Monday, March 24, 2014

The Case Condemning Modernism

Rereading "Mother Country" again,  it has to count as one of the most important essays written in the past century in the English language.   So far as I have been able to find, it was republished, once, in paperback ten years after it was first published, I can't find that it was issued again, after that.  You can buy it as an e-book, however and it is available in used copies and from libraries.   Compared to any number of frivolous essays on pop culture or some ridiculous theory of "theory" about "culture" its subject and Ms. Robinson's treatment of it, couldn't be more important and more serious.  But our culture, thoroughly steeped in the purposes and tactics - what replace methods - of modernism has ignored it for a quarter of a century.

The deep unseriousness of modernism is a practical demonstration of the results of a materialism that deems everything to be merely random, merely transiently deemed to be of importance, of everything to be the product of atavistic forces not, really of our choosing.   I have come to see that the primary motivation of modernism is cowardice, of taking every excuse to not make choices, to not choose to believe our own experience, cowering behind some indeterminacy that is supposed to bring the methods of probabilistic science into our real lives of sensation and the experience of living.   The appeal of that pose to people who have not had training in probability or the sciences that have to make recourse to those due to the limits of direct observation is clear.  It allows them to pretend to following scientific methods when they don't even really know what those are. The appeal of it for scientists and mathematicians who should know better is the status they gain from the ignorance of the mass of those with an education or who aspire to be mistaken as such.   Not to mention the opportunities to sell the products that scientists have a stake in on the alleged uncertainty of their harmful nature, what climate change denial and the pollution of the ocean by the British government and scientific establishment that Marilynne Robinson, in a act of genius, positively ties to the horrific history of British social policy.

In such a decadent, corrupt culture it is no surprise that an essay, laying out in detailed scholarship, resulting in a sold case, true indictment beyond any reasonable doubt, would be either incomprehensible or blacklisted from consideration.   If the human species survives, the environmental destruction that resulted from the application of science within the demoralized culture of materialism will be item one in the condemnation of modernism.   The reduction of human beings to material entities that are properly used up and disposed of in a way that refuses to address their rights and the moral obligation of those with power to respect those rights is an older indictment, one that, as Ms. Robinson shows, extends back into the medieval period in Britain.   Modernism certainly didn't reject that ancient heritage, in the cases where that was successfully abandoned and condemned, it was, in almost every case, religious conviction that did it, as unmodernistic as it is possible to imagine.

Modernism is an ideology that has brought us the disaster that we face, the disaster of the potency of science unregulated and restrained and, in some cases, not made illegal, by the application of the old fashioned concepts of morality.   It is a failure in any human terms, in any terms that life can continue under.

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