Art by Christine Nelson
In 2015, everything is described as subjective, from the news (which is supposed to be objective) to our sense of fashion. We are taught and imbued with the need to express ourselves. We are a subjective people in a world that no longer believes in objective truth nor objective facts. Graduate students at the University of Alabama said in a guide to postmodernism (also known as po-mo) that one tenet of postmodernism is “a questioning of reality and representation.”
Through high school and college, teachers drilled me to “think critically” of anything and everything, to ask why and to explore truth through my own experience. This teaching style is a reflection of postmodernist thought, in which the information taught is objective, but one is expected to subjectively break it down. My subjective experience has been exposed to postmodernism and has been altered by its view on the world. Under its dome, meaning is questioned and lost, and people don’t make a difference because they cannot represent or deliver truth. Subjectively, I don’t agree with this philosophy, and there may be an objective alternative.
Postmodernism, I believe, is being replaced by a new sense of defining meaning, one that challenges how people experience truth and share it in a postmodern society. But to discuss a subjective philosophical theory, one must understand that postmodernism is a reaction against the ideas of modernism.
Modernism, as Merriam-Webster’s definition states, was an intentional schism from the past in regard to art, literature and government in order to find “new” ways to express the self. Postmodernism, then, sought to reject modernism and its international influence in the wake of World War II.
It was the atrocities and wars of the 20th century that gave rise to po-mo, and since then, it has changed culture and how we think since then. Everything from movies to education was affected by po-mo, in which stories saw a break from linear storylines (flashbacks and time-travel), and “critical thinking” was born.
We are taught to question everything under po-mo beliefs and not to trust the things that claim to be ultimately true. It’s easy to see this idea manifest in films, in which the ending is insanely ambiguous or leaves us with unanswered questions. Films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Inception” question our understanding of an A-to-B narrative or a reality in which we can decide whether something is objectively true.
In essence, a po-mo reality is fractured by subjectivity, by the infinite amount of experiences and questions anyone can have. In postmodernist terms, we understand truth as simulacra of simulacra, or reflections of reflections. We cannot see the original truth because any expression of it is merely a fragmented reflection.
It’s true, we do create meaning subjectively and experience it solely in the personal view, but our experiences are ones we share and employ to connect with others. Meaning is created through the sharing of memories and experiences with individuals. The next step in this philosophy lies in realizing that we live in a world of connectivity where people can reach out to one another globally.
Individuals who believe this next step is upon us call it metamodernism, and as Seth Abramson says in his article, “Metamodernism: The basics” for The Huffington Post on Oct. 13, 2014: “Metamodernism seeks to collapse distances, especially the distance between things that seem to be opposites, to recreate a sense of wholeness.” Individuals who wish to breach the gaps between us, created by social media and individualism, are active enablers of metamodernism.
The Millennial generation, often called the “selfie generation,” is more prone to a subjective and individualistic lifestyle than any other, due to our exposure to the Internet and being students of postmodern thought. At Pepperdine, we find ourselves divided by our individualistic lifestyles: We compare our experiences to others and deem them lesser or greater based on the pictures we take, the commitments we have or the cars we drive.
In one sense, we are victims of a postmodern society, and we have been raised to be individualistic and subjective; but the things that divide us from one another are mostly imagination, so stop imagining what you know, and search for true meaning.
Follow Zach on Twitter: @ZPoWaH