A couple of people on my friends list, indianarhino (for a long time I thought that was "Indian Rhino") and delightdelirium did a quiz on "What kind of a postmodernist are you?"
I've generally found that such quizzes are disappointing, and have only done them when I'm very bored, or feeling I ought to put something in my journal but can't think of anything to say.
This was one of the worst quizzes I've seen. My answer to most of the questions would have been "none of the above". There was one about celebs, and I think I only recognised one name there, and I forget which one. There was a Tom Hanks - was he the one who wrote Bonfire of the vanities. That was about a celeb-obsessed society, and a pretty boring society it seemed to be.
In a week when Bulelani Ncuka and Mo Shaik have displaced Winnie Mandela and Brenda Fassie from the top of the celebs list, I realise what different worlds and cultures we live in. For those on faraway continents, the most popular soap opera in South Africa is approaching its end, and the celebs are all lawyers!
The soapie was the Hefer Commission, which was set up to examine allegations that Bulelani Ncuka, head of the police anti-corruption task force, the Scorpions, was an apartheid-era spy, as alleged by Mo Shaik, lawyer for one of the investigated, Mac Maharaj, former Minister of Transport. It had South Africans glued to their TV sets, like the OJ Simpson trial did for Americans, and was the topic of thousands of conversations. And it was, some commentators noted, an educational experience. It educated a lot of people in the ways of law and justice and the legal process, and the allegations were comprehensively disproved, partly through apartheid-era police files publicised in a local newspaper last week, which I mentioned in an earlier entry.
But I digress -- this is not about celebs, but about postmodernism -- and that's one of my gripes with the quiz. I don't think it even mentioned Derrida. Him I've heard of, more than the "celebs".
But I'm interested in the question. Some years ago an Anglican, commenting on Orthodox Christianity, said that Orthodoxy never experienced the Enlightenment. In many ways, it is premodern, and was certainly so when a lot of Western denominations were "contextualizing" themselves into modernity. My theory, therefore, is that Orthodoxy is better equipped to cope with postmodernity (not necessarily the same thing as postmodernism) because it was never really into modernity. Orthodoxy did experience modernity, of course. Peter the Great tried to foist it on the Church, and the Bolsheviks tried to finish the job.
Did they succeed? That remains to be seen. Paolo Freire, the Brazilian educationist, once said that the oppressed seem to internalise the image of their oppresors, and that may be the case, to some extent, with Orthodoxy in the post-Bolshevik era.
I was at a mission conference in Boston where Frank Schaeffer spoke, and made a sustained attack on American culture, and called for "an Orthodoxy with teeth". A Russian bishop, Bishop Ioann of Belgorod, responded that he should be careful that others didn't grow bigger teath, and bite him back. "We have people like you in Russia," he said. "We call them Orthodox Bolsheviks". They were former members of the KGB and other apparatchiks who had seen the light, and joined the Orthodox Church after the fall of Bolshevism, but tried to promote Orthodoxy with the same methods they had used to promote Bolshevism.
So, perhaps in this age of postmodernism, some parts of Orthodoxy are being sucked into modernity after all.