The Dysphoria of Modern Life Is Its Obvious Weakness

The anxiety and depression common in Western countries with abundant time for self-appraisal, feeds on itself. Europe and the far-flung outposts of the British Empire, including America, have embraced “postmodernism,” thus replacing 2,000 years of rigorously considered philosophy and layered moral values with 100 years of dissipation and debauchery, and with that infection have made themselves most susceptible to socialism. 

Poetry and its revelation of our world has been replaced by word games. The novel, an almost magical device for opening the mind of one human being to the lives of others, has been replaced by a tepid literature of self-doubt, complaint and blame. Theater has become an endless display of our shortcomings. The manifest fine arts, representing 4,000 years of critical self-awareness and an expression of the human spirit beyond mere words, has been reduced to the mimicry of a political formula.     

To ask why, or how, this could happen is to ignore the obvious. The old virus of socialism offered no enlightenment to the rest of the world because it was already omnipresent in their lives. But using the vehicle of postmodernism, the West was easy pickings at a time when it was triumphant, having quit on itself prematurely to enjoy the spoils. The often-cited example of the Roman Empire is not misplaced. But dissolution such as this had also happened to the Persian, Byzantine, Han, Tang, Kushan, Mongol, and lest we forget, the Egyptian empire of Ozymandias. The difference now is only that this is us. And we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We are responsible. Any hope of salvation must come from our own sinews, our own will, to be reclaimed with our own purpose. 

The lie of postmodernism is in its very name—it is neither “post” nor “modern.” It is parasitic. Its unabashed success is primarily due to the wealth of its host. Western culture was fat. With a loss of faith amplified by war in the 20th century, science and politics had replaced religion and philosophy. Science, understood only as a methodology, had little resistance to any who used it. Politics, on the other hand, was its own reward. If conducted on its own terms, the practical result of promising anything to achieve a goal while safely beyond any restrictive philosophical framework, would win every time it was tried. 

Religion—primarily Christianity, also decadent with wealth—failed most miserably to minister to this sickness, even to blaming the victim, or at least not holding the perpetrator responsible for his actions, in a sort of self-destructive flagellation of guilt, while spreading that secular doctrine rather than its own, and offering no alternative to the powerless. Moreover, as this rising cohort of the “underclass” found itself suddenly free of unrelenting labor by the natural mechanisms of Western society and the so-called “capitalism” thus labeled by its enemies, it was able to organize and become a viable political entity in its own right. 

The irony of postmodernism, a critical metaphysics which dwells on irony for sustenance, is that there is no there there. Woven from an imitation fabric of language and pose, it was a perfect vehicle for a political philosophy that disparaged its victims as a means of bullying them. It has nothing to replace what it disparages or belittles, and cannot recreate an original of anything because it lacks the DNA—as if a photograph of a mother were to be used to replace your mother. The photographs were easy to reproduce. Mothers were not. Especially so in an age that had reduced motherhood itself to a political act. 

Any resistance, much less a rebellion against such an ancient and pervasive evil as socialism, will not succeed by means of words alone. Yet without the words, resistance is truly futile. There is a treasury of great works from which we can still draw inspiration. Our enemies know this and that is why their most vigorous efforts today are directed toward language, grammar, and the books themselves. Any successful resistance must begin there. The schools and the libraries are already in their hands. But something can be done. The future is in yours. 

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About Vincent McCaffrey

Vincent McCaffrey is a novelist and bookseller. Visit his website at www.vincentmccaffrey.com.

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