Dr. Strangethought or: How I Learned to Stop Being Modern and Love Being Post

It’s popular in our culture today to attach the prefix “post” to an ideology or position to indicate that we have somehow advanced beyond such a position or ideology. Such phrasing, however, tends to be more Orwellian than an accurate description, as what is usually “post” still holds to the key tenets of what it supposedly leaves behind, but simply changes the conclusions of those tenets. We might say we are “post-anything,” but the sad reality is that we still very much belong to the old ideology; we slap “post” on there to act as though we’ve escaped the ideology, but we are still within its grasps.

Imagine that while walking in the woods, you come across a house. The outside of the house is painted brown and has roses in the garden. When you walk in you notice that the house has 2 bedrooms, an office, one bathroom, the carpet is purple, and the entire inside is painted red. Such a house simply will not do for your tastes. You first take out the roses and plant tulips. Next you paint the house beige on the outside and pure white on the inside. You take out the carpet and put in hardwood floors, all the while you add another bathroom and turn the study into another bedroom. While the house is different, the frame and foundation remain the same.

Likewise, when we apply the word “post” to an ideology, more often than not we have simply redecorated the ideology without changing the ideology. The base presuppositions of the ideology remain the same, but the conclusions and certain definitions to terms might change. In essence, the ideology remains the same, but is still tweaked; the presuppositions remain while the conclusions drawn from the presuppositions change.

For instance, we think of “post-modernism,” which should indicate that we have moved past the Enlightenment period of history and are now in a period that no longer holds onto the theory of absolutes, that is, we have abandoned the Enlightenment experiment and find ourselves to be enlightened for it. Any astute observer of the history of philosophy will tell you, however, that we haven’t really moved beyond modernism, but simply shifted the conclusions of modernism. Whereas modernism recognized the inherent problem of knowledge and embraced skepticism, it eventually concluded that we could reach a unified epistemology (way of thinking) worldwide through reason. Though there are some differences between modernism and modern modernism (what is called post-modernism), each begins with the same premise and presuppositions, but simply move in different directions as to the conclusions.

But post-modernism isn’t the only mis-labeled term. Terms such as “post-racial,” “post-feminism,” “post-colonialism,” and even “post-Christian” tend to fall into the Orwellian trap of renaming something to change how it’s received. Is our society truly post-racial? When a black politician can encourage voters to vote for a senatorial candidate because “he looks like us” and no one pays attention to such blatant racism, are we really “post-racial”? Rather, what we call post-racial is little more than racism against the majority – should you label something wrong because it’s a vestige of the “white male” then you are seen as an academic. Should you label something wrong because it’s a vestige of the “black man” then you are seen as a racist. The fact is both viewpoints are racist because both seek to lift up one race while degrading another. There is certainly nothing post-racial about that; the core of racism remains the same (i.e. that one race is superior/inferior than another race), but the conclusions are different. Continue reading