A curious co-incidence yesterday. Listening to Radio 3, I heard the composer Roxanna Panufnik talking about her synaesthesia – the condition which pairs one sensory perception with another, e.g. seeing different numbers in different colours, or associating sounds with colours. Then, I attended an artist’s talk (part of my fine art studies) and the artist in question, Rebecca Partridge revealed she was a synesthetic too. But perhaps this was not so much of a coincidence. The list of known or suspected synesthetics on Wikipedia, from Bernstein to Van Gogh, Sibelius to Nabokov, Duke Ellington to Marilyn Monroe - the roll-call of artists, musicians and other creative types is extensive. So I wonder how common synaesthesia actually is. As Rebecca Partridge said, she didn’t know her condition was ’special’ until quite late on. The mysteries of perception never cease to amaze me. I can (I imagine) see how this condition may assist the creative spirit, although if one’s medium is the written word, I guess it could be quite challenging.
Another term I learnt a bit more about yesterday was ‘metamodernism.’ I often wondered what was going to follow post-modernism. There’s an interesting examination of the ‘ten basic principles of metamodernism’ on the Huffington Post website, by Seth Abramson, an assistant professor at New Hampshire University.
One of these principles favours dialogue over dialectics:
Postmodernism favored “dialectics” over dialogue, whereas metamodernism explicitly advances the cause of dialogue. Where the “dialectical” thinking of the postmodernists assumed that every situation involves just two primary opposing forces — which do battle until one emerges victorious and the other is destroyed — dialogic thinking rejects the idea that there is no middle ground or means of negotiation between different positions. For instance, while neo-Marxism, an important postmodern worldview, presumes an eternal socioeconomic battle between the “bourgeoisie” and “proletariat” economic classes, at the end of which only one remains intact, metamodernism holds that dialectical struggles tend to destroy all parties that participate in them and enact no abiding change whatsoever. Metamodern dialogue does not pave over differences between parties and positions, it simply emphasizes areas of overlap between contesting opinions that could lead to effective collective action on a slate of issues.
One example of this would be a campus debate in which the frequency of a given problem is debated by opposing groups. In the postmodern worldview, one is either “for” solving a given problem or “against” it, so even a debate over the frequency with which a problem arises must be taken as a sign that anyone interested in that debate (that is, anyone interested in determining with specificity the frequency with which an issue arises) must actually oppose solving the problem at all. The metamodernist would support first collaboratively determining the frequency with which a given problem arises, and the nature of the problem in the first instance, and then forming a coalition of individuals who, having fully understood the scope of the problem, decide that they want to solve it — even if some of them still don’t see eye-to-eye on a host of other issues. The theory here is that, in a postmodern scenario, nothing ever gets solved because the contending forces angrily oppose and caricature one another until (in fact) both are degraded and destroyed in number and in spirit. Meanwhile, in a metamodern scenario, at least something gets achieved, even if it doesn’t resolve all disputes between the two groups or ensure that they’ll be able to work together on other issues. As to those other issues, other metamodern alliances (perhaps between very different groupings of parties) will be formed to address them.
Brexit in these terms is very much a postmodern scenario – what we need now are a few metamodernist thinkers to come along and solve the problem. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. I have to say I had never really considered the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg or Arlene Foster to be examples of postmodernism – more like premodern, or simply antediluvian – but I imagine there’s a strong strain of postmodernism in all of us. It’s the irrepressible desire to win.
Having mentioned an Ulster antediluvian, and after the DUP’s failure to support the budget last night, I do hope no more of the £1billion bribe paid to the DUP for their sleazy votes will be paid. With faces like slapped arses and brains to match, they need kicking out of any deal. Theresa May must have been mad to get into bed with them in the first place. The fact that she did says much about her lack of judgement.
As regards the future of metamodernism - at least in political terms - I wonder if it isn't already dead in the water - the current political climate suggests as much.