Subsequent Post-Modernism – Written December 10, 2003

Upon reading the assigned philosophies written by the foremost philosophers of this, the 20th, and 19th centuries, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to write about any of them. Each of their works has some good points and some bad points, but those points are made in such complex ways and are so few and far between (as far as text is concerned) that they all really come off as self-indulgent smart guys that either rip on each others’ ideas or expand upon them. Upon reading the most recent philosophers (Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida, and Baudrillard), I have come to my own conclusions about post-modern philosophy, and what one might call post post-modern philosophy, which I guess is what this is all about.

One of the best quotes I heard all term was from Foucault, “Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law replaces the rule of warfare; humanity installs each of its violence’s in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination.” At the same time, as my generation would say, “Duh, dude.” People fight (bicker amongst each other) until they beat one another into submission or agree upon terms that are mutually beneficial, and then that agreement becomes the law, and that’s how a nation is formed. Lyotard talks about how dissention breeds invention, and that’s not really anything too profound, either. The nice thing about this is that I don’t feel any real obligation to be profound, or at least any more profound than these fellows.

Derrida nears what I am going to be discussing, but still doesn’t cover what really matters. Baudrillard then takes the reality of information and twists it into a confusing (though, not confusing relative to Hegel) idea of “hyperreality.” My philosophy is that which is after post-modernism, one of information. We could call it informationalism, but that is Mannuel Castells’ term; and informationism is out, too, courtesy of Quentin Schultze, so I’ve just called it Subsequent Post-Modernism, a nice ambiguous term that doesn’t really mean anything. The philosophy is simple – all systems are based in power, all power is based in information. Subsequently, information is based on many things, which is how we get all these obscure philosophers writing about “insurrection of subjugated knowledges” instead of focusing on the heart of it all.

Information is difficult to define because it has many forms, so we won’t bother. Information is what it is; Bruce Lee said, “All knowledge is self-knowledge,” and I think his ideas apply just as well as a paranoid Lyotardian talking about how all knowledge belongs to a telecommunication system, only in the converse. What an individual knows is eventually all there is within that individual’s world – technically, all that an individual knows to be real is information within his/her brain that is constantly reinterpreted. Enough of that talk, though, we don’t need to get down to the nitty gritty, here (that’s what those guys did, and look how much fun their stuff is to read). Let’s keep it simple – information rules everything.

If one looks at the most basic individual conflict, a hand-to-hand mêlée between two individuals, it will be the individual with the most information both about him/her self as well as his/her opponent. And, as Baudrillard noticed, without good intelligence in a global economy, buildings start getting blown up. Slightly off-topic (and yet very on-topic), I have been playing a game recently called Rise of Nations, where one oversees the entire development of a society (Bantu, British, Chinese, etc.) as they contend against other societies. The trick to the game is, while growing as a society in size, one must grow technologically in order to support a larger nation; one must build universities with philosophers to gain knowledge which is then used to build new ideas/buildings (from a granary to a nuclear missile silo). At the same time, one builds troops to survey the landscape to keep watch on what other nations are doing, making sure that you know what they are doing and are keeping one step ahead of them in all forms. This is where things get tricky.

If one builds a society of only citizens, they will produce extreme amounts, but be wiped out because they have no military defense. If the society has a good military but not enough citizens to facilitate its maintenance, the military collapses followed by the society. The same thing happens in business – if a company concentrates on development instead of marketing, they will have a lot of product they can’t sell; if they concentrate on marketing instead of production, they will have a grotesque demand they can’t satisfy. If a company has a better sense of itself as a company than another company, then it will dominate, and such is capitalism. In socialism information is a resource, in that all people are given the same amount of information that is shared; in capitalism, information is a commodity that is bought and sold, this gets back to the idea of domination.

In the end, however, information is always used in domination of the masses, if not other cultures. Baudrillard does a good job of explaining how information is used within a society to tear itself down from within, but that is based in Lyotard’s ideas about telecommunications, which is just Lyotard looking at information and making a new classification of it. It doesn’t matter if it is CNN or The Bible – rhetoric is rhetoric and propaganda is propaganda and it has been was it is since the dawn of time, these guys just give it a different name because it’s based in electronics, now. My generation doesn’t discern that from our lives anymore; the electronic is just as real as reality because we know all reality breaks down to is electrical impulses as interpreted by one’s brain. This is where Lyotard and (to a lesser extend) Foucault go a little crazy with information by trying to further subdivide all the telecommunications to determine what is “real.” It’s kind of annoying and, as I’ve mentioned, self-indulgent.

Sadly, the masses don’t necessarily recognize all this. If they did, the system would not work. Many people accept the rhetoric they are fed, whether from Derrida or C-SPAN or this essay, and that’s sad. If communications have done anything in the grand scheme of humanity, it is to both lessen and increase thought, depending upon the communication and the communicators. It’s extraordinary how many people watch CNN all day, can’t tell you what happened that day other than the war, but saw the funniest new commercial. American culture more than any other is a consumer-based country based in fear; this differs from Islamic states that are religion-based countries based in fear. It is interesting to look at other consumer-based countries similar to the United States in consumption but without the fear; interestingly enough, Japanese information is more valuable than American, which is to say one can come across information easier in America than anywhere else. At the same time, Japanese media doesn’t inject scary news 24/7 and their advertisements are a joke; my best friend once said, “Look at Japan’s culture – they make the drugs, we buy the drugs. They can’t market, we can.” This is interesting because, in Europe, they are marketing geniuses, but they aren’t the cut-throat consumers we are in the States. It’s not about the competition, because all these countries are Capitalist; even a Socialist country like China is slowly readapting itself back out of another philosopher’s self-indulgent ideas about this consumption which is what led them away from Capitalism. Capitalism isn’t the problem any more than Communism – the power is derived from the information and the spread of that information.

I remember hearing a story of a group of Soviet physicists that were brought to America to demonstrate how clever the U.S.S.R. was for a bunch of Commies that took place in the late 1980s. The story goes that, while the scientists were kept under lock-and-key for almost the entire ordeal, one person who conversed with one of them told me he said something to the effect of, “In Russia, we have the KGB, we have men who control the media who will torture anyone who disagrees with their message. But their messages are the same as yours. How does your country do it?” We’re just sneaky like that; America isn’t Capitalist anymore, we’re consumerists, and there is a huge difference. Our citizens and our country in itself is becoming less of a symbol of freedom and more like a plague of oppression throughout the world; other systems that our system does not support (e.g. Islam) get left behind and then are forced into retaliation for their lack of place in the New World Order. Terrorism is society’s fault, because terrorism is a purely societal attack; dropping the twin towers wasn’t about the buildings dropping, it was hypersymbolic of a lot of things – Capitalism, consumerism, Westernism, etc. The WTC attack was a highly successful one, we just don’t like to say it was; we like to have CNN play footage of countries we’re blowing up in retaliation for our own getting hit, not about how our economy is plummeting because the citizenry (subtlety or not-so-subtlety) had no faith in the system.

Interestingly, it was our system of communication that relays information that helped 9/11 for the terrorists, literally tricking our media into covering exactly what they wanted covered. I have a feeling this would happen more often in our country if our media wasn’t so closely tied-in with our government; while the government would have had no way of stopping the television of the attacks, they probably would restrict the footage available for the public. Look how little we saw at Waco, then look how much media attention Elian Gonzalez received up until the government took over and none of us ever saw little Elian again. How many people don’t remember Elian Gonzalez, whether it is because they instead remember how much they were freaking out over the whole “New Millennia” thing and how the world was going to end (yet another bunch of crap perpetuated both by our government and our media).

Give them some props – the government is good at what they do – they manage to serve up a plate of bovine feces to the World, having its citizens believe it but the rest of the world tell it to go kill itself. Information is presented in a way that Americans want to believe it. Forget the truth of the story, what do we get out of it; let’s got down to brass tacks – how can I profit and consume said profit? An American’s favorite word is “upgrade,” which is funny because it is that idea that will eventually kill the system, look at these philosophers, all they do is upgrade to make progress. Sadly, they aren’t really making progress, and people are starting to see this, and we as a society will have a choice – to be ignorant or to become aware.

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