Slitherine masquerading as Gryffindor?

February 12, 2023

Cdd20 zwBPjicUKPc unsplashIts been just over a week since I wrote my post on meta-muggleism, the title implying there is a lot less magic to Metamodernism than some of those appropriating the concept of metamodernity from aesthetics think there is.  My original appearance on the Stoa excited some controversy and I ended up being hosted on a virtual session with one of the proponents of Metamodernism as a new religion, tomorrow I’ll be back on the Jim Rutt show to account for my criticism of Game B.  Having had to watch a fair number of Metamodernist YouTube shows they seem in the main to be echo chambers, people who already agree with each other having conversations to reinforce those beliefs.   It seems like they are unfamiliar with criticism or the necessity for criticism,  The net result is that their main form of response is a series of personal attacks, they don’t engage with the real issues.  There is also some rather silly name-calling – if you base what you do on natural science you are labelled as a modernist and so on.

The experience has also triggered some very intelligent exchanges with people on the edge of or with Meta-modernity; I got a few emails from people engaged in the arts and aesthetics thanking me for calling out the appropriation of the term.   Both the intelligent responses and even the personal attacks have value as they raise some interesting questions that I plan to explore in future posts, and which I will lay out here.

I can respect Brendan for setting up that conversation.  He did the same when Nora Bateson called out stage theory as a form of eugenics.  He held a session with her and Görtz, one of the proponents of the worse form of stage theory; Wilber’s corruption of the already corrupt Spiral Dynamics. In that, as with me, Brendan was concerned to avoid any serious controversy which I can understand but as I said to him homogenisation is dangerous, we need coherent heterogeneity or messy coherence.

One of the more interesting commentaries from the metamodernist community, which is positive overall,  suggested that I had a “superficial misunderstanding of sincere irony as ironic sincerity” and that “it is important to distinguish between an ironic holding of sincerity and a deep sincerity and irony that do not detract from each other”.   Now I’m not sure that I am interpreting that as intended and I suspect it has special meaning to those engaged in the belief system but not those outside. So if anyone wants to clarify feel free.  But it does lead me to three issues raised that need further work.

  1. Can we take an artistic form of meaning-making and shift it into a different context?   What I learn by reading a book or watching a movie which uses ironic sincerity is very different from its use in an argument as to facts or dealing with crises in the real world.  To be clear art has a major role in doing that, but when ironic sincerity is used in a work of art we know its context.  Used in a non-artistic way it can too readily be an excuse, and ironically a very post-modern excuse, for not addressing an issue or getting away with misinformation or deliberate acts of confusion.
  2. One of the arguments of some metamodernists is that they avoid making a difference between what they call individualism and collectivism.   When people like me reference social atomism they make the false assumption that we are talking about the same thing.  I’m not, but I am looking at identity and agency.   The difference between assuming that individual decisions and actions in effect form society, albeit influenced by them, is very different from recognising that individuals emerge as discrete & indiscrete identities within a social context (the meaning of Cynefin).   Think of yourself as a coalescence point in an entanglement of  commitments  in constant movement; an aspect of my recent writing on agency, affordance and assemblage.  It’s why I question Vervaeke’s Neo-platonic emphasis on ‘wisdom’ and yes I would link that to some of the stage theory proponents.
  3. The whole issue of debate, dialogue, dialogic and the like.  Some of this relates to my echo chamber issue but it also fails, someone ironically, to recognise the role of ritual in formal debating and the way that ritual and evolved practice can create common norms of behaviour.  Avoiding conflict is dangerous, not ritualising conflict can be abusive.  It’s one of the reasons I developed things like the Triopticon and also Estuarine Mapping (some major updates on that this week by the way).  Those processes don’t talk about what personal qualities people should possess or what sort of behaviour they should exhibit.  Instead, they structure early engagement to allow useful behaviours to emerge.  This is a issue to the scalability of change and critical to avoid the dangers of lotus-eating.

There are probably more, but for me, Peter’s invitation to be controversial at the Stoa has been very useful.  It’s depressed me a little at people’s inability to check what people actually say, but now I know that I can probably work on being clearer in the future.  But it’s all good, condemning critics or even questioners for heresy is a characteristic of cult followers and something you can’t avoid if you don’t shy away from controversy.   There is also a very important paper which describes well what happens to new movements as they get adopted and corrupted by MOPS and Sociopaths.   My thanks to Germane Marvel for the link and an excellent summary of its content.   Everyone involved in metamodernism of good intent will read it and all those who have adopted the term should.

The Hufflepuffs who have adopted and coopted the metamodernist name need more encounters with us Ravenclaws, then they might find out they have been infiltrated by Slytherin …

Banner picture is cropped from an original  by Danny Howe and the ‘ egg’ is by 愚木混株 cdd20 both on Unsplash, both are offered with ironic sincerity along with my use of Gryffindor not Hufflepuff in the title

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