Postmodernity: You Were Born In It And In It You'll Die
With the spoilt millennial rant out of the way, I can now put forward some opinions on why the search for a post-Postmodern vantage point is futile. Postmodernism, from my perspective (since that’s the only perspective that matters) is inescapable. Because of Postmodernism’s focus on the self and how it views all external factors through a window of self, it’s impossible to get away from. To illustrate this, consider yourself reading this. Yes, there are my opinions on the page, but the message that lies behind them and what they mean to you is entirely subjective and personal to you as a reader. Shockingly, this subjectivity is subjective, separate and different for everyone, since everyone has a different sense of self: what is sincere in it and what is ironic depends on and varies between each and every reader. The disparate senses of self that everyone possesses cannot mix or merge because to dismiss that is to dismiss the inherent concept of self. While you could argue that we’ve all been raised in pretty similar ideological climates so we’re already pretty similar, you’d be a bit of a tit to argue that since you’d be arguing against people being different in any capacity. The finality of the Postmodern outlook is this: it’s boiled down the human existence into nothing but the self and anything that we acknowledge after the self, we must also acknowledge that it is only through the self as we perceive it. Metamodernism is no different. It was Postmodern the minute it was thought of and, in the moment of Postmodern conception, it rendered itself futile by its own rules.
Now over and done with
If that didn’t leave you feeling quite as happy as you usually are, then I’ve got some good news about the Postmodern and all of its joyously inescapable futility. Postmodernism brings the self, but is fully aware that everyone else is a self too. This leads to total plurality; everyone has opinions, everyone finds different things sincere, everyone finds different things ironic. The lack of objective truth and nihilism could seem to be bleak initially, but would life really be any more meaningful if there was? If you want any more reading on nihilism there are plenty of philosophers who came long before Postmodernism who’ll tell you that it’s not that bleak and that it’s freeing, that meaning for anything comes from the self, a fact still propagated by Postmodernism and still missed or ignored by Vermeulen and Akker. But in this total plurality of selves, ideas and voices, we all as individuals have some sense of self – some internalised values – and even if there is no objective truth it does not matter since we still strive on. It’s difficult, but we do. If you want proof of this, look outside and acknowledge that not everyone you see has given up.
In one particular interview, ‘What is Metamodernism?’, Akker brings our attention to this point and claims that this feeling of ‘it’s shit but oh well’ is a Metamodern concept. He brings our attention to a work by Guido van der Werve; a clip of someone walking on ice in front of an ice-breaker. He claims that it’s Metamodern because in a Postmodern clip, the ship would break the ice, the man would fall through the ice and we’d all laugh ha ha. Instead, the man is walking in front of it. He doesn’t fall in. He might at some stage, but for the duration of the clip, it’s alright and the man continues despite being fully aware that soon it won’t be. That’s what makes it Metamodern.
If you, like me, are one of those insufferable bastards who get an unhealthy quantity of their literary knowledge from meme pages, you might have stumbled across the philosopher Albert Camus and his writings on what he calls the Absurd. Those of you who are and do should have noticed that Akker is just talking about the Absurd but isn’t acknowledging that his ideas were better expressed over half a century ago, only more eloquently and more effectively. For those of you who don’t know about Camus’ Absurd, you should read Camus’ The Outsider. If you don’t want to do that, then I’ll give you spoilers: the Absurd is effectively continuing and living life to the full despite the knowledge that it amounts to nothing since what else are you going to do? And Akker doesn’t seem to see any issue in using this pre-Postmodern philosophy and applying it to a post-Postmodern philosophy. There’s no acknowledgement that it’s been done before, and most upsettingly, no acknowledgement of how ironic it is that he claims to be striving sincerely onwards for sincere meaning despite having plagiarised his way into a career.
So now that we’re back at Postmodernism, what are we left with? Well obviously its resignation to the Postmodern conceptions of self, acceptance of nihilist philosophies, awareness and acceptance of the plurality of human existence with all of its ironies, idiosyncrasies, sincerities and varieties. It’s for this final reason that I cannot hold too much anger at the greedy hypocrisy of Vermeulen and Akker, why I don’t think that their ill thought-out, unresearched, poorly read and uninformed philosophies can be taken too seriously. Theirs is simply one voice in the multitude; a solitary buzz in the white noise of modern living. There is no point in retention of total rage at their failures since they’ll be drowned out soon enough by whoever next comes up with the next Postmodern retort to the Postmodern. They claim Metamodernism is a viewpoint and in this I am for once in full agreement with them. It is for this reason I can happily say from my cheerily Postmodern viewpoint that I can accept that this is what Vermeulen and Akker may sincerely believe and there may not be anything I can do to change this because it is their viewpoint and they have an unquestionable right to believe whatever they want to. But for myself, I hope to God that they’re being ironic because there’s no way I can see Metamodernism being sincerely or profoundly intended.
Vermeulen and Akker have failed utterly in their search for an answer to Postmodern irony. It’s with this I wish to leave you (assuming you got this far in the first place): the Metamodernist movement is so ironic that, as I have said, kills it at conception. There’s futility underlying it and futility surrounding it. It can never be more than any sum of its parts seeing as it draws so heavily upon them and in them it defeats itself. It’s not a vicious external force that drives it down, but the all-consuming finality of post-modernism and the unexpected plurality of straight-up modernism. Without these foundations, Metamodernism is left without definition: amorphous, twisted, deformed. In this broken state, it regresses into the irony it wishes to counteract, becoming a pale bastard reflection of the sincerity it so fervently wishes to tell us we need. But you, as a reader, should find their articles yourself, decide for yourself, since before you do, it’s best if, unlike Vermeulen and Akker, you actually know what you’re talking about.
I'm a survivor of the Groningen English Language and Culture programme who's currently enjoying the fruits of an Arts degree. My writing interweaves through my past like memory. That is to say, unreliably, irregularly and it’s shaky if it does appear. In my free time I like to get angry at the television, complain about David Foster Wallace and eat.