Almost exactly a year ago, in early May 2021, just prior to my operation and having received my cancer diagnosis, I was out walking when I was struck by a number of thoughts relating to my own positionality with regard to modernity. I tried to capture these in very rough note format.
Time passes and because of all that was going on, I just forgot about them. Yesterday I came across the notes again while sorting out files and so I have decided to post them here. Apologies if they seem unstructured and poorly written and a bit random. I am also not sure exactly where I am now in relation to these thoughts and that is probably something that I will return to later. Here they are below the image, for what they are worth.
These are random thoughts that came to me while out walking. They are not in the form of a paper, there is not real structure and I have not organised them or referenced them or anything. Like much of these ramblings, I am not sure that they will ever come to more than this setting down right now.
As I walked along it came to me that I was afflicted by another infection that has crept up on me over the years and come to dominate my being, but that until recently I had no name or framework and no way of really expressing the various views, opinion and feelings that I have.
In short, it came to me that I have in fact become infected with Postmodernism. I will try and explain the reasons for my diagnosis but, as I say, the main realisation is that this is not new. I have had these various thoughts and symptoms for some time, but I did not know what to call them or how to link them into a single contagion with multiple indications.
The most powerful indicator of my problem may well be the way that my belief in grand narratives have completely melted away over the last decade. (Lyotard) Perhaps this initially started as early the 1980’s when I began to have doubts about capitalism. However, I told myself that in fact although I did not agree with how capitalism was working, it was working to do exactly what it is meant to do, that is redistribute wealth and power to the small minority of capitalists while exploiting everyone else and the world at large. I though that capitalism was actually very good and efficient at this, as I had seen first-hand, of which more later. More recently though I have come to see that capitalism itself is really in trouble, that we really are now in the period of “late capitalism” and that it will collapse. The pandemic has made many of its faults and fractures all too visible and these will split further despite the attempts of those in power to shore up the decaying structure. This was of course predicted, and it is, at least by my logic, inevitable. So, the first grand narrative, the first “ism” to feel my doubt was capitalism.
When capitalism fails, the capitalists all quickly become socialists expecting to tap into public funds to keep their systems and structures working. They are after all, “Too big to fail” – we saw this the financial crisis with banks and financial institution, and we have seen it in the pandemic as well. Of course, it is done in the name of “protecting jobs” and other such worthy causes. These are the very same jobs that the capitalist would happily offshore, externalise or replace with technology as long as it reduced their costs and maximised their profits. There is something that causes nausea to me to see a multimillionaire who was happy to reap these profits in good times, basically begging the public purse of the government for money, all the while relaxing in glorious luxury on a private island and not at all troubled by the harsh realities of the pandemic on normal people. In fact, even more puke inducing is when the same normal people then hero worship the said multimillionaire as some kind of hero to be admire and to aspire to, (yes I am looking at you Mr. Branson) why is that?
So, having come to socialism, or at least socialism for the rich, I came to see though that my belief in socialism has also evaporated. Another “ism” lost to me. I know of course that the models of so called “actual real socialism” we have seen implemented prior to the collapses of the late 1980’s early 1990s’ were actually nothing of the sort, but that in a way proves my justification for no longer holding any belief in the narratives of socialist theory. As to communism itself – do I even need to elaborate now?
My time in the benign dictatorships of the Middle East started the process of dissolving my belief in democracy. Not because I was not enamoured with being watched over by the loving kindness of absolute rulers, but the way that living in a different system enabled me to pull away some of the veil that covers our deference of democracy as a system. For one thing, so many so-called democratic systems are anything but that. I refer here to not only the systems where all opposition is either illegal, disallowed or executed, where there is only one name on the ballot paper and you had better vote for it, but also of the many two party, first past the post systems where the government may not be any sort of real representation of the voting preferences of the people. Election and referendum results in the last decade has clearly shown some of the many flaws in these systems.
Further, what, in any real sense of the word, is a vote every four or five years a representation of a democratic process? Indeed, we frequently mix up the word’s ‘election’ with ‘democracy’, using them almost interchangeably to mean the same thing. All of this ignores the problems of democratic, economic and political literacy – of undermining education systems so that the electorate is simply unable to make democratic decisions and the process becomes one based on media soundbites and populist declarations that can be flipped on the basis of new data from a focus group and trending Twitter hashtags. Having introduced education to this polemic, it is my intention to return to that topic later, given it has pretty well been my life’s work. To regroup my thinking, my claim is that I no longer believe in the grand narratives of capitalism, socialism or democracy. Unfortunately, it gets worse though. For I have realised that I no longer actually believe in progress itself! Yes, it is true that we have tackled many of the problems, threats and improved the quality of life for so many human beings on the planet. But at what cost? Life on the planet itself – mass extinction, use of finite resources – we have a model of progress that depends upon continuous growth – this is not possible and also not sustainable, this is a myth, even in the digital world. The pandemic is one example of the hyperobjects which threaten us, there will be new pandemics, the climate crisis is another hyperobject and we will see increasing use of violence and wars due to the complex geopolitical situations we face.
I think there is other evidence of my infection, such as religion, my views on money, banking, finance and economics, especially after reading some Baudrillard and his ideas on simulacra. So, this chain of thought might be continued.