is not so much a historical period as a common attitude to “recent past” — “the unexciting yesterday,” the boring suburbs on a “before present” time scale; for many it is also a peak where “the engine of progress flamed out” and all went downhill — or, conversely, where the march of evil was finally dispersed and goodth started to take root. Also, the earliest time from which there remain live witnesses. ■    “Generic,” modernity is many things to many minds: the “inflationary epoch” and “era of overfitting,” the “age of progress” and of spam, the “first globalization” and “first atomization,” “the Millennium” (after a period-typifying scare); it even fully contains its own “postmodernity” (what actually followed modernity is never called that). Hard to pin down chronologically (boundaries vary depending on culture, tradition, author, sometimes with zero overlap), the averaged modernity era appears to be slowly drifting forward; global modernity is probably past us for good but culture-scale mini-modernities have been recognized both before and after it. ■    Dismal unlivedness of modernitys vast artificia is what most easily sets it apart in the historical record. It was an era of readymade things — a world of mass production and consumption, with shopping a common substitute for creativity; under the deafening cries of vogue, unthinking conformance was simply a sanity strategy. Not only made in unsustainable quantities, pre-compiler-era stuff was intentionally cheap — less functional and less reliable than it could be at the same resource and labor cost; the epoch built more housing than any other before or after but the lowest percentage remains standing (theres a century-long gap in the architectural record between the “last deco” and the first specimens of nanogothic): durability was routinely sacrificed to the rising living standards. Accessibility and easy reproducibility spurred modernitys art but polarized it into the bulk of mass-appeal slack and a scattered esoteric fringe; bubbles of newity quickly deflated into the regularized mainstream. ■    A “deadline-driven culture,” an “age of short trends” but with a shamelessly extrapolationist futurology (obsessed with growth, like a childs “age of greediness”); an era of implosive intermixing of races, languages, pet breeds from which weve been slowly and differently re-differentiating. (“Kicking the dead lion”: why dont we try to guess what our own time will be remonstrated for in the future?) An age of systemic loneliness and irreversible partings: “Oh how youve changed in all these years,” with overpopulation only making it worse — you may yell out for a friend who got lost in a wilderness but it wont work in a crowd. An “age of movements” when “hitting the demography” defined success (popularity manias, spam); an age of global context formed by media but amplified beyond reason in myriads of “whats new” exchanges at all levels; thus an era of “easily dateable everything” — clothing, faces, art, thinking went through fast sweeping fads: spatially deterministic before, modernitys world became strongly temporally deterministic (now its neither or both). Every age blends its waning past with a future that just begins but “the summit of mankind” remains unique in how much it connected: rich in ends and beginnings, modernity extinguished trends surviving since prehistory and originated so much of what matters now.

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