I received a message of support from a reader today which made me smile. Of course, every writer feels flattered when his efforts are appreciated by the audience. But there was another reason. This reader pointed out a crucial aspect of what I believe in. I was thanked because my discourse on “Modernity” goes against the grain, in other words, against the widespread praiseful discourse.
Let me make a few things clear: I am not anti-modern. I am only highly critical towards what is called “Modernity”.
I believe Max Weber was wrong when he tried to prove that modernity is associated with the so-called “disenchantment of the world” (the German word Entzauberung actually means “demystification” or “de-magicization”; “démagification” in French).
And I believe that Marcel Gauchet, in his benchmark analysis Le désenchantement du monde, just like most scholars who wrote on modernity and post-modernity, are wrong if they believe that post-modernity means the re-enchantment of the world.
IMHO, modernity was a movement of (re-)enchantment par excellence. The Moderns undertook to de-construct everything pertaining to what is called “traditional society”. They learned that Tradition was in the most part a fabric of myths, of human illusions which had governed the life and mind and soul of millions and millions of beings. But in the process, they got carried away by their discoveries. The Moderns were not disenchanted, they were disenchanted towards Tradition. They were not enchanted by magic or the supernatural, or God, but by Goddess Reason. Hence the modern excesses (which I name Modernism) such as scientism, positivism, ultra-rationalism, empiricism, Marxian materialism, etc., which in essence all converge in the belief that Goddess Rationality provides all the answers to human existence.
Soon enough, the Moderns established their own tradition–a modern (or modernist) tradition. Many of them developed arrogance towards Tradition, an arrogance that will rapidly become part of the modern(ist) tradition. The problem with modernity is that it was overconfident in what it had to offer; too cocky, too certain, too convinced. Under the spell of Goddess Rationality. Too enchanted.
Modernity passed away in the 1970s. Global crises are our only reality checks that our solidly anchored convictions and certitudes are pure dust. Like everything human, ideas have a birth, an evolution, and an end.
I am not sure whether I adhere to the paradigm of post-modernity or not. Mainly because I don’t know what it actually is. This said, I am post-modern for sure, in the strict sense of the word. I belong to a generation born with the disenchantment towards modernity. Modernity was a big bluff. It yielded revolutionary concepts, discoveries, and ideologies, which dramatically changed our perception of, and power over, life and death.
But it’s time to move on. Modernity has become obsolete, c’est has-been, quoi. Its “rational” constructions, which have progressively formed a neo-Tradition, need to be reconsidered. It is high time we initiated the radical de-construction of Modernity (radical: from the roots).
My personal conviction is that human rationality alone is utterly incapable of encompassing the immensity of the Cosmos.
A bit of intellectual jadedness would be of no harm, especially as the current global crisis is giving us an opportunity to re-think our civilization. So go ahead, be skeptical towards the acquired knowledge of our modernity. There are so many wonders, myths, and illusions to give in to, for the Creation is above all paradigms.