by Bodwyn Wook
ALL Mankato History This Month broadcasts since the Fall of 2003 are now archived online, at kmsu.org — click on archives.
MANKATO History This Month is a different sort of regional-history program because of the unique interpretative basis of presenter and producer, Emmett R Smith.
FOR Amateur historian Smith, the modern age IS over and we now are dwelling in the midst of postmodernity.
“The concept of the ‘postmodern’ started out as a gag in English departments in the 1960s, where everyone was too lazy to study, say, mathematics much and so they all had inferiority complexes. There was just this need to sneer at everything — like NeoCons do now at Muslims! — and, so, paradoxically and out of that gutter of resentment, they came up actually with this WONDERFUL analytical concept!
“The IDEA of the postmodern, I mean…
“Now you go onto these lost oversized midwestern campuses full of students all going in hock up to their bungholes for loans just so the current academic administrative-generation can live high off the hog and disport themselves onstage with la Hillary and Barak Obama, and when you say ‘postmodern’ everybody except a handful of tenured women’s studies specialists and the remaining handful of English professors, all the rest just laugh to beat Hell and shake their heads.
“Academic postmodernity as a crazed illegitimate fad IS dead as a doornail!
“AND yet, as a state or condition of being, it STILL offers an entirely different and, as presenter of Mankato History This Month on KMSU-89.7 FM, a far-more useful interpretive device to me as an amateur historian.
“I just flatout take it as a narrative basis, the working axiom — oft-repeated in our interview-broadcasts — that ‘…the modern age is over. For those who are oriented toward symbolic thinking it clearly ended in 1989, with the collapse of communism and the pulling down of the wall, in Berlin.’
“And this is only a slight extrapolation of the ideas of Hungarian-American historian-emeritus, John Lukacs, who was born in Europe in 1924 — forty-two years BEFORE Derrida.”
FOR A fuller analysis of what Smith’s end of modernism may mean, interested readers can look at the following review, by Smith, of The Shield of Achilles, Philip Bobbitt (2002):
IN View of the vitiation of modernism and the absence of any bona fide new cultural impulse in the West, Smith says, we are now more-or-less stuck with our projected opponent of Islam and its — to us — horrors. He goes on:
“…that with this made-for-Tee Vee ‘Terror War’ hubbub we are badly in denial about a looming China and what THAT ‘really’ means… especially the truly disquieting implications of non-individualistic confucianism, especially for a society of shoppers and motorists, most of whom cannot read or write well, all of whom believe they have ‘rights!'”
SMITH Is especially disquieting on what he perceives as our underlying and omnipresent, early-postmodern, malaise:
“Everything, and I mean EVERY ONE too, is ridden with this hypermanic drive to overcompensate for our depressing late-historical fate. We have our little grandchildren medicated for depression, and we have our teenagers and young adults toiling away everywhere in pornography in the internet or as ‘sales associates,’ and dying in combat in Iraq!
“We [the 1946-64 “baby boom” generation — BW] are a vampire generation and not only because of the popularity of Anne Rice and the skeletal appearance of Donald Rumsfeld…. Our anemia is demonstrated more-than-amply by the weariness of the so-called ‘university scene’, certainly here in America:
“Lots of formerly — and, Hell yes, PERFECTLY satisfactory! –state teachers’ colleges all over the land now lunge and stumble through just ridiculous huge budgets and call themselves ‘universities!’ NO Latin and less Greek –and, darn little undergraduate maths beyond ‘Algebra for Boobies in the Social Sciences.'”
IN Such a slough, Smith concludes, the amateur scholar and historian alone is free to correlate freely, and openly to discuss, information as it associates along the lines of its own specific gravity.
This is good, too, says Smith, “…because, I started out as one of these here English-majors back in the day myself. But at least I never did graduate and so anyway I can say this much FOR myself:
“At least I am not now taking part in the generalized stealing that we call ‘professionalism’ and use to disguise from ourselves our late-historical corruption, while I lounge around off of people’s student-loan payments.
“So, today’s undergraduate generation is not having to graduate twenty and thirty thousands of bucks in the hole to pay for MY historical insights — most of which are pretty darn good, too!”
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 5 June 2007]