In many ways, I do not feel that I belong to this age. I feel that my sensibilities belong to a past time, and can demonstrate this by how much I enjoyed a primary school project we had to do, called "Manners". However, as I continue to read about what I'd describe as the history of ideas, I have discovered aspects of myself that are deeply married to this age.
Let us call this a pluralistic approach to culture; I share an openness to cultural variety and reject comparing them on a standardised scale. While such an approach is already more than 200 years old, I would say it is characteristic only of a post World War II world (do you see the tautology there?).
I have found that my earlier approach to poetry was by no means original, but the same old hash that has been bantering around in different guises since the Romantics took Soul to the streets. I now understand, for example, my frustration at not being able to get over myself in my poems, and now see this as an extension of the bourgeois obsession of self, as seen in Flaubert, Stendhal, Proust.
I once wanted to distance myself from the West and such idiosyncrasies, and have since found that I am not unlike Rilke, or even any of the Romantics who sought a return "to the basics", back to a more peasant lifestyle. Such reactionism has already been played out. Or has it?
Here is where I see the exciting moment of my life: the place where I can make my contribution. Here, I'm thinking of Ricoeur's thought that "No one can say what will become of our civilization when it has really met different civilizations... We have to admit that this encounter has not yet taken place at the level of authentic dialogue." Not have we resolved how to "become modern and return to sources".
This has not happened because some cultures are still being masked over by the "barbaric" projections of the West, and have not been given the space to develop their own dialogue. I am still grateful to Deborah Root's Cannibal Cultures for revealing that just as one man can "project on" another, societies can do the same on a larger scale. And it is fascinating to me that people who pride themselves as "free thinkers" can stumble into such blind spots. Or that in today's self-proclaimed 'free world dialogue' people who speak in the name of faith are automatically considered backwards even though it is proved time and again that any system of thought is backward if it becomes dogma or too rigid. It is not the thought system that becomes harmful, but the zeal with which one subscribes to it.
The modern project is far from being over. Terms like "post modernism" trick us into thinking that we are ahead of the game, as if we, as a human race, have become older. I do not like such thinking, because it implies "wisdom" - which has been discredited by many modern thinkers as irrelevant. Perhaps they discredit it because it is the measuring rod they do not perform well against. The context of the word is indeed a little slippery, because it involves betterment of self, but is it not relevant to ask: is it wise to wage war?
What I have learned from studying culture is that it does not move in one direction. It is received, reshaped, given back; hybrids emerge. My favourite example is the way that many African subcultures literally refashion Western fashions (ex. here). This is an example of how the modern project is far from being over. Culture is not static, it is constantly in flux, and at the moment, we are in a phase of absorbing the great changes in communication that have taken place in the past half century. New and unexpected forms will emerge - and they will not be the kind controlled by the modernist project. Why? Because just as much as culture is dictated and assimilated, it is also refashioned. Because not all voices are heard all the time, unexpected songs can emerge from where they are least expected. It is exciting to live in one's time, though certainly not without its challenges.

Elements: buttons and embroidery: minitoko;
manila bag, graph paper, sequins: pugly pixel;
staple: shabby princess.