Friday, 7 August 2015

Postmodern irony is strong enough to subvert, but too weak to motivate

Errr... that's it, really.

Richard Rorty, the premier (or at least most comprehensible) philosopher of postmodernity, asserted that we should consciously adopt an ironic attitude to 'truth' (as he regarded truth) - in other words, he promoted the idea that nothing is really real, that all discourse is merely conversation and we can say anything about anything (so long as we are amused and stimulated), that the best morality is the minimization of here-and-now suffering (physical and mental)...

And so on. In a nutshell he said - but in this he was only articulating the consensus of modern public discourse and modern 'leadership' of all modern powerful institutions - that we can build our lives, including our most fundamental beliefs (that is our 'final vocabularies', as he termed them - our moral bottom line) on ironic detachment - on parenthetical 'truth', 'beauty'. 'evil' - he believed that we can and should (or should I say 'should') live our lives in speech marks...

Well, yes we can; but is it enough? By perpetual rotating relativism in the mass media, our culture has successfully imposed irony throughout public discourse - in sum we can be detached about anything, we can be playful about goodness, truth, virtue, beauty... but the deliberate un-realism, the irony, also necessarily becomes habitual, cannot be confined, and spreads to corrodes our positive emotions - our sense of being alive, of life having meaning and purpose, our basic motivations.

That is it: Irony is easy, and easy stuff is net evil.

It is easier to destroy than to sustain and create, easier to snigger than have courage, easier to do nothing or distract ourselves than to do something, easier to engage in moral pandering and showboating than to face facts and make tough decisions, easier to pretend that ugly is beautiful than to make beauty, easier to hate selfishly than to love responsibly, easier to have sex than make love, easier to have fun than have children, and so on... when the only 'difference' between these is in ironic quotes.