Grandly is beginning a series of articles on postmodernism to help grandparents understand “what in the world is going on today?”
Most of our Grandly audience grew up in a traditional moral world. Our grandchildren haven’t and won’t. The predominant culture they grow up in today is postmodernism.
Most of us, who were born before 1955, were taught a traditional point of view: “this is the truth, believe it.” There existed a correct worldview with a clear moral system. Adults taught young people that the system was true and that it was right to live accordingly. Youth were formed to have a correct moral instinct.
By the 1980s the traditional worldview was replaced by a “relativist” one. It said, “Truth exists, but you need to find it for yourself – no one can tell you.” Truth was no longer absolute but relative. It was up to you to form your own worldview, to “find yourself” and to develop your own moral instinct – but under relativism you were still looking for a consistent worldview, because you knew it would be helpful to you. Truth existed but it didn’t necessarily apply to everyone in the same way.
Today’s youth grow up in a postmodern world. They are taught not just to be tolerant of other views but that there is no such thing as a correct point of view. The effect of this shift in thinking is powerful. The natural human instinct to search for truth, so visible in children, is quashed. Truth is erased and replaced by opinions. “Who can tell if any one of them is more right than any other?” This makes the individual teen to believe there is no truth.
Opinions are everywhere. Their parents say one thing, their favorite singer another, Hollywood a third and their volleyball coach something else. Who is to decide? Their own experience of life seems to validate a world of opinions devoid of truth. “What I felt was right last week doesn’t feel so right this week. Things have changed.”
Postmodernism is hard to define. Indeed, the very act of defining postmodernism violates a key postmodern premise that says: “no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist.” That premise –that it is true to say no truth exists– is a contradiction, and this is where postmodernism answers, “that apparent contradiction is unimportant.” This ability to live with contradiction is one of the most important characteristics to understand about postmodernism. It justifies not justifying anything.
Mike Shaughnessy is the Executive Director of Grandly and the Editor of the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter.
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