I've had the honor of engaging in thoughtful discussion with a user named Molality on Reddit. Reproduced below are some topics we've breached which I feel are important to understanding, in some sense, the current state of the Western world's democratic affairs. '1' refers to myself. '2' is Molality. 'Px' is any third party involved in the discussion. Commentary and notes in brackets inserted where necessary.
1: What are your thoughts on the idea of a "united Left"? How do we eliminate our propensity to sectarianism as a result of our diverse tapestry? Is it even possible to accomplish?
2: I personally think that there is a great deal of disenfranchisement from all sides of the political spectrum. Because of the mechanizations of the mainstream media, political discourse in this country has been lowered so much thanks to party fragmentation, simplistic reductionism and extreme polarization that any movement hoping to gain traction needs to, for the time being, abandon the contrivances of left and right - let alone party in-fighting and focus specifically on bipartisan issues that motivate the disenfranchised to engage in political action once again, serving to raise the overall quality of political discourse in the country in the process.
Examples of issues that IMHO [in my humble opinion] might accomplish this would be: Publicizing and demonstrating against the brutish and polarizing First Past the Post voting methodology, widespread legalization of marijuana vis a vis ending the Drug War and the serious pursuit of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] rights on a national scale. Also, Lessig's Rootstrikers [non-partisan grass-roots organization] is an excellent start as well.
Until we find a way to redress the debilitating effects of melodramatic battling between politcal [sic] factions, rampant use of ad hominem as a legitimate rhetorical device and hyperpunditry in general, we are doomed to an abysmal level of national discourse that is a shame to us all as Americans. We have to learn how to stand in solidarity once again and act in ways that help the disenfranchised feel empowered if we hope to achieve the kind of voting turnouts and evolution of discourse necessary to affect actual change in this country.
1: Yes, good point on the bipartisanship. I feel the reluctance to address those sort of issues stems, at least partly, from the elevation of ideology above solidarity and the fact that politicians pander to specific demographics rather than issues that affect all. And of course, when issues are compartmentalized, no one is truly represented -- except for the lobbying corporations and corrupt unions pulling the campaign strings, of course.
And I think the tendency to appeal to polarized voter bases is an epiphenomenon of how the democratic framework is constructed. In other words, since political power is valued higher than humanistic interest, there will be an incentive to pander to bases that can best secure power i.e. the corporations et al. [Latin abbreviation meaning 'and others'] So I think democratic reform is also a top priority because at present, no genuine movement can expect to obtain momentum under the powers that be. Perhaps an exception could be Occupy [social protest movement], but they have few representatives in Congress echoing their views to affect real change.
Capital and State can merely crush the momentum of movements seeking unification of disparate platforms. There needs to be a democratic intellectual undercurrent developing in tandem with pursuit of bipartisan issues to expect any real change in what people perceive to be their interests to come about.
Switching from FPTP to PR would be a good first step to ensuring genuine representation of voter interests. We'd need to sever the corporatist umbilical cord from the mainstream media to reduce polarization and to keep citizens informed by an intelligent discourse rather than distracted by the trivial and inflammatory. And the question of democratic reform naturally implies campaign finance reform too. This would help expunge corporatist influence from the ballot boxes and the media.
2: I couldn't agree more. Moving further, I feel that the technocultural paradigm shift [change in popular awareness] that is occurring as the internet becomes the dominant media distribution mechanism instead of television, radio and print may leave a window of opportunity to leverage (on message) viral media against hyperpunditry in an effort to elevate discourse. To be more explicit, we netizens are currently in a war to secure the interests of new media/social media in favor of the people, the disenfranchised, and few of us are even fully conscious of it yet.
Also, I feel that a new and recontextualizing metanarrative is neccessary [sic] to move past party boundaries and unite on issues that will serve to open up popular discourse from its partisan deadlock.
P: It has been possible in Denmark, where the Communist Party joined with a few other socialist parties to make the Red-Green Alliance(Danish: Enhedslisten, literally unity party) that currently [cut off]
I don't necessarily think that unification of the left parties is possible because what might be considered to be petty is to the ideologies very essential. This is not the case for right-wing parties that all support Capitalism and differ mostly on value-based politics and how Capitalism should work.
2: It's clear to anyone who has seen voter turnout figures that there is a major sense of disenfranchisement and apathy running very deep through the veins of America. People feel powerless against the mighty juggernaut of mainstream media and beltway politics. Hypothetically, what type of events would motivate you as an individual to join together with others and rise up against this oppressive regime?
Put more concisely, what would be the tenets and presentation of an activist organization you would feel personally connected with?
1: The phenomenon has extended its icy tendrils of apathy to Canada, as well. Which I'll note is where I currently live. Perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but it seems to be a global phenomenon where democracy is genuinely installed. There are specific tactics Westerners can use, thanks to the luxury of unadulterated free expression and the boon of a decentralized Internet, to revitalize our lethargic populace.
I'll use a real-world example to illustrate what Canadians are doing to challenge government infringement on our liberties. In our Parliament, there's been a Bill tabled, titled "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act", otherwise known as Bill C-30. We have a majority Conservative government at the moment, so it's likely to pass if it hasn't already (though it'll be big news when it does). It gives police the power to search and seize computer hard-drives without a warrant, amongst other things.
Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety pushing this Bill, has been the rightful target of criticism and opposition, as our personal privacy would be infringed. Canadians are e-mailing their MPs to vote against the Bill. A Canadian branch of Anonymous [online hacktivist group] has even leaked Vic's divorce proceedings papers in an ironic act of defiance to humiliate him.
So there's definite opposition to government power trending recently. If you're interested, check the 2012 Quebec student protests. It's the largest protest in Canada at the moment, possibly in its history. It gives me hope that Canadians won't let themselves be pushed around by government any longer.
I personally feel connected to progressive, democratic reform groups. So the Canadian federal Green Party fits the bill here. They advocate open government (allowing Canadians to have a greater say in the process of drafting legislation), switch to Proportional Representation, to name just two aspects I appreciate about the Green Party. It's involved in Parliamentary politics, though. At the moment, our Parliament is more of an immobile circus than any serious institution. There are politicians which represent our interests there, but their power pales in comparison to the Conservative's majority.
I think large-scale civil disobedience and protest would have to obtain momentum to affect change in the direction we want, parallel to electing a Party which embraces democratic reform. I'd like to march up to Harper and literally throw him out of Parliament, myself. The next best thing would be to mobilize the apathetic populace (and trust me, Canadians are apathetic. We've had it going well for so long, and this starts happening. Our proclivity to protest has been dulled by first world-luxuries and relative security) through agitation and grass-roots campaigns, to get the public informed and, if you like, radicalized. Essentially, place the power in the public's hands.
P: Why would you trust "people power" though? What if they make worse decisions once they actualize power than the previous congresscritters? I'm just not sure I'd trust a big mass of people to do anything beneficial for the "common man" . A flash mob united under a banner of "Lets make shit better!" is well meaning... but... effective?
1: Ideally, in my view, political power would be decentralized, so people have control over their own interests as opposed to delegating them to politicians who do an about-face on us. People would freely associate with those like-minded to achieve particular goals.
It wouldn't necessarily be a mob of people doing one thing collectively. More like disparate, small groups setting goals and realizing them. These groups could also freely associate with each other through a sort of federated system.
There would be no need for parliamentary politics. I eschew the whole notion of representative democracy in a capitalist construct. Its democratic potential can certainly be liberated through reform, but in my personal scheme, that's the first step towards abolishing the process in favor of a more liberating one to supplant it. I realize not everyone shares my mind-set, so I'm open to changing my view on some points.
In terms of "people power's" effectiveness in getting things done, I imagine it'd be more dynamic and flexible within my conception of it. There's much less conflict of interest there, I think, than in electoral democracy where politicians proclaim to get things done, but rarely do, and if so, not well enough. As you can see, I'm quite cynical.
P: I'm more surprised that you think small groups of people would ever work collaboratively towards a common goal/banner. Take something as simple as parking spots at the mall and think of all the myriad of ways it can be solved (less handicapped spots = more regular spots, more concrete = less environment, smaller spots = more door dings for the Door Repair Lobby, less spots = public transportation lobby loves)
Political parties are not a la carte. You dont [sic] get to pick and choose what you will support and deny others. Its been picked for you in advance by the people with the money/power. Learn to exploit and take advantage of this fact and you'll do fine.
Why "Rage Against The Machine" when you can exploit the Machine's Law to your own advantage? Not only will you be ahead under the current system... if some Machiavelli (read: you or molality) manages somehow to change the system into something better -- you are already prepared for that and looking for the next system of loopholes and workarounds.
1: I agree with you, in one respect. It's a great idea -- and it has been done -- to exploit the machinery of the state and capital to the disenfranchised's advantage.
But electoral democracy has particular obstacles to participation which render it difficult to penetrate, let alone exploited. It's controlled by and for the opulent. There appear to be occasional lapses in these trends (e.g. implementation of stronger welfare programs), but that doesn't address the root of the downtrodden's problems. It dulls any attempt at independent action, because we simply let the rich take care of our problems to some degree.
It's in this respect that I think parallel action would be justified -- by engaging in proper action which the state incorrectly deems to be criminal (i.e. civil disobedience) and other, broader routes of direct political action to turn the cards in our favor somewhat.
Don't forget that there are existing constitutional principles the masses can take advantage of -- freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression et al. that can propel the causes of our movement. It's a broad spectrum of action, essentially.
Now electoral democracy is problematic because the public sees electoral interactions, more or less, as the whole scope of our democracy. Parliamentary politics is merely micromanagement -- the prime method to push party policies (yay alliteration!) mandated by popular consent, or so the theory goes.
And if the public opposes these policies, there are other ways to implement them. In fact, because the public is alienated from the majority of the democratic process (e.g. the drafting of legislation, overview, input and editing), public consent is irrelevant to the extent the mandate lasts for.
This to say that what message do we send to our constituents when a genuine reform movement participates in electoral politics? Cynicism is greatly apparent by this stage in this game. I think it undermines the authenticity of our project. Current electoral politics is partisan -- we're a bipartisan project. We focus on intelligent and civil discourse -- our counterpart focuses on pandering rhetoric and polarization.
I think the proper course of action would be to develop parallel solutions to the democratic problem, not to exploit its failures for political expediency, however well meaning it may be to do so. This is not to say that we should completely eschew the notion of electoral politics at this point in time, but agitate the populace into wanting and working towards change too.
Only then will our politicians, too, be eager to support our cause. They can only skulk behind campaign jargon for so long. What mandate will they have to justify their politics when the public refuses to give them one? If we want our representatives to embrace change, we must demonstrate that they would be powerless without us. The worst case scenario is that they abandon popular consent to buffer political legitimacy and instead turn to brute force to toe us in line -- which is not inconceivable an outcome. In that case, we would fight back altogether.
This is more or less why I support extra-parliamentary action to encourage democratic reform. It strikes fear into politician's hearts, and rightfully so.
2: [Quotes '1']. I'm not sure I am understand the portents of this entirely, but if do then I really like it, apologies if I am off-topic. My POV is that we need to focus on issues above all else - this is counter to the technique that is currently popularized dealing primarily with parties and politicians. Sadly, because we are so polarized right now, focusing on anything but issues is not possible. It is the stringent adherence and attachment towards overlapping but still somewhat opposed ideologies that lures us into partisan bickering time and time again.
In other words - first things first. You don't need to start out with something as complex, multifaceted and prone to being sensationalized as economic policy, for example. I mean, why even discuss it when we don't even know how to talk about anything anymore without getting angry and divided. Lets have some civil rights successes, start opening up national dialog about the drug war and get people to know what in the hell First Past the Post is and why it sucks before having dialog about highly theoretical and complex policy that gets people pissed right off the bat. Everything is due time - we need to recognize the exact nature of the power we have before we can learn to wield it effectively.
[Quotes '1']. Politicians will come along for the ride when we have enough momentum and the proper strategies to troll nationwide media into moving beyond talking points and smug self-satisfaction. We are the internet generation after all, if we can't do it for the lulz with adviceanimals and viral video, why even bother?
Yeah, we could end up on the wrong side of a gun, but better to go down with friends who believe in change than someone filled with disillusionment and hate. If we hit full on dystopia, we're all in it together anyway. Freedom of speech is almost all that's left, we need to take advantage of it before it gets taken away or perverted like "corporate personhood".
[Quotes '1']. We shall become a movement who participates in internet activism and insurgency as if it was a self-produced reality TV show.
1: [Quotes '2']. For sure. I think that this is any sane person's point of view. I'm sure the public at large is weary of partisan bickering, too. It's strange. If I may comment on the state of our politics, for a moment. It seems the public is numb, in a sense. They float in limbo between awareness of the problem and the will to do something productive about it. Have we become so defeatist in our attitude that we let politicians push us over? I think I've been affected by this attitude. I tell you, I am no activist. But I like to theorize, as you've seen.
Perhaps my reluctance to protest et al. lends more to personal disposition than true apathy. But theorizing courses of action -- familiarizing oneself with the battleground terrain, if you will -- is I think, an indispensable action in itself. A positive thing about our present situation, though, is that there's a multiplicity of movements which are action-oriented and not too disparate in terms of outlook. So there are people taking action against this current system.
I just think it's funny how I can sit back and theorize whilst I see Occupy protesters doing the work. Perhaps I'm more of an observer; a commentator and theorist rather than someone directly involved in affairs. I just think a central question to a reformist project such as ours is, what is our role? We seem aware of it, and we discourse in a manner that contextualizes our identity. But sometimes I doubt my efforts. It's a strange cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, it's calming and reassuring that like-minded individuals like yourself can engage in dialogue with others about these issues and propose solutions to them. On the other hand, I feel as if all I can do is theorize.
I think I can empathize with our voters when they lack a sense of direction on what to do. I think we have a clearer idea of that moreso than the public. But for some odd reason, it's been so long and just now are the masses beginning to wake from their slumber. Occupy, the Arab Spring, SOPA et al. have sent a much-needed jolt to our constituents. I think we're just beginning to regain our sense of direction -- out of the dizzying maze of partisan bickering and taking matters into our own hands.
[Quotes '2']. I agree. And I would add that this seems to be accomplished, in some respect, by Occupy and other movements shedding light on the failures of our current system. So there is hope that the public will catch on to what needs to be done.
[Quotes '2']. We have an entire litany of strategies at our disposal. I hope that our struggle towards a civil discourse -- as an element within the broader context of true democracy -- doesn't culminate in wide-scale violence. We can agitate and embarrass the media with the tried and proven techniques. This is a point to keep in mind when scheming future strategies against oppression.
[Quotes '2']. If it comes to the point where our liberties are totally eradicated, I would be all for fighting back. What's freedom worth if you're not willing to die for it? I know it sounds extreme at the moment. But sometimes I fear that our struggle could really come to that. The state of our democracy presently is pretty shitty. At the same time, I'm blessed to be living in a place like Canada and not N. Korea. That's just a point I use to calm myself. Certainly not a reason to dissuade legitimate and much needed action. I'd do anything to prevent us from becoming like North Korea. Pardon me if this sounds like a slippery slope. Perhaps Mexico would be a better comparison.
2: [Quotes '1']. You know what? God bless Occupy, they put some people who were scared, real and very disenfranchised in front of television audiences and said "Now what?" And we are that. Just because we didn't know how to support the cause back then doesn't mean we can't get off our chess playing/meme making bourgeois asses and start trying to force accountability for the shitty state of affairs we are in. Just because you weren't there doesn't mean you didn't feel something tug at you when you saw some very confused, hurt and concerned people try to stand for something even if they didn't know exactly what it was at the time.
[Quotes '1']. Face it, we all want to be Jon Stewart or President Barlett or this guy. And if we start becoming geeky political internet tough guys and try to reach out without skepticism to people of like minds using the internet, we might have a chance. It could totally blow up in our faces, too, but I think most people in the know kind of expect it to blow up even if we sit on our asses. So then, what options do you really have? We all have to learn the importance of going down with the damn ship. Oh yeah, and flashmobs.
P: When I suggest to exploit the current system, I was not referring to the voting system in the US. I was referring to the entire system of government. Exploit the laws put in place for your own benefit. Learn what loopholes get made and use them. That kind of thing.
I guess what I was saying was there's no reason to try and fix it. Its much too broken and the corruption is RIDICULOUSLY deep. In some cases its not worth fixing at all. What project did I stumble onto that thinks it will reform the American political system even a LITTLE bit?
If your point is more the pitchforks and torches route (Marching down the street and protesting)... that's fun and all but cops have guns/batons/stun guns/smoke/tear gas/rubber bullets/riot shields/protected radio frequencies/handcuffs/etc and are paid to use them.
1: Oh. I would very much agree with you about the exploitation, then. I mean, I still retain my preferred course of action. I won't shy away from yours, though. Do you think a mix of the two could be possible (parallel action + exploitation of loopholes)?
P: I doubt it. Protesting is about as effective as voting. Its bad theatre. [sic] The escalation of protests never ends well. The government has the trump card of ammo, bullets, tanks, radio frequencies, and little regard for the outcome.
1: Parallel action does not have to merely include protest, mind you. Not in the conventional sense of being direct and vocal, anyhow. And if push comes to shove, well, smash the state.
P: As a long time non-voter I'll chime in. I'm a well educated, informed, and financially literate citizen in a non-battleground state. There's no organization or group of people I'd trust to run a country of this size or as nimble as it needs to be. All sides must be heard and respected and that simply cant happen in our toxic environment anymore. Compromises must be made without regard to a concealed (or not) political motive. American's Elect [activist group] was an example of good natured people trying to make a difference. It failed miserably.
I honestly cant think of a tenet, presentation, ethos, moral position, or belief structure a group could claim for me to consider joining or assisting -- I would assume its fancy advertising and tune out. My cynicism has reached the point where "Nuke it from orbit" is the only means of fixing what is wrong. Start over. From scratch.
I wont go into the myriad of reasons why voting is ineffectual at best in the 21st century as that wasn't your question.
2: Thanks for joining the discussion!
Let me say that I can relate to your sense of disenfranchisement. Furthermore, I think the voting turnout shows that the majority of people in America also share your point of view that mainstream politics and the propaganda engine that supports them have intelligent discourse in a stranglehold. The toxic environment you describe, one where ad hominem attacks are lobbed at any opinion existing outside of the sickeningly narrow focus of the mainstream has poisoned hope in this country.
I would be naive if I thought I could convince you of some fanciful "sunshine and rainbows" narrative that might help you feel more empowered. Every modern internet activist movement has had fundamental problems that keep them from crossing over into the mainstream, why would "Project: Overhaul" be different? What I can say is that instead of trying to enlist your commitment to one cause or another, I would ask something entirely different of you.
If what I am writing right now is that last thing you were to read that I could present to you, I would ask a few short things: be absolutely true to yourself, don't be afraid of your anger and resentment towards the political oppression you face and most importantly, in every aspect of your life, strive to be the best communicator and collaborator you can be.
Life if [sic] short, whether we have to "nuke it from orbit" or grin and bear it until the damn thing devolves into complete dystopia, we are all on the same ride and companionship and understanding are hard to find in this world. If we are to move ahead together, we won't do it without coming to terms with the PTSD and Stockholm syndrome we have all faced thanks at the hands of old media.
Once again, thanks to taking the time to participate in the discussion.
The Need For A Unifying Meta-narrative
2: (An excerpt from a piece I am writing)
Once again returning explicitly discuss metanarrative, it is postmodernism that holds it suspect as alluded to at the top of the chapter. As Jean-François Lyotard famously quoted: “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” This incredulity is the most identifiable trait of postmodernism that can be witnessed in people with no prior exposure to the idea of the postmodern or exposure to related schools of thought like constructivism. Unfortunately, the people who would most benefit from a frank discussion about a loss of faith in metanarrative and other posits of postmodernism are alienated from the discussion because of the academic terminology involved and the technicality of the philosophical arguments presented when digging deeper into the discussion.
For this reason, let us evaluate metanarrative once again, but this time from the angle of the sardonic reaction towards metanarraive that leaves people paralyzed when it comes to acting on their beliefs. Its clear the world is ideologically divided, a broken mirror where any attempts to see our collective humanity only shows reflections in fragments. Conflicting metanarratives are responsible for this, so it is no wonder that we are incredulous towards this type of thinking that has proved so violently divisive when carried out to its logical extreme. However, this incredulity is not inherently self-aware. The people most incredulous towards metanarratives are also the ones who cling so pitifully to the most harmful metanarratives of all (religious superiority, nationalism, etc). For these people, there is essentially no hope they will exit the glass houses in which they reside.
However, for the generation born into the postmodern, this incredulity is somewhat more self-effacing. Members of this generation do hold on to metanarratives, but because they have at times had to actively reject the rigid metanarratives of their parents, they have adopted somewhat more flexible attitudes towards metanarratives thanks to the looser personal philosophies they have embraced instead. However, members of this generation are surrounded by feelings of hopelessness, disillusionment, cynicism and moral ambiguity that have resulted from the distinct lack of a unifying metanarrative such as the ones their parents claimed. Postmodernism tilts favorably towards the individual because of its focus on subjectivity, but thanks to this there is a generation in crisis who no longer sees itself reflected in mainstream media known to deal almost exclusively in simplistic and anachronistic metanarratives. The result is an age where communications technology is entering a golden age but no one can cooperate.
1: Interesting piece. I've mentioned in previous discussions with others that naive political syncretism (the temptation to frame narratives as being by necessity monological and subsisting on static identities) leads to self-imposed exile in the name of ideological puritanism. In other words, effective polarization. This appears to be the case with past generations who grew up with old media in the context it was used (e.g. propagandizing capitalism and fear in the Cold War sustained a sanitized meta-narrative of American identity in the West).
You bring up an excellent point about how the current generation doesn't see itself reflected in mainstream media. It's concerns are not sufficiently voiced. This is an inherently undemocratic tendency which I think can be, and is being addressed by the more sensitive, decentralized medium of the Internet and other new media.
There are very little, if any, class barriers and the like to restrict access to it. It's far reaching and trends in the public interest can be tracked effectively to inform legislation, both on a local and national level. Some US government departments are democratizing this process to an extent by polling citizens via Twitter and other social media platforms on certain pieces of proposed legislation (for obvious reasons, the powerful don't let the citizenry decide whether or not their liberties should be restrained).
The process is in its experimental stage, but there's a trend shifting toward allowing citizens to voice their discontent effectively, and to organize similarly. This can be seen through how the recent Egyptian revolution developed. Thus we have supplanted the perpetuation of these tired narratives with a process that is sensitive to contemporary popular opinion and consequently more dynamic and fluid rather than rigid and binary.
Now on the issue of post-modernism's role itself. I agree with your general message, but perhaps you're overstating the importance of post-modernism's influence in the resurgence of cynicism. Can't the deterioration in a unifying meta-narrative be attributed to several factors? The expansion of the left within the previous fifty years ... leading to increased sectarianism and shifts in focus to different issues. Conservatives have grown apart in the last fifty years thanks to the rise of neo-liberalism and the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing into question America's current role in the world.
The subjectivity of postmodern analysis facilitates the synthesis of personal narratives, but I don't think it accounts as much for the increasing disconnect between the populace and media. Identity politics and polarization are definite causes behind this cynicism, but is the post-modern an acceptable way to frame these? If I'm understanding your point, that is.
2: Ooh this is really great, I'm thankful to get some detailed and thoughtful criticism of this writing.
I agree that the internet is adapting well to take over the role of old media in representing the more progressive viewpoints that have become maligned by mainstream media. The primary point I feel needs to be addressed is just how drastic the paradigm shift is between the monodimensionality of old media and the pandimensionality of the internet. If it weren't for the cultural background we share it would be hard to conceive of the absolutely and fundamentally massive differences between these two types of media.
I personally feel as if we have an "old media hangover" that is causing a lot of discontent over the internet from people who still are existing in limbo between old and new media. When the jump has been made once and for all, however, in the pandimensional world of social media on the internet, the term mainstream carries a lot less weight as each of us is capable of retreating into our personal filter bubbles. We are in need of some unifying themes to prevent the kind of polarization and fragmentation runs rampant in old media from overrunning new media.
This brings to head the primary challenge facing the internet as the replacement for old media: how it may is be used to reliably organize with the intent of affecting political change. This is where metanarrative comes in: because of the intuitive distrust of sweeping narrative those born into postmodernity have acquired, we no longer have faith that there are unifying causesworth actively pursuing in terms of political activism - hence devastatingly low voter turnouts, et al. I would posit that to organize effectively over the internet, a generation wide recontextualization and reassessment of the role of metanarrative needs to occur. The reasoning is that due to the peculiarities of human nature, metanarrative is the primary mnemonic device we have to motivate ourselves to action.
I agree that postmodernism doesn't account for the disconnect between the populace and media. My point of bringing up postmodernism is that the omnipresent disillusionment with metanarrative is the primary connection that the layman has with postmodernism. I feel that the full portents of postmodernism or even a general understanding of it - especially in light of some of the high theoretical philosophical arguments that come along with it - are generally relegated to academia despite being potentially relevant to anyone who has seriously questioned metanarrative, consciously or unconsciously. I feel like postmodernism lies at the brink of most people's tolerance for philosophy, after a certain point it just starts to sound like a bunch of irrelevant bullshit. However, incredulity towards metanarrative is extremely easy to explain to anyone, it is the primary cultural touchstone we have to start to bridge the world of academic philosophy with that of the layman.
In my estimate, it is the incredulity towards metanarrative, the fear that the subjective and objective are doomed to irreconcilable differences that is emblematic of our current cultural climate - like a spurned lover we are not wont to give our heart away so easily this time. The further theoretical complexities presented by postmodernism and post-structalism cause problems for - from my understanding - even those who undertake the study of philosophy academically. How can we expect laymen to care enough to move beyond the heartbreak that our society inflicts so callously? How do we explain the basic tenants of postmodernism in a way that heals instead of confuses?
There are very deep ideological divides currently that fragment the citizenry into many different factions. I would characterize this as a result of competing metanarratives. The particularly pernicious metanarratives are ones that encourage secularism and in some manner confer a sense of divine sanction. When I say that metanarrative needs to be recontextualized, I mean to say that - much like the Hero's myth - we need to popularize discourse and understanding about metanarrative specifically so that people grow to understand the extreme power it holds. As alluded to above, I believe metanarrative is the primary mnemonic device used to form faith and belief, it is the holy grail of cognitive software if you will. If we intend to deprogram/reprogram ourselves as a generation ready to be online 24/7, a very real discussion about metanarrative needs to occur globally. Metanarrative is the layman's connection to postmodernism and by extention, philosophy. If we are to eliminate ad hominem based discourse, we should replace it with honest and critical discussions about metanarrative.
1: You articulated your point well. I have little to comment on, but I will say this. The sources behind the perpetuation of these vestigial narratives especially ought to be questioned and criticized. That we of course, agree with. The emergent sources behind meta-narratives, i.e. filter bubbles, presented by new media need to be addressed in light of popular search for meta-narrative, as well as the ones present in old media.
By virtue of how the Internet is designed, we are selective moreso of the information we consume. It's not much different from what newspaper we choose to read, I suppose. It's a sort of positive feedback loop pertaining to confirmation bias. I admit even I exhibit this. Many of my news sources are left-leaning, and I regard them as having a higher propensity for truth than their conservative counterparts. Perhaps I'm wrong.
But I'm careful (or I like to think so) about placing too much stock in the information I consume i.e. its veracity. People exhibiting confirmation bias need to be cautious of showing religious devotion to one-sided news sources, or even those which appear to be neutral. The filter bubble nature of online consumption is an additional way that these polarizing narratives then, can be disseminated.
More importantly, even if the information we consume is not politically charged (i.e. needlessly partisan), the way we consume our information can encourage polarizing behavior in political settings. Then we get a situation like /r/politics [popular political subreddit]. We have the active exclusion of legitimate contrary opinions and the promotion of progressive ones. There are occasional lapses in this behavior in certain respects (Ron Paul et al.), but it's pretty homogeneous and exclusionary overall.
In short, although the Internet is promising in terms of its liberatory potential, it can simultaneously shackle us down in what I believe to be the downfalls of its own strengths. Because information distribution evolves, so too does our selection of information to align with our world view. It's a fact peculiar to human nature. We need to be cautious of the dangers new media presents as well as its opportunities when scheming a collaborative politic with focus on a unified meta-narrative.
We have a great power residing within our hands. As you said, we must learn to harness its strength and use it wisely.
2: I'm with you 100%.
It is a very slippery slope we are addressing. Internet activism and insurgency is still in its infancy. It's clear that the internet has a great potential for independent distribution of media but the popular examples of that are cat videos and Rebecca Black's "Friday".
Anon [shorthand for the hacktivist group], Occupy, the Arab Spring and SOPA [widely protested Internet regulatory bill] have all made significant impacts on people but how do you design an internet focused movement that has the infrastructure to last decades if necessary? The best example I can think of lies in the beginning of American history with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are talking fundamental paradigm shifts that need to occur in the public consciousness for an internet activist campaign to exist independently from the expectation of it being a flash in the pan. There is a great deal of patronization that occurs when anyone tries to express themselves authentically outside the realm of fluffy or sensationalistic entertainment. We openly invite ridicule of ourselves by making the mere admission that there may be a solution to our long standing cultural ills. . . even if that acknowledgement comes with the caveat that it may be the hardest thing we ever do.
It's an absurdly redundant and trivial dance taking place between the watchers and the watched right now. The sooner people become aware that what they thought was novelty is essentially one giant repost and that most "fact" they come across is thinly disguised ideological provocation meant to perpetuate political theater, the sooner we can see the spread of consciousness instead of distraction.
We have been in the middle of the spin zone for so long now that our minds crave the g-forces. What do?
[His last question was critical, yet perhaps rhetorical. I didn't respond to it, but we continued further discussions on related matters].[I hope this catalog provoked some thoughts, dear reader. This post will be updated as our discourse expands.]
This post first appeared on Thoughts And Musings, please read the originial post: here