Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What a difference one little substitute word can make...

My partner Rebecca said some very nice things about this, my new blog.

But I am afraid I misled her a little in describing my take on Postmodernity.

I meant to say that Modernity was a particular and peculiar form of  'Aesthetics masquerading as Science' ---- and functioning as an entire worldview and ideology.

And that Postmodernity was more than 'just' the aesthetics of contemporary painting, pop music and architecture - it was another particular form of Aesthetics and also functioning as an entire worldview and ideology.

I think I have now found a succinct way to describe the difference between Modernity and Postmodernity and it is in the new subtitle of this blog .

Taking the widest view of the term Postmodernity : converting it - but only very slightly -  from my emphasis on ethics and morality to one of aesthetics - it can be phrased as a difference in  the sort of people we find aesthetically attractive.

Today we are far more willing to see attractiveness in many more body shapes,  skin colors and lifestyles - or at least to let other people see beauty in people we don't find  that particularly attractive.

It is typical of this Postmodernity era to learn of a recent poll saying that most of us find a person of mixed color ( the tawny or coffee colored flesh tone so common in places like Brazil) as the most attractive physical type.

(Just as it is a hangover from our grandparents' Modernity era to learn that most high fashion models continue to be the icy blue-eyed blonds of  1930s Aryan wet dreams.)

My take is that between 1939 and 1945 (and in the immediate postwar period), many - but by no means all - of the middle class educated people in the most modern countries in the world changed their minds.

They decided, albeit in a subdued and inchoate fashion, that  all  life was in some sense
worthy of life and dignity and worth.

When they repudiated Eugenics (and again not everybody did) they repudiated the core tenets of Modernity --- just as Professors Adorno and Horkheimer had insisted they had to do in 1944, in their famous little mimeo-book ( Dialetic of the Enlightenment), circulating throughout the campus of Columbia University in New York City.

Currently, there is no record of what Professor Martin Henry Dawson, also at the same university at the same time, thought about Adorno and Horkheimer's claim - or in fact about virtually anything - we have no personal papers.

But in his public 'biography of deeds', he certainly acted in a postmodern fashion - giving up his life to save the life of someone (Charlie Aronson) who many American doctors considered a prime example of the fact that only 'some life is worthy of life'.

In one of those improbable coincidences that make up reality,Dr Foster Kennedy advocated that only some lives are worthy of life and that all others should be killed (at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association) on the same day as Dawson first announced (at the annual meeting of the American Clinical Society) that he was trying to save the lives of the unfit, with some penicillin he had brewed up himself.

In a sense, to Kennedy's statement, Dawson merely substituted the little word "all" for "some" and then forcibly acted upon that statement, against the greatest of obstacles.

Mo only truly goes Po when somebody actually does something concrete.

 And it was Martin Henry Dawson putting PoMo thought into PoMo action that made all the difference - for Charlie and then ultimately, for all of us .....


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