Or You Just Might Get ItIf this quote from the nytimes on the Bush administration is true it’s one of the most frightening things I’ve ever heard:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Whether this quote is accurate or not, I think the logic within it requires a good hard look. I’ve maintained for some time that a brand of unsophisticated postmodernism is ultimately not what its practitioners suppose it to be. It isn’t just a “safe” leftist defense of “non western” people through an epistemological relativism. It doesn’t just liberate the oppressed. It isn't just an excercise in exposing hegemonic pretension.
I say this thinking as well that a number of so-called “postmodernist” or “poststructuralist” scholars have produced valuable and thoughtful works that ask important and troubling questions. I come to this conclusion with a great deal of respect for what I’m criticizing. But I worry that eager readers don’t realize that they are playing with fire. It’s fun to tear down all the walls and strictures of reason, to watch the whole edifice of enlightenment scholarship burn to the ground.
Skepticism taken to extremes is just as easily a defense of anything and everything, a frightening vindication of reflexive action over thoughtful reflection.
Be careful what you wish for…