By Zuhura Ismail, 12A
Are you confused? Do you feel uncertain? Don’t worry. You’re not the only one.
Welcome to the post-modern era: an age of confusion, fragmentation, and identity crises. Unanswered questions everywhere! You know everything, and you know nothing—proof that Jon Snow is a post-modernist, perhaps?
As Jencks (1996) states, post-modernity ‘is a time of incessant choosing.’ Never before did we, as individuals, have the opportunity to become so many things. By that, I do not refer exclusively to professional diversity—I speak in terms of identity.
We used to live in a time where our identities were centred and fixed. We knew what was what. Everything was clear-cut. Whether it was your religion, your class, your gender, or your ethnicity, the lines were drawn with bold lines.
Now, those lines may not even exist.
We are forced to confront a world so vast and deep we cannot sail its horizons, nor divine its depths. Each of us is a fish swimming in that endless sea, discovering our place, and ourselves, looking for answers that may never be found.
In the post-modern world, we have undergone a process of de-fragmentation: while you are still socialised into specific roles and expectations, you have a range of possibilities.
Consider it as a butterfly effect. At a given point in time, you face an infinite number of choices, and a single decision can lead to contrasting outcomes… so what if you choose something else altogether? What if you, an accountant, wake up one morning and realise you have missed your calling as a scientist? How can you be sure of who you are, when there is so much you can be?
As you can imagine, identity crises are not a rare occurrence.
Post-modernity, therefore, is increasingly focused around the validation of personal experience. Individuals are continuously searching for meaning in their lives (42, anyone?), and they do it in ways that are suited to themselves. Some turn to religion; some turn to work. Either way, individuals continue to ask this question: who am I?
The answer is simple, and complicated, at the same time: you are everything you think yourself to be. Not very helpful, maybe, but true.
What, however, is post-modernism? Generally speaking, it is a Sociological perspective. For some, it may even be a meta-narrative, but I digress.
Post-modernity is a fairly recent phenomenon, and can be identified by the process of globalisation: the transmission of world views, products, ideas, and more, from all over the world, due to the development of modern technology. Thus, geography ceases to be a limitation on human behaviour. Globalisation is the reason why today’s individuals are so uncertain.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that we no longer do or say things that are unique to us. Phrases and behaviours we casually use may have originated from a country far off to our own. We watch Hollywood movies and BBC series; we read translations of French novels and Japanese manga; we listen to Spanish music and dance to hip-hop; we wear saris and identify our spirit animals. I, a Maldivian, am writing in English.
When we pick and mix across societies, we undergo a process known as cultural hybridisation. This leads to a globalised culture, wherein various cultures are shaped to suit the needs of different groups. Therefore, no culture—not even bacteria—is untouched,or unchanged, in the post-modern world.
Many choices, many combinations, many outcomes. Much confusion. Wow.
The most important lesson that post-modernity offers to us is to be open-minded. In a world composed of different people, different beliefs, and different behaviours, we must learn to coexist—even if we do not always see eye-to-eye. If their actions do not hurt anyone, is it truly necessary to look down upon someone for being different? As Friedrich Nietzsche once so aptly said, ‘You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.’
I conclude now in the hope that you may one day find the solution to one of the greatest quandaries of post-modernity: who are you?