Professor Peterson spoke in stark contrast to the other talks given during the revolutions lectures. He discussed at length the ideas of Bruno Latour, specifically in his book We Have Never Been Modern. I thought that this was an interesting contrast to the other talks, and although I may not agree, looking through other posts it would appear that I am not alone, I think it is an important point. Latour asserts that we are not revolutionary as we assert ourselves to be.
I have no knowledge of philosophy. The complex visuals that Professor Peterson displayed along with most of the specific language he used did not resonate with me. However, he did allow for me to think about the idea of a revolution in a different way than I had throughout this course. Leaving the lecture, I had a few questions. The first of these was, “Why are we so obsessed with being modern and revolutionary?” The answer to this is not simple. One idea that I attempted to understand was that often society, not nature, is what shapes truths and falsehoods for us humans in recent times. Along this same string of thinking, the idea of modernity in society would feed into the modern concept of a revolution. Humans are looking for answers in society, so if we help society to progress and improve, the perception is that we are in some way contributing to and part of a revolution. This is not a holistic view. What is forgotten is that this perceived modernity is not the same for everyone. A revolution should ideally involve the furthering of everyone, the entirety of society. Not just a group, a faction.
That leads me to my other question, a question that this whole lecture series has pointed towards, “What is the definition of a revolution?” but also “Why does it matter?” I think Latour was not only being critical of people who yearn to be a revolutionary, but also the creation of a “revolution” at all. The modern idea is rather pitiful. It has become an obsession. The term itself has lost so much value. The meaning is slipping away headline by headline. I don’t believe that Latour was trying to devalue revolutions and those who have fought for what was right and just for not only them but the ones they love. I think that he wanted all who heard his theories to question just what the idea of a revolution has become. He was looking to add value to this idea. I spent some time reconsidering just what a revolution is. It has little to do with modernity, absolutely nothing to do with self-fulfillment or the idea that revolution is even quantifiable. As of now, many revolutionary events have been taken for granted or actively opposed by those who cannot handle the change. Whether the revolution is political, social, scientific, in the arts, etc. a true revolution must continue, the goal should not be finite. Why do people obsess over the word? Because humans want to see the product, they want to be reassured that what is being done actually works. The real significance is in the process of change. What steps led to it? Why did anyone even care? Who helped? Why? Revolution should not be some grandiose idea; it should be rudimentary. Do your part, but don’t worry about what mark you leave on the world, focus on each day as building towards the next. Why must it be a revolution to be significant?