscriminate sniper attacks).
The post moderns are in no position to lecture the 'traditionalists.
It is the traditionalists that are clamoring for intervention in Darfur and Mauritania. It is the post modernists that are turning a blind eye to Iran and rabid mullahs that endorse the bigoted and racist rantings of Almahdenijad and it is the post moderns that remained silent when the UN Commission of Human Rights was led by representatives of some of the most repressive regimes in the world.
Ali Eteraz is absolutely correct when he says, The fundamental belief of a pragmatic postmodernist is that a belief can still regulate action, can still be thought of worth dying for, by people who are quite aware that this belief is caused by nothing more than the fact that we have belief in it. That said, the pragmatic postmodernists he hopes for cannot come from the ranks of the postmoderns of today. They are morally bankrupt.
In fact, those worthy pragmatic postmodernists Eteraz envisions, will emerge from the ranks of the traditionalists he so disdains. The 'postmoderns' will be outraged because their legacy of self serving ideologies will be forgotten and discarded as the new 'pragmatic postmodernists' embrace morality, social justice and promulgate the belief that freedom is liberating and not a manifestation of evil. They will be the real postmoderns.