Twilight of the Post-Modern Idols
But has the golden age of wokeness and these other post-modern ideologies already come and gone?
Man, the bravest animal and the one most inured to suffering, does not repudiate suffering in itself: he wills it, he even seeks it out, provided that he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering.
Throughout his writings, Frederick Nietzsche makes us think about our relationship with suffering. The real curse we humans face is not so much suffering in itself but the seeming senselessness of suffering.
“If we possess our why of life we can put up with almost any how.” Philosophy is the search for the elusive why, and the history of philosophy is really just a tale about where man has traveled in search to justify his existence. How have we come to “know thyself”?3 What terrifying voids have we ventured into? What dragons have we dared to face? What treasured idols have we discovered? From here, what ideas have these idols inspired? What systems of belief have risen in their shadows? How has our belief in these ideas provided meaning to people’s lives as individuals and also as members of larger political communities?
For the Nietzschean title of this article to make more sense, we will have to create some context and run through a brief genealogy of our own.
Starting with the pre-modern era, Western peoples found their meaning in Christianity. This religion elevated the spirits of the few and provided comfort to the many amidst their miserable material existence. Entire civilizations, cultural traditions, and political orders were built alongside the growth and development of the Christian faith.
For over a millennium, Christianity rooted people all over the West and provided a comprehensive view of the world, a why to suffering, and a compelling source of meaning. All of this was tipped over in the modern era by a series of revolutions in science and the advent of liberal political ideology. By the 1880s, Nietzsche had heralded the death of God4, and modern man believed himself ready to progress into a new age. Propelled by exponential advances in science, we would transcend traditional limitations and achieve new heights of freedom and material prosperity.
But with the death of God, man lost his great myths and life rapidly became disenchanted. Copernicus reduced man’s cosmic significance by taking him out from the center of the universe; Darwin shattered our divine significance by severing our lineage to God and replacing it with evolutionary ties to some random pan troglodyte; classical liberalism was melted by the eruption of radical egalitarianism and unbridled license which completely upended the cultural, economic, and political traditions of the West.
In total, modern man certainly became better equipped to understand the natural world and face the material challenges of human life, but nihilistic dread swept in like a vulture to feast on the carcass of his decomposing spirit. Modern man was now staring into the abyss realizing his why had vanished
The old valuations of the world were no longer sufficient, and man needed to find new sources of meaning somewhere. Post-modernism was the next logical step in his search to justify his existence. All post-modernism means is simply “post-modern” valuations of the world, and it is a mistake to think that the characteristics of the old religious valuations simply perished alongside the death of God. All this murder did was lead people to create their own ideals and manufacture new lines of moral reasoning.
Wokeism, socialism, neo-liberalism, and other ideologies are examples of how man went about establishing moral authority in the post-modern world. In particular, the woke narrative offers people an opportunity to find meaning in their racial, sexual, and class identities. A new order of priests have written new commandments, raised new idols, and assumed power in Western societies to administer and proselytize their secular religion. Many are passionately hard at work transforming what remains of Western civilization, its cultural traditions, and political institutions to align with this new faith.
If we look around, it certainly appears that the woke narrative has ascended into a golden age. These post-modern idols seem to be towering over our society casting their shadow over everything: media, corporations, pop culture, schools, politicians, the United Nations, and even institutions like the military and the intelligence community. If there is any doubt as to how prominent the woke narrative has become, we just have to look at the severity of the social ostracism inflicted upon those who blaspheme against it.
But has the golden age of wokeness and these other ideologies already come and gone? Is it possible that these narratives have slipped into the twilight years of their glory? Let us take a hammer to these post-modern idols and listen carefully to what we hear. Is there anything lasting, anything of substance inside these structures of belief? When we tap them with our hammer does a harmonious echo ring out? Or does the note fall flat? How firmly are these idols actually rooted in the minds of men? Do they wobble if we give them a push?
The West has been running off these ideas for decades, and the post-modern idols have established various spheres of order throughout our politics and culture. But people are starting to take heavy swings at these popular systems of belief. Great disturbances have already surfaced, doubt is in the air, and the shaky foundations of these empty idols have been exposed. If philosophers were able to kill God and topple the divine, what makes you think they will have any trouble taking out something like wokeism? It is not a matter of if the post-modern idols should be pushed over, but a question of when, by who, and what will be stood up in their place.
So what is the next chapter in man’s journey to find meaning? How will we continue to justify our existence once today’s idols come crashing down and a flood sweeps away the cultural, political, and moral orders that grew up alongside the post-modern faiths? Will we just hope we reach a renaissance through some accident or act of force? Or will we arrive through reflection and choice?
Ideas have consequences: will we have to endure the flood of marauding Vikings? Torrents of tyrannical Caesars? A hurricane of madmen like Stalin? Or will great statesmen help the American citizenry escape post-modernism and show them an enduring, beautiful, and heroic why?