For the situation I described in yesterday’s post – the widespread denial of obvious truths, and dismissal of ‘expertise’ – I blame four factors in particular. The first is the general rise and popular fascination of ‘conspiracy theories’, from the grassy mound (Kennedy) to David Icke’s shape-shifting royal reptiles. The second is the actual conspiracies that have been revealed over the last few years – I’d include the ‘Wilson plot’ as one of these, albeit in a watered-down form, and all the recently confirmed revelations of institutional paedophilia – which give some credence to all the rest. The third is, of course, the internet, spreading ‘fake news’, unmoderated, at a rate unimaginable before. I imagine much of this as being the preserve of pimply adolescents tapping away in their bedrooms when their mothers think they’re asleep; but I may be wrong. (And in any case it’s a slur on pimply adolescents, the poor dears.)
My fourth factor is the least likely one, because it would only apply to educated people, which these adolescents generally aren’t. That’s ‘post-modernism’, in its extreme, relativistic form. (There is no objective truth.) I’d like to be able to place some of the blame on them, because – in the form of ‘post-colonial theorists’ – they’ve been the bane of my recent professional life. But as members of the hated intellectual ‘elite’ they’re unlikely to have had much influence on the poor suckers who swallowed Boris Johnson’s ‘£350 million a month’ – or was it a week? – for the NHS’ lie. I didn’t find many of them citing Foucault and Deleuze.
One solution might be to teach – by some means or other – simple ‘logic’ in schools. I’ve suggested this before: https://bernardjporter.com/2016/10/23/logic-lessons/. In other words, critical thought. Mathematics obviously does this. History can, if taught well. Literature very rarely does . Conservative educationalists have generally shied away from that, in case it encourages the young to be critical of the status quo. But at least it might give them the tools to be rationally and constructively critical; not simply against the status quo, and ‘elites’, and ‘experts’, because that’s what or who they are. I wouldn’t even mind if they were taught postmodernism. But critically.
“My fourth factor is the least likely one, because it would only apply to educated people, which these adolescents generally aren’t. That’s ‘post-modernism’, in its extreme, relativistic form. (There is no objective truth.)”
Not true, as I’d have hoped you might have understood from some of the criticism you’ve received. Post-modernism (but shurely you mean ‘postmodernism’?) is and always has been highly politically motivated rather than simply the preserve of ‘intellectuals’, and it’s explicit purpose has been to undermine the status quo, any status quo in fact, by leaching into the addled consciousness of all those pimply adolescents of all ages who love a good slogan and the warm, cuddly feeling of just being so damned right all the time. It always was about changing the public consciousness so that everyone finally understood that “all is relative”, regardless of whether they had ever read or understood Foucault or any other post-modernist or post-colonialist.
That also explains the extraordinary fragmentation of post-colonialism into what amounts to little more than micro-identity politics …. but hey! that was always the point! “Society” was to be deconstructed and fragmented into minute particles of “me” and “you” with the primary focus on difference (usually quite aggressively defined) rather than on similarity, of any sort. So, welcome to the brave new post-modern world that has exploded across our screens in the past few years. All that good intellectual work in “the academy” has finally borne fruit.
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Yes of course. Kajsa thinks I’m hard on Foucault. So do I, now.
“because – in the form of ‘post-colonial theorists’ – they’ve been the bane of my recent professional life.”
I would like to read your blog about those baneful experiences.
Post-modernists are not all cut from the same cloth, of course – like Marxists.