Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It's good to be neomodern...

Over the past couple of days I've been talking about what neomodernism is, and outlining some of the considerations that I think make it intellectually appealing. Today I'm going to be a bit less brainy, and a bit more.. uh... hearty? That's not quite the right word >.>

Anyway, neomodernism is in many ways a feel-good philosophy. There are plenty of good intellectual arguments for it, but it can also make you feel good about yourself and the world - a rare luxury, these days. When I've been battling miserable feelings, it's been the attitudes and beliefs of mine that I now recognise as neomodern (dear God, I've got to find a better name for this thing - the buzzwordiness is really starting to get up my nose) which have helped me get past it and cheer up. Certainly, it's much nicer to entertain neomodernist optimism and proactivity than postmodern cynicism and misanthropy.

I'm generalising a little bit, but the point more or less stands. Postmodernism is fundamentally pessimistic at every level - postmodernism says there's no objective standard by which a thing can be judged as good, therefore there's no way in which it can be true that things have gotten or will get better. Neomodernism says not merely that things can get better, but that we can make things better. Yes, it will take hard work and time, but it's possible for you to 'fix' your life and improve your quality of living - it's possible for the human race to improve as a whole, morally, personally and technologically.

I'm sometimes accused of being wildly naive about human nature (the stronger the accusation, usually, the more cynical the postmodernist making it) because I tend to be very trusting at first with new people I meet. I make it a point of principle to work from the assumption - until it is disproved beyond reasonable doubt - that people are dealing with me honestly and forthrightly. The accusation is sometimes justified, but I am seldom disappointed when I put faith in people like this - and every so often, my faith in someone turns out to be justified even when said person is normally a bit unreliable.

In the interests of starting to link this back to my writing, that faith in individual people, at least in the long-term and the bigger picture, is a major theme of the stories I tell. In 'Bad Romance', the characters trade constantly in trust and deception, but every act of trust engenders a little more trustworthiness in the recipient (and if this sounds unrealistic, it's only because I'm putting it so simplistically; my editor just emailed me a preliminary critique which particularly praised the depth and reality of my characters). In 'The Death of John Collins', much of the drama is created out of the various characters' refusals to take Collins at his word.

Above the individual, faith in humankind as a species is also a major theme. 'Man and God', while it acknowledges the flaws in human nature - and indeed goes as far as to show direct causal links between said flaws and the collapse of modern civilisation - also shows how the great strengths of human nature, loyalty, courage, imagination, intellect and so on, can eventually lift us past those flaws.

Maybe this sounds starry-eyed and optimistic to you; in which case, let me be cynical for a moment and say 'buy my books - let me make a more compelling case at your expense' (;D). But I mean it when I say that I'm rarely disappointed by individuals, and my experiences of dealing with individuals have given me a strong conviction that there remains hope for us as a whole species.

Of course, if you already share my optimism about individuals - and therefore, I hope, about me - then this can only reinforce your conviction, and I hope that gives you as much contentment as writing it has me. Not only are there good reasons to be a neomodernist, but it feels good. Try it on for a bit ;)

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