Meta-Modern Ignorance 2
© 09.26.17 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the September 28 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
Modernism and postmodernism considered contemporary culture a drama before which the individual remained powerless and within which questions of the "real" were problems in need of a solution - problems the common man was ill equipped to solve. Thus, modern/postmodernism emphasized television (entertainment and news) and the big screen. On the other hand, in the meta-modern world the action of the individual is required to produce cultural content. By definition, meta-modern cultural products do not exist unless the individual participates (Alan Kirby, "The Death of Postmodernism And Beyond," Philosophy Now: A Magazine of Ideas, Accessed September 24, 2017. https://philosophynow.org/). For example, in the reality TV show Big Brother (a show I've never seen) viewers take part in the process and outcome of the program by phoning in votes about who should be eliminated from the competition. Thus millions have a hand in writing the narrative rather than remain in a passive, receptive mode.
The same is true in news media as well. Immediate participation in the news can take the form of e-mails or text messages sent to the newscaster providing information or comment. It also (increasingly so) takes the form of on the spot participation in and reporting on events through videos immediately available for worldwide consumption. In either case the individual writes the narrative.
It may not seem so, but the meta-modern norms are a step closer to the way God intended humanity to live. I believe the character driven narrative is God's normal way of doing business. This is not to say each person is free to create his own reality. Not at all. Nevertheless, it is true that each of us is first and foremost responsible to God for our own life and arena of activity. God did not create Man in order for him to be ruled by men. Instead, Man was created to be in a loving, obedient relationship with God. God did not intend for humanity to be ruled by kings. He did not intend the narrative to be imposed upon the individual by the cultural elite.
The current age is trending toward decentralization; the cultural elite is desperate to reign in the meta-modern world and bend it to its desire, but I believe the march toward decentralization - the character driven narrative - is likely irreversible. Yet, one of the things that may derail the trend is the misuse of freedom. We are already seeing the effects of the character driven narrative based on "bad data." That bad data comes in two varieties. One is the way information becomes disjointed and without proper context in a hyperactive digital world. For example, many people today consider themselves adequately informed upon viewing a single graph or other image on social media that "proves" a rise in racism. Even if the graph is a simple display of statistical information, it can be twisted to mean almost anything without the proper context. In other words, it requires time - research, reading and thought - to arrive at proper conclusions.
Second is the danger of characters in the narrative without an appropriate plot line and script. If everyone is free to make it up as they go along the result is cultural chaos. On the other hand, improvisation within the confines of the God-given story results in blessings. Christians need to consider how they can use the technology of the meta-modern age to the glory of God.
Unfortunately the Church has a tendency to mimic whatever era it finds itself in. The meta-modern world is often characterized by the shallow, flashy and emotive. As a result it has produced nothing of lasting cultural value. Thus, in the Church, long term obedience to Jesus (discipleship) is replaced by a man centered gospel of self-esteem, self-help and health and wealth; faithful attendance at a local church by celebrity preacher shopping; Bible based doctrine by sentimentality.
We will return to this topic in a couple weeks.