Science, says Thomas Kuhn, has periods of crisis, when there is no agreement about the dominant paradigm, when application of the paradigm which has previously governed scientific enquiry in a particular area discloses an unacceptable number of anomalous cases which cannot be convincingly assimilated to it; at such moments new paradigms may be proposed which are more successful in accounting for the evidence and which necessitate a radical re-evaluation of work governed by earlier paradigms.
But what if this were true of Society itself? Are we not proving this even now as we question the tenets of two hundred years under the socio-cultural paradigm of Secularism and Enlightenment? For two hundred years we’ve questioned the old sense of liberal subjectivist identity and have found it wanting; and, yet, isn’t the very political structure that supported such an identity become in itself obsolete? We still pretend with ourselves that democracy which underpins the whole gamut of our socio-cultural system is somehow static and sacrosanct as if it were the last bastion of social justice and freedom between us and … what? chaos, change, difference?
If one does away with the progressive enlightened Subject what remains of its society and culture? Obviously we’ve been critiquing to the death the notion of Self-Subject for sixty odd years to the point that the notion of a Self has vanished into the neuroscientific void and emptiness of a non-category of there is no one home… the Self as empty and non-essential, and the socio-cultural world that supported it – our humanistic heritage is but a dream of stupidity and error; and, yet, we continue to support the political structures of Representation of these empty Identities without ever questioning their validity. When will we topple the whole enterprise of Secular Democratic Society and Culture and formulate something new?
We bandy about all these new-fangled notions of inhuman, posthuman, transhuman, anti-human as if there were within those untidy knots of scholarship, philosophy, scientific and theoretical work something hinting at a sea-change in thought which might suddenly reveal a new socio-cultural framework to replace the failing edifice of Enlightened Secular worldview. When will it step out from the cave of its dark intuition and reveal itself? Are we to battle over new forms of rational and non-rational thought till doomsday arrives and does away with the whole human project; or, will we actually begin awakening to a new worldview that can shape us to the new?
Throughout that untidy thing we term loosely ‘history’ there were always small groups, advanced harbingers of change, secretive enclaves of intellect and imagination who broke through the barriers of resistance and gave birth to such paradigm shifts. Artists, philosophers, poets, essayists, critics, scientists, etc. who shared among themselves this strange new world with new cognitive and imaginative concepts and metaphors toward this transitional world. We saw this in the Enlightenment of the philosophes…. So who are our philosophes? Who among us are the Avant-garde leading the way to a new worldview that can replace this sick and dying, even decadent and broken world of ruins within which we too are suffocating and dying… ?
Sometimes I believe we are doomed to end in that false infinity of post-modern thought in which we’ve become subject to what deconstructionist criticism calls ‘infinite deferral’ or ‘postponement’. As if we will never arrive… lost on the sea of time looping in an endless world of critique without any sign of ending or beginning, only the destitution of non-thought and stasis: a living death amid the sea-change of a global catastrophe. As if we were all watching the future coming at us as doom and gloom when all along there were in our hands the very tools at hand that would have given us the ability to change. Will we change, or will we just continue circling in the darkness of this cave of doubt frozen to the screen of some shadow world film in which we are forever prisoners of some master puppeteer? Can we break away from that dark screen and walk out of the cave of this era’s inability to act and create something new to move the human project forward or see it finally play out its end-game in self-lacerating defeat at the hands of its own inability to act? It’s really up to all of us to do something now, to act on this subtle swerve of time and change and help it awaken in our midst, to build a future worth living in out of the dying embers of a decaying civilization which is already passing into oblivion.