The last few days I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m drawn to the ideas of postmodernism and how healthcare is delivered in a postmodern society. I’ve read and thought about the Tools of Conviviality and how that postulation applied in a postmodern society would emerge. While the works of Ivan Illich certainly have spurred me to think further about the current state of healthcare I was nagged by a thought that my own personal definition of postmodernism predated the actual emergence of this school of thought. That is to say my framework of current thought was influenced by more than the works of Ivan and the postmodern theorist.
I googled postmodern to learn of its origins and to get a more crisp standardized definition of this school of thought. In my search I discovered in very postmodern linguistic fashion one of the early influencing roots of my current critique of healthcare.
That influence was Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer who wrote a scathing critique of modern culture. Their work authored in the late forties to be widely circulated in the sixties. It essentially likened modern culture to that of the Roman coliseum culture. Quite succinctly they reasoned that pop culture was the opiate of the masses meant to distract the populace from the oppressiveness of the state and the modern industrial hegemony.
I read their works as part of a term assignment given to me in college by a feminist professor to whom I had a great deal of respect. My respect was grounded in her ability to shine a critical light on modern mass media. However our perspectives were at the time from two very different places. I was ensconced in neo-conservative right wing nuttery and she was well on the left of sane in my book. I was young, naïve and blinded by a righteous faith that I had cultivated and nursed for nearly a decade. Thus it is little wonder in my naivety that I found affinity with the concept of the Culture Industry.
Reflecting back it is amazing to me that I could have applied something that itself was influenced by Marxist theory to my own personal right-wing Christian experience. It was effectively to me a work that pointed to a well known truth in Christian thinking. That the world was going to hell in a hand basket and modern media was to blame.
Flash forward a decade and I find myself once again peering through that looking glass with perhaps a very similar perspective as my feminist instructor. But now I no longer believe the world is going to hell in hand basket. Well not literally at least. Instead I see a fractured society attempting to come to terms with the existence of the mass consumption opiate. Not only is our modern society rapidly barreling down a crossroad of transition but western society very well could be seeing its apex of existence.
Thus is the debate that rages between modernist and postmodernist. The modernist and their adulating, if not enlighten, supporters of the Christian right and the industrialist hegemonist would have you believe that modern society is the pinnacle of human existence and that it can only be improved by progressive addition of current modern techniques and technology.
Postmodernist (like myself) would counter that modernity is based on presumptions developed by cultural elitist (our afore mentioned list of neo-cons, christianist and soulless corporate ghouls). Postmodernist contend that one should question the status quos assumptions about all things and seek meaning not in the narrative but in the actual symbols the make up the narrative (you will have to research what that means on your own).
This is all very complex and I can’t say I understand even the surface of some of these theories. I can say that many things are screwed up today. 8.3 million children in the U.S. are uninsured. Healthcare is becoming a scarce commodity and beyond the affordability of most Americans. We are in a war with a goal based on the belief that our view of civilization and modernism is better than theirs. We are a nation enraptured by wardrobe malfunctions, sex tapes and reality ‘based’ television. Something is wrong and I believe using the same broken modern tools to fix the same problems will result in a net loss in cultural progress.
If I still had an ounce of my righteous fervor I would pray to God that he saves us all from this madness we are spiraling towards. Unfortunately I may just be a pessimistic postmodernist who opines for the naivety and blissful ignorance of the spectator at the Coliseum.
Frankfurt School: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School (Marx, Adorno and etc.)
Culture Industry: http://www.earlabs.org/text/historic/hork.pdf