Postmodernism Shaping Islamism
پسامدرنیسم شکل دهنده اسلامگرائی
For many observers of Iran's developments of the last decades, it is *not* amazing, that following the success of Shiism flag in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a Medieval state of IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) was formed in Iran, . I have even written a book entitled the Futurist Iran and have discussed this historic reversal in Iran in details. However what is amazing is how such a retrogressive Medieval state of IRI has been able to last this long into the 21st Century, that is a few decades and still counting!
I think what is keeping the IRI state alive is a strange phenomena in post-1979 Iran. A Medieval state is being managed by some intellectuals who are neither Islamist nor care much for a Medieval society, and are even atheists, but because of a wrong ideology of Postmodernism, which is better to be called "Pre-modernism, where they have become the apologists and instruments of IRI backward system which stones, amputates, and kills heretics in the 21st Century, and in fact, these very supporters of IRI have been shaping Islamism in Iran in the last decades.
Over three years ago, I wrote an article about proper way of removal of US sanctions against IRI, and I noted that human rights conditions should be set as the requisite for removal of sanctions. I was harshly attacked by IRI lobbyists. They would say they are worried about Iranian children dying because of sanctions, but their issue was about universality of human rights, which they did not believe in, and it showed itself in their silence about stonings, amputations and killing of heretics by IRI in their publications. I think the more we understand about Postmodernism, the more we can see why this simple common sense demand for human rights conditions for removal of sanctions, was something that the ideology of IRI apologists would not allow.
From Salman Rushdie to Aghajari, from Bakhtiar to Forouhars, the dissidents murdered by this regime, can hardly be grouped together as atheists, whereas most postmodernist IRI apologists are clearly atheists, nonetheless, the latter are the ones who have been instrumental in keeping this Medieval religious regime afloat all these years, and it has not been because they were Islamists! So the question is why these people are IRI apologists and lobbyists, although IRI's ideological fascism is antithetical to the religious beliefs of these people themselves!
Historically the same phenomenon had happened during Hitler's fascism, when a group of intellectuals following Nietzsche and Heidegger's attacks on traditional metaphysics ended up supporting Nazis. Nonetheless I should say the fascination of those intellectuals with Nazis was not that long, and also even Nazism, although fascist, was not a Medieval state, and the intellectuals' error was more understandable, whereas in contrast, in the case of these IRI lobbyists, the fascination has been around for a few decades, which is pretty long, and the obvious Medievalism of this regime, with its stonings and amputations and killing of morteds, makes it even stranger as to how this intellectual apology of IRI has lasted this long.
Although I have previously written about the image of IRI pretending as a victim resisting foreign aggression, as a legitimization for gaining and sustaining this support of IRI apologists under the flag of fighting for independence from imperialists, but it is still not easy to explain a few decades of this regime by this deception, when IRI is a Medieval state opposite to the world developments of 21st Century, and not with any major consistent international support. I think the answer to this dilemma is to be sought by understanding how Postmodernism has paved the way for Islamist fascism, and how it has sustained it all these years, and is still shaping Islamism and IRI, and is helping this system to stay afloat.
What is Postmodernism?
The definition of Postmodernism by its advocates is hardly consistent, and in way if it was consistent, it would be antithetical to the premise of this school of thought, which basically strives to be "as every thing goes" or simply put as anti-method.
Basically Postmodernism is the anarchism of the late part of 20th Century. The following is what I wrote in a different paper about Cynics, i.e the predecessors anarchists in Ancient Greece, and I think the 19th Century anarchism and 20th Century Postmodernism have very similar traits to the Cynics of Ancient times:
"THE CYNICS rejected all the achievements of civilization such as government, private property, marriage, and established religion. In fact, they can be regarded as the predecessors of modern anarchists, which I have discussed elsewhere. They did not try to correct the social ills by any reform, nor did they advocate any alternative society to be reached by revolution, their only alternative to the existing social order was a 'return to nature' and living like animals. One of the most prominent figures, Diogenes, even believed in brotherhood of human race and animals. In short, their rejection of established order was a blow to monism, but their doctrine was detrimental to intellectual activity as a whole. [From my paper entitled "Pluralism in Western Thought"]
Let's now look at Postmodernism in more details. I think Daniel Bell's exposition of Postmodernism in the Part II of "Afterword 1996" to his book "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" is one of the best analysis of the topic. Daniel Bell defines Postmodernism as follows:
"Postmodernism is a flight from philosophy-I think of Foucault or Derrida or Rorty -into cultural history, rhetoric, or aesthetics and the denial, if not the subversion, of universalist and transcendental values" [Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell, P.298]
"For Foucault, the contemporary epistemological rupture was with the Enlightenment concept of Man, ... [and] mounted a challenge to Western humanism ...Derrida wanted to reject philosophy, in search for an ontological center .... Instead of philosophy (or, in his language, "the signified"), there is only literature, and in literature, there is only text, and in text, there are only signs. ... Although Derrida perceived as the voice of wild interpretative freedom, he is anything but. His method and his categories are as schematic as those of a scholastic schoolman. His all-purpose tool is the technique of "deconstruction." Yet any effort to pin down the meaning of the term is invariably elided by the fact that Derrida refuses to assign any fixed meanings for terms, including, apparently, his own. In the end, textual analysis for Derrida is not concerned with "the fetishism of Meaning," which is a relation to a referent, or an outside reality. One reason Derrida is attractive, especially to literary theorists, who find their subject now designated the central focus of all inquiry, is that deconstructionism blows apart all systems in favor of a method that is also an anti-method. Derrida has it both ways. [ibid, P.302-304]
"It is foolish to seek to locate postmodernism or PoMo as either "right" or "left." What we have here is the working out of the logic of modernism (its anticognitive and anti-intellectual modes) and consumerism (its acquisitiveness) in a world where the culturati find their own worldviews incoherent-because of the absence of a secure foundation in traditional morality or in liberalism that found it difficult to set limits on permissible behavior-and have welcomed the cultural anarchism and the transvaluation of values that postmodernism set loose." [ibid, P.306]
The above clearly shows that the individual freedom for the Postmodern thinker means forgetting the achievements of humanity over the millennia, whether it is scientific facts of natural sciences, or the human rights that have been achieved universally, and instead to call for cultural relativism, and to justify the anti-human rights traditions such as stoning and amputations, because of denying the universality of human rights. This is the anarchists' view of individual freedom.
For anarchists freedom does not mean freedom within the progressive institutions of law, and is supposedly achieved by discarding the achievements of civilization, thus by throwing away the democratic institutions and human rights, one can arrive at freedom, because just like the Cynics, the existence or lack of these progressive institutions, which are the achievements of humanity, are considered as unimportant for them . Thus civilized life and a modern recognition of human rights, is seen identical with the Medieval life and acceptance of savage traditions of stoning and amputations, this way Postmodernism end up as the ideology of the return of the Medieval Islamist state.
In other words, by denying the value of science, and the value of human achievements of democratic institutions and human rights, the postmodernist becomes the management tool for the most backward Medieval system of Islamism. Anarchist denying any rules, even the liberal rules of the game, ends up justifying and helping a Medieval fascism. This is what is keeping Islamic Republic of Iran in power. This is how the ones who consider the basic moral principles of liberalism and humanism to be shackles, end up working for the worst rules of Medieval Islamism, taking pride in "elimination of the distinction between high and low culture." cultural relativism which I discussed in a different article, is the direct result of postmodernist thought.
On the surface , it may seem like the mollahs are running the IRI state and it is true that mollahs are the ones defining this Medieval state, but no matter how much of Western science and technology they add to the curriculum of the theological schools of Qom and Najaf, mollahs could not run IRI in the last decades. It is not just some IRI lobbyists in Harvard and UCLA who are working for IRI to lobby for IRI in the U.S. political circles. Their brethren are the ones who are the managers of various governmental and nongovernmental enterprises in Iran.
One may think that postmodernists are people who are just the intellectuals in European coffee shops discussing Foucault and Derrida. But this is far from the truth. The postmodernists are the ones managing the various economic and social institutions of Islamic Republic of Iran.
In a way, in Iran of today, the role that communist managers played in running the huge Soviet system, is not played by mollahs, and rather that role is handled by postmodernists. I think this is what explains how this Islamist Medieval state has been able to stay afloat for a few decades, and to end this regime, one should end the justification of Postmodernist view, that equates low and high culture, upholding a Medieval state in Iran, in a country which even 100 years ago had a secular system, and today the same country is forcing veil on women, and is doing amputations and killings of heretics.
Postmodernism in the West , as an intellectual endeavor, has been fading for over a decade. And as Daniel Bell notes "Foucault and Derrida have lost their allure." But for Iran and Iranians, these ideologies have become fashionable ,and not just as chats in coffee shops, but as practical guidelines for many who are helping IRI to continue its reign of terror in Iran and abroad. The Postmodernists are shaping Islamism rather then trying to end Islamism.
Medievalism has been ended centuries ago and it is a pity that postmodernists are making it their job to help revival of Medievalism in the 21st century, and thinking that they are helping the world by their wrong program. If for a Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel's considering communism as realization of science, and celebrating fall of communism as end of view of possibility of objective knowledge, was harmless, for a country like Iran, with Shi'a clergy wanting to own body and soul of the people, these anti-scientific Postmodernist notions, only impede Iran's progress. It is time that we wake up about what has been happening to Iran by postmodernist shapers of IRI Medievalism in the last decades.
As I noted in my paper "Pluralism in the Western Thought", the real progressive post-industrial pluralist thought has been forming among the scientists and philosophers of science of the 20th and 21st Century. Those like Popper, Bohm, Hawking, and Kurzweil. And the continuations of some 20th Century philosophical schools to linguistics, has been the most barren development, if not for linguistics and architecture, certainly for our world outlook, both in natural and social sciences, and in social practice. And the postmodernist trend among them, has even been one more step back in retrogression. The achievements of humanity in the areas of human rights and democratic institutions are universal, and postmodernists justifying the absence of these rights and institutions, in any parts of the world, should be confronted and discarded.
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
Dec 18, 2003