Thoughts on how the idea of the “modern” is out-of-date – aspects of the “modern” era and the post “modern” era

I wrote most of this some time ago.  It still seems relevant enough to record:

The other day I heard someone speak of how certain customs or ways were out-of-date, and not “modern”, and, because of this, they should be done away with.  My reaction to this was:

“It is the idea of the “modern” that is becoming out-of-date.  That era is in decline.”

THE IDEA OF THE “MODERN”

The idea of “modern” is a mentality that is a result of neoclassical thinking, of the idea that knowledge, invention, and reason was the answer to everything.  It challenged Christian beliefs beginning in the 1600’s, in particular.  These challenges escalated in the 1700’s and reached full force with the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s.  The effects of science and its inventions, which seemed to prove neoclassical thinking, went into the 1900’s.  In many ways, the 1900’s is just a continuation of the “wow . . . science and machines can do that!” that so permeates the idea of the “modern” and which started during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s.  It is this “wow” that surrounds the idea of the “modern” and made it so influential.  But, science and machines have been here for so long, and have also shown their not-so-pleasant side, that the “wow” has faded.

Some of the things the idea of the “modern” emphasized were:

  • Knowledge replaces belief:  knowledge is the new god
  • Democracy is the only right government:  the will of the people is everything
  • As machines progress and advance we’re better off:  technology is our savior
  • The “modern” is a new utopian society:  the “modern” as a “savior society”

At one time, these were big things that contradicted the viewpoints then existing and, as a result, caused a “wow”.  As a result, they were revolutionary.  But that was yestercentury!  To live in the mentality of the “modern”, to me, is like living in the past, in the conditions of a former era.

THE “MODERN” IS NO LONGER WHAT IT SEEMED

The very idea of “modern” seems somewhat antiquated to me.  By this I mean that its “savior society” mentality and concepts no longer fit in the real-world conditions.  As a result, it seems ridiculously idealistic and “in the clouds”.  Much of the “modern” has this appearance of a bunch of people trying to create a fantasy-land world with machines and technology.  Once this fantasy-land world is created we are going to be in some utopian world and forever happy!  And this is being professed by all these Engineers, Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and so on.  Its almost unreal.

I often chuckle at how people “marvel” at machines.  To me, to sit and marvel at what a machine can do, particularly one that took a billion dollars of research to create, seems utterly ridiculous to me.  The same with all these new “discoveries”.  I always say:  “with all the money that it takes to create this stuff, its disappointing that there isn’t more!”  I’ve always thought that we actually get little per dollar for what is spent on technology and research nowadays compared to, say, a hundred years ago.  In other words, it costs more to get “new” stuff, whether it be discoveries or technology, than it did many years ago.  I’ve always wondered if this is going to become a problem as, one day, the “modern” craze is going to end and it will probably become apparent how much money it takes to create all this.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be people complaining that all the money was wasted!

Not only that, the “modern” has created many myths, which are often misleading, erroneous, and damaging.  They include:

  • It gives a false image of great and wonderful times (that is, modern times)
  • It thinks that the “modern” is the height of humanity
  • It portrays the past as bad
  • It portrays the “unmodern” as bad
  • It says the “unmodern” should often be destroyed or converted to the “modern”
  • It gives the idea that machines are the answer to everything
  • It worships knowledge (that is to say, ITS version of knowledge)
  • It thinks that the ‘people’ is like a god

I was brought up to think that the “modern” was like some sort of a revelation, a great truth, a great enlightment! It was as if to think any other way was to sink low, to degrade oneself, to become ‘primitive’. But, in reality, the idea of the “modern” is no different than a ‘movement’ or religious-like belief.  As a result, its “greatness” only lies in the people who believe in it. Its “truth” is only seen in the people who believe it. It’s becoming clear that there is more to the world than the image that the “modern” created. There is more to life than the “modern” has envisioned. To see life only in respect to the “modern”, in a way, is like looking at life through a tube.

THE “MODERN” ERA

In my opinion, there is nothing especially great about the “modern”.  Its just another phase in history, another era in a long line of era’s.  Its not uncommon that an era professes that it is better than the era before it and tends to favor its point of view.  The “modern” era is no different.  Sure, it has done some good things . . . but it has also done bad . . . and this is typical for any era.  In reality, the “modern” is an era just like any other era.

There seems to be two phases in the “modern” era:

  1. The “savior society” phase.  This is the phase where the ideals of the “modern” (described above) were dominant.  During this phase they thought the “modern” was going to save the world.  This is a very idealistic phase.
  2. The “modern system” phase.  In this phase the “savior society” point of view has faded.  It did not become a “savior”.  It also began to show its dark side and we began to see the problems it has created.  As a result, the idealism of the form phase has deteriorated.  What’s left is the effects of the “modern”:  the system it has created.  That now runs everything, not the idealist “savior society” ideals.

We are in this later phase.  Some segments of the population, though, still continue to believe the “savior society” point of view.  Overall, the “modern system” point of view dominates.

But I can see that a new era seems to be coming, an era that has abandoned the “savior society” point of view completely and which is wanting to move away from the “modern system”.  I call this the post “modern” era . . .

THE POST “MODERN” ERA – FIGHTING THE SUPPRESSIVE QUALITY OF THE “MODERN” ERA

As with any change in era’s there often has to be a destruction of the previous era.  Many change of era’s, I think, are hampered because there is difficulty in doing this.  I tend to believe that the post “modern” era is having that difficulty.  Its having difficulty ending the “modern” era and getting started.

Many people are stuck in the “modern” not because of its greatness and truth but because there is no other alternative.  In many ways, this is the problem for many people.  The “modern” has been so effective in its destruction and suppression of other ideologies that it has left little room for other ideologies.  This, no doubt, is because part of the creation of the “modern” is its fight against Christianity and religion.  From the beginning, it was fighting against other ideologies.  It had to find ways to do it and this is what it did.

What this means is that to fight against the “modern” is to fight against an ideology that has a history of destroying and suppressing rival ideologies.  To overcome the “modern” means that one will have to overcome this ideologies destructive and suppressive tendency, which has proven so effective.  In this way, the era that follows the “modern” era will have to fight against this tendency and this seems to be what is happening.  Its probably no surprise, then, that the fight against the suppressive quality of the “modern” era is one of the defining traits of the post “modern” world. 

Some of the things that must be fought against include:

  • The effect of the “wow”.  This, alone, has won many people over.
  • The effect of its already established success.
  • The effect of its power.
  • The effect of what it has already destroyed.
  • The effect of how it has permeated everything.

The post “modern” world will have to fight these, and more.  To truly defeat these, I think, will require a new “idea”.  What this idea is I don’t know nor do I see any hint of any at this time.

AFTERWORD

There is a basic sense in me of these things:

  • That the “modern” is in decline
  • That a new era is trying to appear but is having difficulty
  • That the “modern” has proven so powerful that it is hard to overcome
  • That the “modern” is too ingrained in things and has made everyone dependent on it
  • That staying in the “modern” will stagnate society
  • That the “modern” may have to be fought against in some way

That’s what it seems to me at this time anyways.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Historical stuff, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Science and technology, The U.S. and American society, Twenty first century and post cold war society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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