Monday, January 23, 2012

Albert Jay Nock - A prophet?

Eighty years ago (1931) the conservative philosopher Albert Nock made an observation.  He believed that America was trying to force the current of its being through the narrow channel of one instinct only:  the instinct of acquisition and expansion, resulting in a society that

"must inevitably be characterized by a low type of  intellect, a grotesque type of religion, a facticious type of morals, an imperfect type of beauty, and an imperfect type of social life and manners.  In a word, it is uncivilized."

Reading that again, I was reminded of this injunction from Wendell Berry:
"We must achieve the character,  and acquire the skills, to live much poorer than we do."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ivan Illich - Wisdom

"The machine-like behavior of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable.  Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments shows that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical.  The political process breaks down because people cease to be able to govern themselves;  they demand to be managed."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Conspiracy Not Required

The slow steady erosion of personal freedoms, the increased acceptance of 'security measures', the diminishing life of our Republic:  these changes do not have to be a result of some huge conspiracy by the power brokers of the world.  They can happen gradually, a social evolution that simply makes it seem necessary, advisable, probably a good idea.
In 1977, Jerry Mander wrote a brave and good book called "Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television".  Of course, the hoped-for elimination never occurred, nor will it.  Still, it is a useful book to read if you are one who senses and regrets the losses our nation has suffered in the past six or seven decades.

Mander cites the movie Solaris as an example of what may be the future.  He speaks about the Soviet version directed by Andre Tarkovski, not the 2002 version directed by Steven Soderbergh.
In Solaris, technology is used "to produce autocracy not so much deliberate and conscious as it is evolutionary.
"As technology has evolved, step by step, it has placed boundaries between human beings and their connections with larger, nonhuman realities.  As life acquired ever more technological wrapping, human experience and understanding were confined and altered.  In Solaris these changes happen in a nonspecific order over time, until people's minds and living patterns are so disconnected that there is no way of knowing reality from fantasy.  At such a point, there is no choice but to accept leadership, however arbitrary. 
"Such leadership may very well not plan its own success.  It emerges organically at the moment when human experience has been sufficiently channeled and confined.  In this cultural analogue of mass sensory deprivation, simple, clear statements assume a greater authority and profundity than they deserve.
"Whoever recognizes that such a crucial moment has arrived, that people's minds are appropriately confused and receptive, can speak directly into them without interference.  The people who are spoken to are preconditioned to accept what they hear, like the Solaris astronauts...."
Mander goes on to say "Technology plays a critical role in this process because it creates standardized arbitrary forms of physical and mental confinement.  Television is the ideal tool for such purposes because it both confines experience and implants simple, clear ideas.

"Seen in this way, a new fact emerges.  Autocracy needn't come in the form of a person at all, or even as an articulated ideology or conscious conspiracy.  (italics mine)  The autocracy can exist in the technology itself.  The technology can produce its own subordinated society, as though it were alive, like Solaris"