“Everything is possible and almost nothing is certain”, said Vaclav Havel in 1994. The then Czech president was trying to capture the mood of the times; trying to define a view of the world described as postmodern.
The Wikipedia page on postmodernism quotes the Italian medievalist and semiotician (and excellent novelist!) Umberto Eco who characterised “the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, I love you madly, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland.”
The world where authorities speak in absolute terms and seek to exercise arbitrary authority is no longer accepted. The Roman Catholic Church is struggling to come to terms with societies where the bishops say something is so and the people respond by saying “so what?”
Authority is no longer something assumed, it is more in the nature of respect; it must be earned. Moral strictures are ignored if they are seen as irrelevant, or simply wrong. Ireland was once a country where condoms were smuggled from the North; now clerical condemnation of contraception is a generally viewed as no more than an anachronism. People will behave in a way they believe is appropriate.
Questioned about his book The Pope’s Children back in 2006, David McWilliams reflected on the postmodern morality of Ireland:
“The value system is ad hoc, people make up things as they go along?”
“Yes, it’s a la carte. It’s a la carte morality, which I would agree with. You have two ways to live your life: You have rules or discretion. As long as your discretion is based on a certain general view of what’s right and wrong, and I believe they have that, then jettisoning the rather strict rules that have governed this country over the last hundred years isn’t probably a bad thing. If you look at what has happened in terms of violence in this society, it’s not the people I portrayed who are perpetrating violence. They seem to be rather well behaved people”.
People will make their own choices; they will grant authority to those whom they respect. It is a messy and difficult way of doing things, but it undermines all hierarchies, and allows space for creativity.
The Irish Blog Awards encapsulate the nature of the postmodern world (having been only ever nominated once, and even then having failed to make the long shortlist, there’s no personal interest!). The initiative of an individual, their authority derives from the respect they have earned. There is no official body; no hierarchy; no exercise of curial power; rather there are people who are mature enough to make their own decisions, to live without need of ecclesiastical dominance.
“Everything is possible and almost nothing is certain”: reports from the Blog Awards ceremonies suggest it would not be a bad slogan.