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welcome to the neutral ground podcast
i'm your host joe meyer
well we've finally arrived at our
current historical movement
we are in
neo-modernism
but what does that actually mean
where did it come from where is it going
we're going to answer these questions
and more
well
maybe not more
maybe we'll just answer those questions
that's probably enough
yeah
all right let's jump into this
okay so in our previous two episodes of
the podcast we took a long look at
postmodernism
and i tried to frame post-modernism in a
fairly balanced way
however historical movements seem to
always leave
somewhat of a bad taste in the mouth of
the people
if you think about it it's
pretty much common sense if people were
not tired of the movement
we would probably still be in it
but as i said in the previous episode
post-modernism needed to die
it needed to go away so that we can work
on restructuring how we approach
sacred space
now really quickly here
let's just do a kind of a recap so that
we can connect the dots a bit better
post-modernism essentially breaks down
to being a movement of skepticism
we were skeptical of institutions of
infrastructures of religion and then it
really expanded to being skeptical of
like language and even of meaning itself
and then i would argue it became
skeptical
of itself
and we became skeptical of
ourselves
the potential good of postmodernism is
that it can break down dominant cultural
narratives in order to make space for
individuals to
fully participate in society
the civil rights movements in the 50s
and 60s were most definitely aided by
post-modernist thoughts
and that's not insignificant
the negatives of post-modernism however
is that the skepticism of it has
spiraled i would say both the collective
and the individual
into a kind of fractured state of mind
not all that dissimilar to what we saw
in modernism and what nietzsche
predicted would envelop europe for about
a hundred years a kind of nihilism
and we'll be addressing nietzsche and
nihilism in a later episode so if you're
interested stay tuned for that
you can't live in skepticism it
destabilizes the psyche to a point that
it becomes difficult to differentiate
between reality and illusion
now when you feel you can't trust
institutions groups language and even
the person next to you when that rubber
band of historical movements snaps
what are you left with
you're left with
yourself
more than that you're left
in a kind of primordial state of chaos
needing to build yourself back into
creation
if that doesn't make sense
i think it will by the end
so when does neo-modernism actually
begin
okay this is kind of a tough question
and here's why it's difficult
when you do a surface level dive into
historical movements you're always
tempted to tie the beginning and ending
of major movements with extreme events
of violence
for example world war one and modernism
and you know world war ii and the
beginning of post-modernism
but when you go a bit deeper you begin
to see that
there already were smaller events
happening
that oftentimes led up to the larger
event
now does that mean that the smaller
events are the origins
or do we use the larger events because
they create a much clearer
picture and that's the problem
so let me give you my organic thoughts
on this and when i say organic thoughts
i mean i'm still kind of thinking them
through
as i'm saying them to you
so bear with me if at times i have to
kind of talk myself maybe in and out a
little bit of a corner
now i want to be very clear i did not in
any way coin the phrase neo-modernism
nor am i the first person to establish
that we are even likely in neo-modernism
there are early neo-modern critics who
were interacting with the failings of
postmodernism
one of the first critics to really take
postmodern theories to task is jurgen
habermas
and one of the main problems that
habermas has
with the early postmodern theorists
is
that well
kind of like what we talked about in
part one
of the episode on postmodernism it has
to do with
clarity of thought
and to a degree empiricism
now again i'm gonna draw from stanford's
wonderful encyclopedia of philosophy
here because look they're just
they they just put it a lot more
succinctly than i can i i will talk
myself around in circles
just to get to the point that i can
order a salad at a restaurant
so let me let me go ahead and quote them
here
and say
according to the stanford encyclopedia
of philosophy quote habermas argues that
post-modernism contradicts itself
through self-reference
and notes that postmodernists presuppose
concepts they otherwise seek to
undermine eg freedom subjectivity or
creativity
in a nutshell habermas thinks that
there's a lot of nonsense in the theory
mainly because it talks its way in
circles to a degree and by controlling
the communication within that circle by
creating very the very objects
in the discussion itself
it can never really be
challenged because you have to challenge
the very concepts that they created
does that make sense
so we have our first shots here fired at
the bow of postmodernism
habermas wants to bring enlightenment
reasoning and science back into the
picture he wants concrete forms of
discussion so that the conversation
points can be better understood
challenged and then either supported or
torn down
but for habermas you
you can't actually socially evolve
when you're in a state of circular
self-referential communication
and habermas does make a strong case
against postmodernism in his work the
philosophical discourse of modernity
published in 1985 and translated into
english in 1987.
you also have early critics like agnes
heller and victor grauer back in the
1980s who also turned the skeptical eye
of postmodernism think picture i always
picture sauron's eye here
they kind of turn the skeptical eye of
post-modernism on itself
and find much of it wanting
so there are individuals going back to
the 1980s actually who are i think
uniquely feeling the tension
building in the rubber band
and seeing the inevitability of the
violent snap
that's going to happen
but again i don't think you would say
that neo-modernism as a historical
movement begins in the 1980s
rather these individuals become almost
like prophets of the movement for
telling the coming of something new
i think the masses ultimately drive when
a movement occurs
and there's nothing that moves the
masses quite like media
and i believe one type of cultural
subset of media
has spurred on the drive to
neo-modernism more than anything
else
have i mentioned i love studying the
heroic narrative
epics comics how the heroic tradition
has evolved to fit the needs of the
people in specific times
it's my belief that nothing has
contributed to our move toward
neo-modernism more
than the resurgence
of the superhero
this is not to say that people didn't
love comics and superheroes and
post-modernisms absolutely not people
loved them i'm one of them you know i'm
a postmodern child and i loved my comics
however i'm going to make a case
that the superhero in neo-modernism has
transitioned
quite a bit since post-modernism
the post-modern superhero
was oftentimes complex
blurring the lines of good and evil
and we yearned for that kind of
complexity then because remember that
whole like skepticism thing in
post-modernism
i mean if you're within a movement that
is skeptical of even being able to
define what good and evil are as
concepts
it's going to be difficult then to have
heroes who aren't also in a kind of land
of confusion here
now postmodern heroes will always have a
place in the superhero genre because
we mere mortals are complex creatures
who are often in places where good and
evil can seem blurred right
but i have a question for you
think about the marvel cinematic
universe
for a second
phase
one through three
for those of you who might not be
familiar with the whole phase lingo
thing that's roughly iron man 1 from
2008
through avengers end game
2019
think about how popular the mcu became
from 2008 all the way through
2019
and here's my question
how much complexity
or moral ambiguity is really
built into those first three phases
of the mcu
i'll pause for a minute
really think about it
this is where you remember that i'm a
teacher and i'm highly comfortable with
uncomfortable pauses
but i'll stop now
now let's talk about
why this
marvel cinematic universe really won
people over
the gravity that held together the
universe
were really iron man and captain america
and why
they created or established the
boundaries from which the other
characters could
kind of play right they established the
sandbox from which everyone else could
be a bit more complex if they wanted to
be
it's why captain america civil war
actually had genuine tension
not because it was tony stark versus
steve rogers right like it was some kind
of
oh geez what's the name of those two
the two young guys from twilight
eric and
andre the wolf i forgot their names oh
boy
anyway it's not one of those situations
where it's like you know this it's just
this heartthrob versus this heartthrob
there was genuine tension
in that match-up between iron man and
captain america because they both
genuinely believe
in right versus wrong
that you needed to have strict
definitions of good and evil
okay let me let me pull back a moment
here because i think
now that i'm saying this out loud i
think we're going to need a separate
podcast episode
just on
the amazing dilemma
of captain america civil war
so yeah you can put that down in the
books i think we're gonna have to have a
podcast about that about that movie
now my point though
is that whether the people at marvel
knew it or not
they bucked the post-modern trend of
heroic complexity by giving us two
very straightforward heroes
who had moral codes and who could voice
with specificity
what was right
what was wrong
what was good and what was evil
the reason the masses of people who
couldn't give a crap about comics or
superheroes watched every movie
and cried at the end of end game when
captain america lifts thor's hammer
mionir
is because we as a people
already established
that steve rogers was worthy
and seeing myrnier in his hand
just reinforced
that there was good in the mcu
and that we could identify
good again
it became tangible
and when tony dies at the end of endgame
we experience the loss of good
you know something that
that just doesn't get talked about
enough with iron man's death is that he
is really clear that the only reason why
he's even doing this
is because he loves his family right
that's the one thing he cannot
he he never wants to sacrifice
his family
but in so many ways he loves
the rest of the world now because of his
family right you've ever heard people
who have kids
sometimes they'll tell you having kids
taught me to be less selfish
and i think that's the case here with
tony stark i think having that family
is what taught him that he needed
to go help the rest of the world
and we watch him walk through that
journey like a quest narrative
and we walk that journey with
him
and deep down we wanted to also walk
that journey now i'm not saying we
wanted to die
but what i'm saying is
we
wanted to walk
that journey of
valuing good
so much
that we would be willing
to sacrifice everything
for it
what the mcu in phases one through three
did is they gave us a platform for
believing
in a collective narrative of good versus
evil
something we desperately needed and
yearned for
as a collective people
now you're probably thinking um
joe
you still haven't told us when you think
this whole neo-modernism thing began
yes you're completely right i have not
done that
however there was a point to my
seemingly meandering monologue
superhero movies
really started to come into their own in
the 90s think of the x-men films with
hugh jackman right late 90s early 2000s
then you had the spider-man films of
tobey maguire
specifically spider-man 2 from 2004
holy crap
that's like
wait let me use my fingers
that's like 17 years ago
wow
anyway the 2004 spider-man 2 had a
really profound impact on the public
doctor octopus was a complex character
in the postmodern sense
but rather than be a complex hero
spider-man rejects the complexity of
managing a relationship with mary jane
in that movie and he embraces his
calling
to fight for good
and we do love him for that we love him
for that sacrifice
his sacrifice again is the presence of
belief in good
manifested into action
then you have the beginnings of the mcu
in 2008 with iron man
now my argument
if you can't already tell
is that it is the superhero movie genre
that ultimately ushers the masses
into neo-modernism into the that
public consciousness
of neo-modernism
and there is so much that we currently
crave as a people that has already
manifested perfectly
in the superhero narrative
the belief in good versus evil
the origin story as a means of
recreating the self into something
better
the importance of narrative as a means
of communicating the human experience
the internal struggle with the self
the sacredness of space right the hero
guards places even more than people
because in choosing to guard a place
metropolis like manhattan gotham
you willingly take all that resides in
the place on your shoulders again think
about tony stark's point in civil war
he's upset because people within the
space of sokovia die
he feels responsible for those people
because he was responsible for that
space
and the ability to transcend flesh and
bone
to become aligned
with a symbol
in some way
now it's also my opinion that the the
main reason why dc
you know the
other company
opposite of marvel the main reason why
dc's movies their live-action movies at
least their cartoon ones are phenomenal
oh
they're amazing the cartoon ones but the
the live action movies the reason why i
think they haven't done so well
and why they can't seem to ever really
get a good foothold on their own
cinematic universe is because the public
not the die-hard comic people again the
regular joes of the world
are not interested in the emotionally
complex stories that they are putting
out there
look superman is the ultimate
non-postmodern hero
he's the boy scout
he's the perfect hero from which to
launch your universe right now
and when man of steel came out in
was it 2013 i think
it was far too dark and complex for the
regular masses to enjoy
therefore no boundaries for good and
evil were ever truly established in that
dc universe
you could have done it too with superman
and batman remember batman vs superman
right that movie
was roundly criticized as being boring
by the masses
but it wasn't really that it was boring
it wasn't
i would argue that it wasn't engaging
and that's not the same thing
both characters were muddied by blurred
lines of good and evil and because of
the blurriness of those lines you not
only were confused about whom you wanted
to win
but even worse
you didn't care
and yes i'm aware of frank miller's 1986
the dark knight returns i get that
origin storyline right that they were
kind of going for here but
you have to base your criticisms of the
2016
snyder movie
on how the cinematic universe was
established
and it's not as if dc couldn't do this
the beauty of the christopher nolan
batman trilogy is that as complex that
it got at times and you know in that
kind of nolan sort of way it always
reduced back to the simplicity of good
versus evil there was no way
equivocation about who you were rooting
for in the battles between you know
batman and the villains whether it was
raza gould the joker or bane
miranda tate
and that's why those movies did
well
so i think we're starting to get a sense
here through the superhero resurgence of
what we're looking for in neo-modernism
and right now in my head i've got it
down to three very specific ideas
one
we need reassurance in narrative
two
we need transcendence of the corporeal
the body
and three
we need sacred space
and that takes me to my second point
here that i want to talk about in terms
of neo-modernism and that is a kind of
resurgence
of religious thought
or religious transcendence
in neo-modernism
now i'm going to be up front here i'm
roman catholic i've had my own struggles
with belief and i'll have more
however as someone who does believe in
god
i find it incredibly fascinating
that even atheists right even people
like douglas murray
are starting to see
and even talk about
the values
at the very least that religion
provides for individuals in terms of
giving them
a kind of space
for
getting out of
the treasury the drudgery of humanity or
the
getting out of the
banality if you will of existence
in short though
religion can
provide all the items i just mentioned
above as well right reassurance and
narrative transcendence of the corporeal
and sacred space
but what i see though
or i should say what i don't see
is i don't see
the resurgence necessarily of religion
popular um
religion
how do i say this the right way what i
don't see is
the resurgence in religion proper
necessarily in other words like i don't
think people are gonna go out
and and start all of a sudden saying i'm
gonna be
a catholic episcopalian
uh muslim
jewish
you know hindu they're not gonna i think
run to religion proper right now there
could be in the next historical movement
we might
see that actually it makes sense and
maybe sometime in this podcast we can
even not this episode but another
episode we can even kind of
talk through where we think the next
historical movement might go and i do
have some ideas about that already
honestly
i don't necessarily think
that we're going to see a run to
religion proper at least not right away
maybe in the back end of neo-modernism
you're going to see that because again i
do think people are going to
be craving those three things that i
mentioned the narrative transcending the
corporeal and the sacred space people
are going to continue
to yearn for that in neo-modernism
and
i'm not sure
that you can find it
necessarily anywhere else
but in a kind of religious
context
i'm completely willing to be wrong on
that but i don't
think i am
now are these
ideas
good or bad
well again i've said this before and
i'll say it again movements are not
really good or bad and it doesn't really
help to look at them that way
you take the good
you take the bad
you take them both and there you have
the facts of life
the facts of life
so let's think for a moment here and try
to parse out some of the potential good
and some of the bad
here by taking all of this
over to the neutral ground
okay so let's look at the first one
reassurance of narrative what's good
here well narrative reassurance allows
us entry into the realm of belief
and belief is a stabilizing force for
the human race now i'm not even
necessarily talking about religion here
i just mean belief in things like human
life is important
that we should strive to be good human
beings etc
having beliefs challenges us to also
maintain
cognitive stability
what i mean is that if you live in a
constant state of skepticism and
distrust in all things your mind is
going to experience constant states
of dissonance
it's
definitely harder to establish clarity
of thought when you're in this dissonant
mindset
therefore when something does come to
mind and creates a kind of cognitive
dissonance belief is what gives you the
means by which you can test
your dissonance for whether or not it's
something that needs to be absorbed into
your system of beliefs in some way
or dismissed
what about the transcendence of the
corporeal
well human beings are always
being reminded of the limiting state of
our mortal form
the spirit is willing but the flesh is
weak am i right
why were the theologians like augustine
so fascinated by the battle between body
and spirit
because the ability to manage and at
times overcome
your primordial drives
is in some ways the very essence of
discipline
you don't have to believe that the body
is evil
however i don't think we can completely
deny that there are times when our body
drives us towards something that we
consciously know is going to be
detrimental to us in the long run
maybe even destructive
yet is there any one of us who does not
know intimately
what it feels like to lose a battle with
the body
i do
therefore how do you ever overcome those
drives
it's not just through discipline
it's through transcendence
it's an arriving at a place where you
keep the body in check with the rest of
you
now there are times when you need to
listen to what your body is telling you
but when the body is always talking
and dictating to you
you can end up in a kind of
boy who cried wolf situation
where you can't distinguish when the
body is telling you something important
or when it's just crying for some
pizza oh yeah
pizza sounds great right now
let's take a look at the the
possible good here
in terms of sacred space
it's my belief that much of the strife
we see now
in the larger public conversation has to
do with the fact that people are trying
to build their own
individual narratives of sacred space
and when something is sacred you are
called to defend it
having a sacred space allows us access
to
a place
whether it's in our minds or a temple
mosque synagogue or even a garden
it gives us a place
from which we can experience the
metaphysical world something that has
been a part of just about every
civilization known to man
but why do we need
this because there's something within us
a feeling a calling
that believes that there is something
bigger
than we are
for some it's a god
for some it's science
let's not forget that scientists often
experience a kind of metaphysical
calling
through their curiosity to uncover
something greater than what we already
know
that is a kind of metaphysical
transcendence
a sacred space from which they can
theorize why we're here and how we got
here
the sacred space is necessary for us to
parse out big questions of existence and
to try and clarify our own state of
being
and our relationship to cosmology
we can't do that successfully
if everything is open for mockery and
derision
like it was in post-modernism
and what are the potential problems that
we're going to see
and or that we are already seeing in
these
well reassurance of narrative can lead
people toward factioning
towards separating people into those who
believe
and those who don't
thus creating more sites from which we
can fracture ourselves as a people
narratives can also lead to violent
actions
how do tyrannical states lead entire
countries into war and hatred
largely through narrativization
the potential negative of transcending
the corporeal is that we forget the
importance of the here and now
while you're transcending into the
clouds you have your family friends
responsibilities here on earth
that still need your attention your love
transcendence
is movement
and you can move yourself right out of
humanity if you aren't careful
finally
as i kind of already mentioned i think
we're starting to see
some of the potential negatives of
developing sacred spaces
you can build up a sacred space that is
so ideally suited to you
that no one else can enter it thus
leading you to feelings of
extreme isolation
and defensiveness
because if you feel that all you have is
your own sacred space if that's the only
part
of this universe that you feel you can
control
you will defend that space at all costs
and that can remove you
from the greater part of society
well
that was a lot of information
i think i'm gonna stop the episode there
i think that's probably
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