Monday, June 29, 2020
Yes It Is...No It's Not
If you want a simple illustration of modernism vs. postmodernism, look no further than this old Monty Python skit known forever as The Dead Parrot.
And so we find our world today. We are not just divided on the issues. We are divided on the fundamentals of the issues. If the two characters in the Monty Python skit could just agree on whether or not the parrot is dead, they might be able to move on toward some resolution or at least a more reasonable argument. The shopkeeper might simply tell the customer that he bought the parrot as is, where is and he’s yours, dead or alive. No refunds. But these two combatants can’t even get to a rational argument. And in the end, when the shopkeeper realizes that the customer is not inclined to accept his repeated and obviously false claim that the parrot is not really dead, he shifts gears and goes into a song about a being a cross-dressing lumberjack. Classic Monty Python. (You can find the rest of the skit on YouTube as well.)
For most of recorded human history, we have believed that Truth is knowable and it is reasonable to consider Truth as objective and binding upon us, at least until we have new information and conclude that it is no longer reasonable to consider some previously accepted idea as Truth. Thus we no longer believe that the earth is flat nor that it is the center of the universe. Viruses and bacteria cause illness not demons. There is no man in the moon.
When the Age of Englightenment came along, even those who believed in a Higher Power and things not seen, made room for Science and Reason. Both sides believed in the idea of objective Truth. They might disagree on the ultimate authority of Truth with regard to certain ideas, i.e. sin, the immortal soul, life after death, etc. But they could have honest debate and discussion about such matters. Science and Reason have even become part of modern day Christian apologetics. If you really want to think deeply and learn about such things check out John Lennox or William Craig Lane.
But now, we find ourselves so divided that we can no longer have a rational conversation about our differences. The postmodernists start from the premise that Objective Truth is unknowable and there is no ultimate authority. Neither a Higher Power nor Science and Human Reason have the authority to determine what is true for the individual. So we send our young people out into the world with no map, no compass…just hashtags…#UBU…#FindURtruth.
As a Boomer, I look back and cringe at the phrase: “If it feels good do it”. Like a lot of us back then, I did it and discovered that it was just one more version of the original lie: “Did God Really Say…?”. And now the lie has become “If it feels right, it’s true.” Same old lie, same old result.
This is how “the new old lie” works these days. First it has the loudest voice. It controls the narrative. The media, the academy, arts & culture…they embrace it and they proclaim it. They also enforce it and punish those who may see things differently. This gives them the power to describe and define THE PROBLEM. Systemic racism is a good example. They go on to diagnose the problem, the symptoms and the causes (inequality, the criminal justice system, white privilege...etc). They claim the right to determine how best to solve the problem (defund police departments, pay reparations, mandate equitable outcomes socially, politically and economically). And lastly, they demand immediate implementation of their solutions to the problem (protests, violent riots, take over neighborhoods, boycott or just burn down businesses, rewrite history, tear down monuments and deconstruct the meta-narratives which are foundational to the free and open society that allows them to do just that.)
Now to be clear, there is some truth in what is being said, quite a bit in some cases. Systemic racism is a problem. In fact, it may well be THE PROBLEM. The symptoms and causes certainly include issues such as inequality, our criminal justice system and white privilege. But it’s not only those things. Many of those who have studied this, including leading black scholars, point to our welfare system and predatory politicians whose efforts keep black communities down and out… and dependent. When we move on to solutions, the divergence of opinion widens. Reform law enforcement. Absolutely. Some say we need better training and better pay for law enforcement, not more after school programs and basketball courts in the inner-city. Perhaps we need both. Pay reparations? Maybe it would make more sense to establish “micro-lending” programs (not the SBA). Provide incentives (subsidies) for private investors to lend money to black entrepreneurs. Maybe offer more educational support for blacks seeking higher education in the STEM fields. And our criminal justice system does need change. Poor people, not just blacks, tend to fair badly in court. And maybe it is time to change our drug laws, mandatory sentencing guidelines and how we handle non-violent lawbreakers. But when it comes to demanding change, making the case by rioting, destroying communities and attempting to wipe out any and all symbols of “white” American excellence and achievement is definitely a misguided strategy that will only alienate those who might be inclined to support your cause. And it is definitely a strategy that will inflame those most opposed to any changes.
But in 2020 there is no debate, no discussion of alternatives, no point/counter-point. The only “facts” that matter are the ones that fit "the narrative", even if those facts are anecdotal at best. Anything else is quickly dismissed as racist or worse. If one is not among “the oppressed” or an ally of the oppressed they have no voice and no way of knowing what is really true. THE TRUTH can only be understood and expressed by those who are WOKE. Truth has become a one-way street with only one lane.
Throughout history when people divide over fundamental existential issues the ultimate result is bloodshed, most often on a massive scale. Millions died during the Protestant vs Catholic wars in Europe that went on for over 200 years. There is the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Civil War. Then the Fascism and Communism of the last century which took more lives than all previous wars and conflicts combined. We are at a historic crossroad. We have two choices. Listen to one another and work together to solve our problems or tear each other apart. When you hit your knees tonight, pray that we listen to one another and work this thing out.