Thursday, October 05, 2006

Haunted by the spectre of Romanticism

I was thinking about a number of things as I drove home this evening (as I often do) and one subject seemed to stick out in my mind, Romanticism. I've been doing some reading about the romantic era and i can't help but notice (as I doubt anyone could) the similarities between romanticism and post modernism. Both are movements strongly opposed to objectivity and rationalism while pursueing a more experiential truth. Both movements are critical of the path which history has taken and look to elements of the past for inspiration. One could go on and on about the relationship that these eras have and i'm sure many an author already has, but what struck me most about their similarities is the danger that lies in them both. I must admit that there is something very appealing about the romantic era, it is the birthplace of many incredible advancements in art and literature and some of its pilosophy is very easy to get swept into. But there in lies the problem. It was just such a sweeping away by visceral passions unbridled by rationality that led to the French Revolution, one of the bloodiest and most revolting chapters in Western history. The ideas of liberty, nationialism fueled by emotionalism. This romantic mixture also led to the fascism that plagued Europe through WWI and WWII.
So what does this have to do with postmodernism? Well, let me tell you. In the Romantic era we saw untethered violence in the name of nationalism (not a nationalism of governments and borders, but of language and culture). In Postmodernism, we see the denial of grand narratives, thus the elimination of the type of nationalism that we saw in the romantic era. It also has destroyed any structure of authority making the self the ultimate judge. But, like the romantics, it seeks something genuine and is driven by intuition and with this drive can become radical in its opposition to that which it does not agree with (the objectivity of the modernist movement, globalization, morality, etc). Enter terrorism, the bastard child of postmodernism. With reason and authority being thrown out the window, a person has no where to look but to themselves and when the outside world disagrees with them, there is no reason that they should not react anyway they want, even violently. Whether in the middle east, a subway in tokyo, or in our own high schools, terrorism rears it's ugly head as living proof of postmodernisms dangerous outcomes. But terrorism is not the end of the story. There is one more step in this path of destruction. Romantics began with an attack against authority outside of nationism, communism took this a step further by attacking authority outside of of the people, postmodernism attacked authority outside of the self, and finally postmodernism has turned the gun on itself. The ideas of the self attack the authority of ones own body. The suicide bomber is definitively postmodern in this way.
Now I don't want to pick on postmodernism too much, there are plenty of other people to do that. Postmodernism is just another step in the wrong direction that began at the Renaisance. When man stopped looking at God as the center of all things and looked to himself, he set this ball in motion. Since then man has looked at himself closer and closer to try and find something true, and now he is looking at himself in the morror and finds his reflection fading.
Dan, 9:10 PM | link | 2 comments |