The devastating pictures out of Japan have given us all pause this week. Waiting for the worst of news from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima has spread fear around the globe. Angst is everywhere.
Japan will rebuild.
The bigger question is will we?
Here in American we are suffering from the postmodern blues. Some pass it off as the “new normal.” Others, however, claim that a postmodern ethos has been injected into our blood stream. Ideas have consequences.
What is postmodernism? And where did it come from?
Toynbee blamed World War I.
German philosopher Martin Heidegger can accurately be called one of its founding fathers. Heidegger is best remembered for a classic retooling of reality in his book “Being and Time” (1927). In it Heidegger discussed what he called “destruktion.”
In his affront to basic ontology, Heidegger essentially removed all objectivity. Western metaphysical understandings were no longer defensible. Certainty was replaced by doubt. Principles became merely suggestions. Greatness in this system becomes an arbitrary construct. The “city upon the hill” is just another city.
Human response, at best, is relegated to patient resignation. We are “Waiting for Godot.”
Some might conclude that the Obama Administration resembles Heidegger’s sense of Deconstruktion. Many have found his vacillation on the issues confusing. Others have found is relative quiet alarming. Countless voters are still waiting to see the audacity and hope that was promised back in 2008.
Might Obama be our first postmodern president?
Has America lost its sense of unique greatness? Can we no longer stand up for truth and justice? Has the American presidency been relegated to just another bureaucratic office?
As Heidegger might expect, we will have to wait and see.