The Postmodern Condition: I. A World of Paradox, Contradiction and Change
We are increasingly successful in saying a few things that are universal for all people. Walter Anderson suggests a list of “ordinary ideas” that are held by most people in the world. The commonality arises in part from shared experiences, which in turn are the product of the electronically-mediated global community of which Marshall McLuhan spoke prophetically many years ago. We can create world-encompassing computer-based models that predict the flow of resources, the growth of population and the decay of our ecology with frightening accuracy. Similarly we can now trace worldwide trends in fashion, movies and other expressions of popular culture. This point is vividly confirmed seeing a young man in China or a young woman in Iraq, wearing a I-Shirt with a picture of an American sports hero or comic character, trying to either defy or defend a culture that is radically different from our own. We now have global life styles and intersect cultures that readily cross and borrow from many different societies and social values. The bohemian, international society of Paris during the 1920s is now replicated in many urban settings, ranging from Hong Kong and Singapore to London and even Moscow.
At a much deeper level, there is even the possibility (or is it only a hope?) that countries with differing levels of economic development are drawing closer. On the one hand, there is a growing awareness in at least some Western countries that non-European, non Western cultures must be met by means other than conquest or domination. In the non-Western world on the other hand, there is growing recognition that issues of ecology and the environment are not just capitalistic or imperialistic artifacts, nor primarily a matter of politics. There is a deepening sense that the ecological perspective itself offers a penetrating critique of the modem way of life which the developing world both wants and does not want to embrace.
Localization is also ‘Alive and Well’!
The picture gets more complex—and fragmented. New ways to divide the world are springing up. Robert Barnett is developing a cult following both among “the flags” (generals) and C-SPAN viewers, the crowd who gets its news “straight” and doesn’t like what they perceive as the spin of other channels. Barnett sees the world breaking into “core” and “gap” countries, the first being largely democratic and not warring with each other, and the second representing countries with lower levels of education, GDP, women’s rights and overall political participation. Are these two groups inevitably fated to collide in a “war of civilizations,” as Barnett asserts and Samuel Huntington prophesied before 9/11?