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Is It Time to Stop Being Ironic?

Is It Time to Stop Being Ironic?

Amid ongoing political tension and the ubiquity of social media platforms, has sincerity has been overtaken by irony and cynicism? No matter where you turn—film, social media, or news outlets—everything seems to have taken on a tone of cynical irony. What was once an attitude used by mid-20th-century postmodernists to critique culture has now become a default way of examining culture.

Consider the origins of our culture’s detachment from sincerity: The postmodern movement of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s used irony and cynicism to strip America’s culture from its moorings. While tradition and adherence to law, religion, and nationhood were once a mainstay of the American cultural diet, by the 1980s the postmodern sentiment had been gladly absorbed into the mainstream culture. The country has never recovered.

Is time to bid farewell to this era of deconstruction and once again look again to sincerity and authenticity—both of which have long been absent in American culture?

Helen Pluckrose, who became well-known after the Grievance Studies Affair, published the following for Areo Magazine in 2017:

The irrational and identitarian ‘symptoms’ of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist.

Over the past 30 years, it has been easy to see how postmodernism rusts and rots the culture that embraces it. Instead of coming together to solve important issues that our country faces, we deceptively cloud basic truths with questions and complicated arguments.

We cannot seem to agree on what it means to be a woman or that someone ought to be hired based on their abilities instead of their immutable qualities. With characteristic disingenuity, postmodernism has attacked the very foundations of society, making it difficult to hold conversations on even the simplest issues.

Additionally, postmodernism encourages us to bask in the destructive nature of certain habits and lifestyles and then it defends its position by declaring that there is no one right way to live. For example, the city of San Francisco has recently used taxpayer dollars to provide free alcohol to addicts and the homeless. Only a governing body with a deficient moral or ethical compass could justify such a program.

Beyond this, postmodernism’s irony and cynicism has erased genuine authenticity and sincerity. We only have to log onto social media to see examples of this. Users say what they would never say in person because they can hide behind anonymous profiles. When someone is able to conceal their identity, they are free to say or do whatever they wish, without consequence. Perhaps there are some positive elements to social media, but the idea of a “digital town square” often means little more than anonymous users flogging one another for likes and followers.

In all its various manifestations, postmodernism’s fundamental issue is its creation of a cultural rift in which it is virtually impossible to authentically connect with other human beings. It is an ideology that deconstructs everything until only dust remains. In times past, national identity, religion, and the family were ways in which we could express our sincerity with one another, but these are now the cynic’s target of criticism and ridicule.

In his essay collection, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace wrote that “the reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit ‘I don’t really mean what I’m saying.’”

But perhaps it is time to mean what we say and sincerely invest in what remains of our communities. While we may not agree with everything those around us do or say, it may be time to replace the tool of deconstruction with unity and authentic human connection.

Image credit: Unsplash

C.G. Jones
C.G. Jones

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  • Avatar
    Elizabeth Carney-Goeking
    July 10, 2024, 3:49 pm

    Well said. Thank you.

  • Avatar
    July 11, 2024, 7:06 am

    Jacques Derridean Deconstructivists have really cost the world much "Constructive" social discourse. Even the Joy and Happiness that comes from saying something clear and positive has been lost and what if people actually helped each other instead of criticizing everything? What a better world that would be!


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