My own general dissatisfaction with where our culture was heading was perhaps the biggest reason I began studying postmodernism nearly twenty years ago. To me, the important issues of the day were all about our advancing culture and the opposing forces fighting for control of the destination. It was pretty clear to those of us from the Sixties that our dream had utterly collapsed and that self-interest was increasingly the modus operandi of the masses. Following such a shift downstream leads to the whole thing collapsing on itself, and the signs of a revolution were ever-present for those with eyes to see. This is the reason why I view the presidency of Donald Trump as actually an odd form of cultural correction, one that will show us that we’re all in this together.
This is on my mind today, because of a short paragraph in Politico’s insightful story last week about the President’s most influential adviser, the alt-right’s Steve Bannon:
“The West is in trouble. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and Trump’s election was a sign of health,” said a White House aide who was not authorized to speak publicly. “It was a revolt against managerialism, a revolt against expert rule, a revolt against the administrative state. It opens the door to possibilities.”
Let’s look at this again. It was “a revolt against managerialism, a revolt against expert rule, a revolt against the administrative state.” I have no argument with this, for I believe this rationale is spot-on postmodern thinking. Managerialism is another term for colonialism. Expert rule is what we have when institutions created to serve become the ones demanding to be served in our relationships with them. The administrative state is that of the top-down orchestration (manipulation) of those at street level. So, yes, this is indeed descriptive of the revolution of postmodernism.
However, Donald Trump is on the wrong side of all of this, for he and his methods describe the antithesis of the revolt, an autocrat whose self-interest far exceeds that of mortal men. To the President and his ilk – the one percent – capitalism is the lifeblood of liberty, but in the famous words of John Milton: “License they mean when they cry liberty.” We must always maintain a wise skepticism whenever we hear people at the top hollering about liberty, for there is a vast difference between it and the self-centered grabbing of license.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of license: 2. Excess of liberty; exorbitant freedom; freedom abused, or used in contempt of law or decorum.
So what are we to conclude?
There is indeed a revolution underway, and it’s against those very things offered by the White House aide quoted in the Politico piece. Donald Trump’s campaign may have tapped that energy, but he is a counterfeit solution – the archetype of what the revolt opposes. The kindest thing that can be said is that his supporters – filled with the spirit of change, but based on their own selfish needs – require a dramatic event that will shake them to the core and shine a light on the real revolt. We all need each other more than any of us cares to admit. We’re all riding the same lifeboat in a universe toxic and hostile to our carbon-based hosts.
That is the essence of the revolt. It is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and it does indeed open the door to possibilities. Moreover, it’s in part about the faith of the people, especially Christianity, a brand that has been hijacked and now represents something highly repulsive to the postmodern mind. It would be foolish to examine contemporary culture without this understanding, for young people especially are fleeing the brand at record levels.
Many of my Christian friends point to 2 Chronicles 7:14 and gleefully apply it to America today in defense of their vote last November. The verse is Solomon’s prayer for repentance in the wake of the completion of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Of critical importance is this portion – it’s God speaking – “then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Applying this to America, however, requires looking past the beginning of the statement: “If My people who are called by My name repent …” So the ancient message is to God’s people, not the separate nation in which they live.
If this message applies to our culture today, it ONLY applies to the very Christians who are pointing their fingers at the culture when they should be looking in the mirror. Regarding President Trump, the old idiom applies: Be careful what you wish for; you may actually get it. This is part of reason I wrote my new book, The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP.
Finally, this (the Trump Presidency) is something we all must go through. There is no above it, below it, or around it. We must go through it. If we do, we’ll come out on the other side better for all that we’ve learned together, for we see through a glass darkly, while history has a clear view.
We must never give up in fighting for truth, for as the aide noted, the door is open for possibilities.