Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Off Into The Darkness

Next week is Thanksgiving, which means Christmas break starts in a month, and that means I have one semester left of grad school. Am I any closer to knowing what I want to do when I "grow up?" If you can believe it, I may be further away.

Is it normal to be less than enthused about finishing school? I feel as though my sense of apathy has increased, not because I don't care, but because I don't know how to care. I am studying public administration and am taught in my classes that I am training to be a public servant, to uphold the Constitution and to "do the right thing." What does that even mean anymore? The "right thing?" Are we only kidding ourselves?

Somehow we are taught in school, starting at a very young age, to idolize heroes and heroines throughout history that "do the right thing," to simplify historical events into a textbook, and glorify those who defend democracy and equality. (Whatever the heck that means either.) But because of the laws of time and the biases that our minds have created, we cannot look at history without a tinted lens. So who exactly were Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Revere, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Jesus? And who do we have now, for this generation?

I have always wondered what happened to the anti-government rock songs, the wild protests in the streets, the sit-ins, and the messiahs. I have come to the conclusion that there are three options: either these things no longer exist; they are among us but go unnoticed; or the strangest of all, we do not need them anymore. I want to argue for the third option, that we do not rely on heroes or their stories. Who have we become, as a people, to deny the very crutches that history has been built upon?

My professor argues we are going through a paradigmatic change, whether we like it or not. That means a change where theories, laws, science, and thoughts are transformed. The very way we think, communicate, rationalize, and reason has changed and we are just starting to understand it.


It is a rejection of Truth, ideals, language, logic, the very world we live in. One author even explains it as   a "move off into the darkness." Take language for example: look up any word in the dictionary. What defines it? Other words. What defines those? Other words. Look at race: can we truly define race as what is available to "check" in a box? Postmodernism pushes boundaries and limits to free us from the constricted world we have created for ourselves.

My professor also said that over the years he has taught postmodernism, people have become less and less surprised by its magnitude. When postmodernism first came to the scene, professional adults would engage in screaming matches and fist fights over what is "true!" and what is "real!" Now, our generation seems to gladly accept a new philosophical framework. But why? What makes us so different and willing to accept change? If we look back on the last twenty years and identify what has set us apart, our generation has literally grown up in the technological boom. We saw the dot-com business era, video games take over middle America, the internet spread to computers, phones, and televisions. We have Hollywood and the BBC at the mercy of our fingertips and control the media that we see. So are we truly controlling our world, or are we experiencing an information overload?

Question the words you use, the sayings you believe, and the stereotypes you inherently use. Try to identify the boundaries you have placed on the way you reason, the way you talk, the way you see our world. After that, ask yourself: are you ready to "move off into the darkness?"

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