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?
Nero was the Roman Emperor from 54-68 AD. He was an actor, poet, and—most significantly—a dictator. He was born as Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarus and Agrippina. Just like any other dictator, Nero used terror to stay in power. He was ruthless, cruel, and did not hesitate when it came to imposing power over the Roman people.
Nero executed many people during his 14 years as the Roman Emperor. He was heartless and politically expedient; he did not care about people closest to him when it came to protecting his status in Rome and consolidating power. This resulted in him murdering two of his wives and even his own mother, Agrippina. Nero’s command to murder his own mother in 59 AD was because he ‘had it’ with his mother’s interference into his private life, and because of her attempt to influence her son’s rule.
Nero also didn’t allow any alleged disloyalty or criticism during his rule. He purged anyone who went against this—such as a commander who criticised him at a party, and even a writer who made negative remarks about the senate in a book.
Nero was given his famous title as ‘the Emperor who laughed when Rome burned’ following the great fire in 64 AD. The title itself reveals just how merciless he was. The blaze that devastated 75% of Rome within 10 days began in stores in the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus. Many Romans believed the fire was part of the vicious dictator’s plan to build his villa, Domus Aurea.
Like many dictators, Nero was also an opportunist. He used the fire as an excuse to implement terror and purge the Christians in Rome, since Christianity was then a new and concealed religion. With this, the accusation, persecution, and torture of Christians began in Rome.
Unfazed by the great fire, Nero continued his plan to build the Domus Aurea. However, he needed money to finance his project, and so started taking new economic measures. These measures were no better than his social measures. It was so bad that he faced a heavy backlash, which eventually led to his downfall.
Nero began by selling positions in public office to the highest bidder—which ensured not only money, but also loyalty from the people. He increased taxes, took money from the temples, and devalued currency. Nero also reinstituted policies to seize property in case of suspected treason. This led to the then governor of Rome, Gaius Julius Vindex, and the Roman people, rebelling against Nero’s tax policies.
When the power of the people was revealed, Nero didn’t seem to be the heartless dictator he was. He became a coward. Instead of facing the people, Nero tried to escape them. However, he had to abandon his plans to head east since even his own officers refused to obey him. He was forced to return to his palace, where he received the news that the Senate had condemned him to death by beating.
And so, the authoritarian dictator decided to commit suicide, ending his life and his reign in 68 AD. He was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and his last words were, ‘What an artist dies in me!’
INVICTUS, was born out of the need to provide the platform for our students to present to the world their creativity of words and art. It is an initiative taken by the Department of Humanities to create interest and enthusiasm for our department subjects (History, Sociology, Geography, Travel & Tourism and Global Perspectives) amongst the students and showcase how they apply the knowledge that they learn in these subjects to their own lives.