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The Critique of Civilization
02-06-2013, 07:25 PM,
#1
The Critique of Civilization
I've been meaning to discuss and research these ideas for quite a while so here is the thread to do so. These ideas primarily come from the anarcho-primitivist community and while I'm not advocating a return to primitive lifestyles, I still feel there is plenty of very relevant points in their arguments and I personally found them to be an excellent source of understanding the world we live in.

To begin, I'm going to repost what I feel is a good introduction to the topic which was originally found here.

(04-18-2011, 09:48 AM)R.R Wrote: Just thought I'd add some thoughts to parts of this highly recommended essay:

http://ranprieur.com/essays/civFAQ.html

Critique of Civilization FAQ
by Ran Prieur
April 8, 2005
(revised October 2006)


Quote:What do you mean, "critique of civilization"?

Mostly I mean putting human civilization in context, seeing it from the perspective of the world that surrounds it, instead of through the lens of its own mythology. For example, we're taught to think of human prehistory as a temporary, transitional stage destined to "improve" into a world like our own. In fact, we have lived as forager-hunters for at least 100 times as long as we've been tilling the soil, and it's our own age that shows every sign of being temporary, unstable, and short. The critique of civilization is a reframing, after which "primitive" people seem like the human norm, and civilization seems like a brief failed experiment.

Another example: suppose I broke into your house, killed your family, locked you in a cage, threw out all your stuff, redecorated according to my tastes, and called it "growth" because I used to have one house and now have two, or called it "development" because I replaced your stuff with my own. That's exactly what civilization does, to nature, to nonhumans, to nature-based humans, even to humans in other branches of civilization.

Civilization certainly carries its own mythology, for instance when you read many different speculations about the future, especially doomsday scenarios, the real issue of concern to most writers is not humanity but civilization itself. Its mythology is generally one of having found 'the way' to live and thus it should be followed by all of our kind. This is a very important concept for if we look at the greatest civilizing force in humanity's history, it is religion and religion has always followed this pattern of demanding other humans follow their dictates. While this is often confused as a problem inherent in religion, it can in fact be seen in virtually every social movement in modern times especially amongst studies of globalization. Whether Marxism, capitalism, socialism, the Venus Project or other secular utopian concepts, we see ideologies that demand the planet follow their dictates and amongst this, an implication that they all are the next phase in human evolution, which continues the mythos of civilization which haunts us today - continuous growth. This concept is an outgrowth of what civilization has achieved, namely higher material living standards where the divide between rich and poor increases with every generation throughout history, spawning its crown jewell of justification - the theory of evolution. Conceptually we are looking at what amounts to an idea of linear progressive time which basically says the later something is, the better it is.

All of war stems from the demands of civilization; battling for resources in order to create or discover something that advances civilization (not for base necessities such as food, these must be conquered first and foremost before civilization can truly emerge), the drive to modernise foreign lands in order to exploit them better and many other conventional theories not to mention the concepts not found in general history books such as war as a social control mechanism which ensures the masses keep working which is essential to the upkeep of infrastructure that is managed by a bureaucracy and thus maintains the organised society that civilization demands. Civilization, in fact, maintains peace through war slowly evolving into global civilization and then, it is hoped, a space colonizing civilization simply because linear progression suggests it by a subtle implementaion of determinism. Which basically means civilized humanity, if the fantasies of its advocates come to fruition, has much more conspiring, killing and colonizing to look forward too which in some ways exposes civilizations true lack of 'progression'; why does it demand to seek the same experiences constantly just with different backgrounds? As humans the same experiences of love, hate, anger, accomplishment etc will be felt whether on a ship sailing the Indian Ocean in the 16th century or on the Starship Enterprise in the 27th. Insanity is doing the same things expecting different results. All through history it is the same thing - a force that feels superior imposing it's will on others. The future will be no different, not because there is apparently something naturally violent in man, but because it is the modus operandi of civilization. Civilization is parasitic in nature, always needing a new fix, always sucking off the energy of others, incorporating more things into its tenticles which it discards once something more efficient is found and exploited like a new drug, yet instead of trying to wean itself off drugs, civilization grows ever more addicted to destructive behaviours replacing the real and natural world with one of illusion and fantasy lying to itself that it has found truth like a psychedelic user in the drive to find new experiences in a neverending search for meaning.

Quote:It's not really that bad, is it?

The deserts of central and southwest Asia and the Mediterranean used to be forests. Ancient empires cut them down to burn the wood to smelt metal for weapons, and to build ships, which they used to conquer their neighbors. This has been the pattern of every "successful" civilization in history: to transform the life of the Earth into larger human populations that must conquer and deplete more land to survive, spreading like a cancer over thousands of miles, destroying every habitat and culture in their path, until they go totally mad, exhaust their landbase, and crash.

A universe littered with civilized humans is a disgusting thought, the transportable beehives is the destiny of civilized man, setting up civilizations on various extraterrestrial worlds with a governmental elite watching over millions of slaves on each world who exploit the natural resources that eventually cut the journey from Earth to Pluto by 15% which gives some sense of direction for intergalactic travel. Which has been a constant of civilized history - exploitation leading to improved technology which allows an elite to expand their power.

Quote:Can you define "civilization"?

I don't think it's necessary or even helpful to make an airtight definition. I follow William Kötke in using "civilization" interchangeably with "empire." I define it loosely as a self-reinforcing societal pattern of depletion of the land, accumulation of wealth, conquest, repression, central control, and insulation and disconnection from life, with all of these habits allied to mental, cultural, and physical artifacts.

For example, the plow is a physical artifact that enables the cultural habit of grain farming to take biomass from the soil and convert it into more humans and into stores of grain, which enable the cultural artifact of "wealth," which enables some people to tell others what to do and build the cultural artifact of "command," backed up by physical artifacts like swords and guns and cultural roles like soldiers and police, who reinforce the whole pattern by conquering and holding more land for the plow and more people for the roles of farmer and owner and soldier. Also, farming enables people to lose their awareness of wild nature and still survive -- in fact, it links their survival to viewing wild nature as an enemy, which feeds back and supports their habit of exterminating nature.

Or, the car is a physical artifact whose manufacture and use require the land to be torn up for mining (after being conquered), polluted with industrial waste products, and covered with pavement, and the car feeds back into this system by insulating and disconnecting people behind its metal walls and blurring speeds, so they lose touch with their neighbors and with the world they're destroying. Also cars enable us to put more distance between the places we have to go, forcing us to have cars to get there, and thus to do thousands of hours of commanded labor to be permitted to own them.

Civilization interchangeable with empire? That certainly explains a lot of historical data and modern events. The interconnectedness of all things civilized also feeds this monster - it can only get bigger if allowed to continue.

Quote:Sure, everyone knows cars are bad. But what about all the good stuff in civilization, like our medical advances?

Most of industrial medicine exists to treat diseases and injuries that are caused by industrial civilization in the first place, like heart disease and cancer and car crashes, which are rare or nonexistent in nature. And mostly it fails to treat them, and only succeeds in prolonging sickness to increase the power of the medical system and allow it to more completely colonize our lives.

Not only that but people aren't content with just prolonged life - it has to conform to a youthful disposition. 30 is the new 20, soon it will be more, throughout the 1900's we've seen more ugly old haggard celebrities and elitists attempt all sorts of methods to maintain youthfulness, which admittedly is nothing new, but in conjuction with technology will truly allow the fulfillment of the Peter Pan wish - and children are the easiest to control.

Quote:Didn't primitive people live only 30 years, and have lots of health problems?

Non-civilized people observed in historical times tend to be healthier than civilized people, and quite long-lived. As for prehistoric people, we can only look at their skeletons. Here's what Jared Diamond wrote in The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race:

At Dickson Mounds, located near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois rivers, archaeologists have excavated some 800 skeletons that paint a picture of the health changes that occurred when a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around AD 1150... Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 percent increase in [tooth] enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a threefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor.

Mr. Diamond has just explained another constant of civilization's history; the lower rung of society (the majority) work the hardest, live the worst and are generally unhealthy. There is nothing new in practice with civilization, whatever deceptions you find out about in todays's world, were occurring all through civilization's history, you just have to factor in material changes. Philosphically and psychologically it remains the same. Dwell on that the next time advocates of the 'perennial philosophy' use ancient social customs as evidence for the truths of such concepts. Occultism has always lingered amongst those that are the guiding hands of civilization.

Quote:Still, on the whole, don't we live better than primitive people? Didn't they constantly struggle for existence and fight each other a lot?

It's true that people in emotionally healthy subcultures in elite nations have it better in many ways than people in the nastiest tribes. But some observed nature-based societies look like utopia compared to civilization -- the political structure is egalitarian and non-coercive, fighting is rarely deadly, the people are strong and happy, and they spend only a few hours a day in the meaningful activities of survival, and the rest of their time playing and slacking off.

Why boast about modern conditions? They will be laughed at in 10 years from now much like the 3rd world and developing world are considered jokes by most in civilized lands, just like the same people laugh at the social conditions of various points in history and how, with the speed of technology, people laugh at the methods of something so recent as dial-up internet, chunky mobile phones, the original Playstation or 500mhz processors never mind chuckling at the days of pompous aristocracies. Material standards will always change but they seem to have an inverse correlation with quality of human relationships - which is something never factored into futurology, although that is to be expected for most futurology is propaganda for the future of civilization.

Quote:What about the Aztecs or the Mayans or the Incas, who had strict hierarchy and human sacrifice and military conquest to support increasing populations?

I classify them as civilizations because they had repressive centralized systems linked to "growth" economies. It's true that there's not a clear division between civilized and primitive. I suspect that some North American tribes were well on their way to complex top-down government and depletion of the land. But the point is, humans are capable of the whole range, from killing nature to supporting it, from runaway increase to balance, from repression to peaceful anarchy. Even if only one tribe lived at the nice end of all those scales, it would be evidence that something like that is possible for all of us. In fact many did, and could again.

We may be forced to live like that again although the elites of today would find sanctuary in their many safehavens, re-emerging after a catastrophe only to be hellbent on restarting civilization again. This may have happened long ago especially when history records civilization as being an almost overnight phenomenon.....

Quote:I read that murder rates are higher among primitive people.

Sure, if you only count it as murder when one person hits another person with an axe! Highly complex societies have the luxury of more powerful and subtle murders. I consider all cancer deaths to be homicides -- or suicides if the victims are also willing participants in the crimes. Cancer was rare in pre-industrial times and even rarer in pre-civilized times. You get it from a combination of emotional distress and exposure to toxic environmental factors, and the people who make and enable the decisions to create those factors are the murderers. Heart disease is suicide-homicide by the corporations that profit from trans fats and other heart-disease-causing foods, and their stockholders. Lung cancer is suicide-homicide by tobacco companies that standardize the nicotine dose and add even more addictive substances to increase their profits. Every car crash death is a homicide by the various interests that set us up to have no choice but to drive around in cars all day.

If there are going to be murders, I'd rather have them out in the open and honest. If you get killed in a tribal war, you're probably suffering less at your moment of death than industrialized people suffer every day, because you can see the story that you're part of.

Artificially induced deathrates are essential to civilization, much like modern talk of depopulation - technology will be able to perform so many tasks that most of us are simply not needed.

Quote:Aren't you romanticizing primitive people? They're not perfect, you know.

There's no such thing as "perfection." That's a fantasy of increase-based society that makes us think the world in front of us is never good enough, so that we have to keep reaching for more wealth and control. The nonexistent techno-utopia is "perfect." I'm just observing what's been documented by civilization's own anthropologists, and noticing that, while imperfect, it's preferable to "civilized" life.

Most do-gooders point their fingers at the wrong culprits - most of our problems arise from this ideal of improving the world - thus the biggest harm has been done by those with good intentions who, perhaps to be fair, unknowingly work towards and extend the very causes of our problems.

Quote:But you seem happy to me. You should be thankful you live in America.

That's like telling a serial killer he should be thankful he gets to drink the blood of his victims, instead of telling him to quit killing. People in elite nations are rewarded with cheap pleasures in exchange for consenting to a system that kills and robs people in poorer nations and nonhumans everywhere. And they're still not satisfied. They chase status and money and distract themselves with hedonism and toys to try to cover up the emptiness of their existence. The only reason my existence feels meaningful is I've begun to see through the whole sham and I'm exploring ways to do something about it. I'll feel thankful I live in America when the American Empire has broken down into thousands of autonomous nature-based communities and we can ride horses on the ruined freeways.

This needs repeating:

People in elite nations are rewarded with cheap pleasures in exchange for consenting to a system that kills and robs people in poorer nations and nonhumans everywhere. And they're still not satisfied. They chase status and money and distract themselves with hedonism and toys to try to cover up the emptiness of their existence. The only reason my existence feels meaningful is I've begun to see through the whole sham and I'm exploring ways to do something about it.

Quote:So you want us all to go back to the stone age?

The word "back" is a trick. It implies a magical absolute direction of change. Suppose you go to your job, and when you get ready to leave, your boss says, "So you want to go back to your house? Don't you know you can never go back? You can only go forward, to working for me even more, ha ha ha!" Really, all motion is forward, and forward motion can go in any direction we choose, including to places we've been before.

Thats very true, the future is not written irrespective of how many religious nuts, occultists, determinists, New Agers and doom-mongers say so. Remember there have been many revisions to judgement day, the world was supposed to end by an ice age then global dimming then global warming, a computer crash in the year 2000, several thousand prophecies, nuclear warfare, the ozone layer and I'm sure you know many more. Keep in mind though, that all of these were causes by civilization and the propaganda exploitation of them also allowed the 'progress' of civilization generally through the creation of new laws or agencies that helped to speed up territorial amalgamation under more centralised governmental sytems - this is primarily why forces connected to governments such as the intelligence services create these problems themselves and also because government has always justified its existence by claiming to protect people from a threat that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to deal with themselves - no threats to society means no government, thus those that benefit from the governmental system conspire to maintain its existence.

Quote:So you want us all to go forward to the stone age?

The term "stone age" is another trick, if it's interpreted as a temporary stage in a progression that logically had to lead to the age we're in now. There's no biological reason to suppose this. Sharks have barely changed in the last 100 million years, and we consider them successful for finding a place they fit and staying there. Humans fit with nature for one to two million years, and then less than ten thousand years ago some of us tried something different that's obviously not working. Ten thousand years out of a million is like 36 seconds out of an hour.

Quote:But civilized also means polite, considerate, peaceful, broad-minded, cultured, learned, and so on. Are you against all that?

That use of the word "civilized" is a trick. To destroy life, to conquer, to imprison, to torture, are typical behaviors of civilization and less common in other societies. The Arawaks brought gifts to Columbus and he hacked up their children to feed to dogs. Which culture was "civilized"? The behavior that we call "civilized" is common only at the centers of civilization, among the sheltered elite. And even our greatest thinkers can barely match the typical forager-hunter, who has knowledge and understanding of thousands of plant and animal species, where they grow, how they interrelate, what they're good for. The native view of the spirit world behind the physical world, whether or not you think it's true, is more deep and complex than the cold doctrines and abstractions of western religion.

Every primitive human knows how to improvise a shelter and find wild edibles. Not only do civilized people lack primitive skills, we even lack civilized skills -- most of us can't even program a VCR or change the oil in a car. We are the most pathetic and powerless humans who have ever lived. This is good news! As wonderful as you think your apartment and your TV shows are, that world is a padded cell compared to the rest of the universe.

So true.

Quote:Couldn't we build a good civilization, one that had a lot of modern technologies but was peaceful and environmentally sustainable?

Maybe. But our familiar "technologies" were developed in the context of conquest and central control and runaway exploitation and the numbness to make it all tolerable. We have the ones we have because they fed back into these habits, and they would continue to do so. Even if we had cars powered by fusion plants, they would still daze us with their speed and enable us to live far apart, when we need to slow to a walking pace to know nature, and live close together to know our neighbors. We need tools allied to sharing, not isolation, and energy sources that do not require central administration, and energy in small enough quantities that we have to get our hands dirty and be intimate with what we're doing.

Tom Brown once asked Stalking Wolf why the cold didn't bother him. Stalking Wolf answered, "Because it's real." The same things that make primitive life uncomfortable make it more alive. In a society that protects us from that aliveness, and that also denies us the thrill of escalating "progress," how will we enjoy life enough to keep that society going?

I think we have to ponder the point about the things we use and the context for which they were developed in. I personally feel civilization can work mainly because those that look into civilizational critiques leave out the occult history of the world. That is not to necessarily say that demons control the world but that a philosophy has controlled the world for thousands of years which is basically the secret doctrine of the secret societies who claim to have a heavy connection to the origins of civilization and point to religious practices as being modifications of their own methods - namely as an exoteric system of mass unification while the initiatic societies held more secret or esoteric knowledge which was basically the ability to run, control and manage a society. Also for a different and more 'fairer' civilization to work, we'd need to re-evaluate the concept of growth - I think any future model will be of slow or limited growth and development although you never know - releasing the shackles of vaccines and terrible food and the forced slavery known as work may allow for faster development than ever before mainly because much of what we could learn about is filtered by the world's most powerful people. Remember, not necessarily by demons......

Quote:I've read (and written) plenty of speculations about how civilization got started, and the hypothesis that humans have been possessed by life-hating occult entities is not only the most meaningful, but one of the more plausible.

http://www.ranprieur.com/essays/changevery.html
Reply
02-07-2013, 10:16 AM,
#2
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Ran Prieur has updated his older essays in November 2012 by moving away from anarcho-primitivism. Here are some interesting recent opinions from his Beyond civilized and primitive:

Ran Prieur Wrote:Well, they're [primitivists] only open a crack. To grow biological abundance for its own sake, and not for human utility, is still a fringe position. But my point is that the civilized-primitive framework forces us to divide things a certain way: On one side are complexity, change, invention, unstable "growth", taking, control, and the future. On the other side are simplicity, stasis, tradition, stability, giving, freedom, and the past. Once we abandon that framework, which is itself an artifact of western industrial society, we can integrate evidence that the framework excludes, and we can try to match things up differently.

I think he refers here to Derrick Jensen:

Ran Prieur Wrote:What I fear is that some writers are trying to inspire a movement to actively cause a hard collapse, and if they attract enough followers, they could succeed. This would be a terrible mistake -- not just a moral mistake but a strategic mistake -- and the root of it is old-fashioned authoritarian thinking: that if you force someone to do something, it's the same as if they do it on their own. In fact it's exactly the opposite. The more we are forced to abandon this system, the less we will learn, and the more aggressively we will fight to rebuild something like it. And the more we choose to abandon it, the more we will learn, and the less likely we will make the same mistakes.

The grand finale:

Ran Prieur Wrote:The "singularity" theory is also off the mark. Techies think machines will surpass humans, because the mechanistic model tells them that we're nothing but machines ourselves, so all we need to do is make better machines, which according to the myth of "progress" is inevitable. I think if we do get a technological transcendence, it's going to involve machines changing humans. My favorite scenario is time-contracted virtual reality: suppose you can go into an artificial world, have the experience of spending a week there, and come back and only a day has passed, or an hour, or a minute. If we can do that, all bets are off!

The biggest weakness in my vision is that innovation can go with stability, that we can continue exploring and trying new things without repeatedly destabilizing ourselves by extending our power beyond our understanding. But it's equally implausible that we could somehow transform ourselves out of being a curious and inventive species, or that we could drive ourselves to extinction -- we are by far the most mentally adaptable species on Earth, and not bad at physical adaptation.

One possibility is that we will diverge into multiple species. It happens all the time in nature, and for most of the history of hominids there were several kinds of us walking around. This could happen through biotech, or through ordinary evolution, which we still don't understand. Scientists have spent decades bombarding fruit flies with radiation, trying to produce a random mutation that would lead to a new species, and totally failed. But in another experiment, fruit flies were put through a maze with different exits depending on environmental preferences, and they formed distinct populations that refused to interbreed. It's a good guess that this is already happening with humans, and that our accelerating evolution is being driven not by our high population, but by increasing diversity of human environments, which is likely to continue. Maybe we will spin off subspecies that overspecialize themselves into extinction, while a few generalist core species survive.

If I had to guess, we're just going to keep making mistakes and falling down forever, and in that case the best we can do is minimize the severity of the falls. I think we're doing a pretty good job even in the present collapse, which is shaping up to be a big one. Innovations in efficient farming and water filtration and small-scale alternative energy are going to give many regions a soft landing. Even in America, which has a long way to fall, we might escape with no more than a severe depression, a mild fall in population, and a much-needed shakeout of technology and economics. Life will get more painful but also more meaningful, as billions of human-hours shift from processing paperwork and watching TV to intensive learning of new skills to keep ourselves alive. These skills will run the whole range, from tracking deer to growing tomatoes to fixing bicycles to building solar-powered wi-fi networks -- to new things we won't even imagine until we have our backs to the wall.

I think we can see the future in popular fiction, but not the fiction we think. Most science fiction is either stuck in the recent past, in the industrial age's boundless optimism about machines, or it looks at the present by exploring the unintended consequences of high tech. Cyberpunk is better -- if you put a 1950's Disney version of the year 2000 through a cyberpunk filter, you would get very close to the real 2000. The key insight of cyberpunk is that more technology doesn't make things cleaner -- it makes things dirtier.

Fantasy, while seeming to look at the past, might be seeing the future: elves and wizards could represent the increasing diversity of humans (or post-humans) after the breakdown of the industrial monoculture, and "magic" is clearly a glimpse of post-mechanistic scientific paradigms. And I think steampunk does the best of all, if you factor out the Victorian frippery. Like cyberpunk, it shows a human-made world that's as messy and alive as nature, but the technological system is a crazy hybrid of everything from "stone age" to "space age" -- thus refuting the very idea that we are locked into ages.

Primitive people see time as a circle. Civilized people see it as a line. We are about to see it as an open plain where we can wander at will. History is broken. Go!

A great read, as always!
Reply
02-12-2013, 03:05 AM, (This post was last modified: 02-12-2013, 03:07 AM by Valthrax.)
#3
RE: The Critique of Civilization

OK. I have found a bit of time to go through this thread and to post a few comments.

Thank you for posting it people.


Ran Prieur Wrote:Well, they're [primitivists] only open a crack. To grow biological abundance for its own sake, and not for human utility, is still a fringe position. But my point is that the civilized-primitive framework forces us to divide things a certain way: On one side are complexity, change, invention, unstable "growth", taking, control, and the future. On the other side are simplicity, stasis, tradition, stability, giving, freedom, and the past. Once we abandon that framework, which is itself an artifact of western industrial society, we can integrate evidence that the framework excludes, and we can try to match things up differently.

This is all based on an assumption that somehow we are in control of our own direction and that the popular drive of Humankind is directing our, albeit misguided, course, and that once we reach a certain point the momentum will be lost and then we can bring in other "evidence" and refocus for a better goal, proceeding on from there.

Well there is a popular drive empowered by the mass, but it isn't a self-originating one, it is one implanted and imposed by other forces as we all should know here... and probably do. As well, where we will go once this phase has ended, has already been determined a long, long time ago and will not be determined by any newly integrated evidence.


Ran Prieur Wrote:What I fear is that some writers are trying to inspire a movement to actively cause a hard collapse, and if they attract enough followers, they could succeed.

They do not need followers in that sense, for they recruit however many that they need when they need them, as governed by predetermined plans.

Ran Prieur Wrote:This would be a terrible mistake -- not just a moral mistake but a strategic mistake -- and the root of it is old-fashioned authoritarian thinking: that if you force someone to do something, it's the same as if they do it on their own. In fact it's exactly the opposite. The more we are forced to abandon this system, the less we will learn, and the more aggressively we will fight to rebuild something like it. And the more we choose to abandon it, the more we will learn, and the less likely we will make the same mistakes.

I agree with some of that. Force can only carry the ball so far and ends up planting the seeds of it's own demise. This is where the magic of psychology and propaganda comes in; it is far superior to physical force of any kind... though physical force does serve a purpose if used correctly, and for the short term, working hand in hand with a mental steering power like propaganda.
Force is quick and brutal. Great for making haste and laying waste... but it can never last by itself.


Ran Prieur Wrote:The "singularity" theory is also off the mark. Techies think machines will surpass humans, because the mechanistic model tells them that we're nothing but machines ourselves, so all we need to do is make better machines, which according to the myth of "progress" is inevitable. I think if we do get a technological transcendence, it's going to involve machines changing humans.

He is right on the mark with that.

Ran Prieur Wrote:My favorite scenario is time-contracted virtual reality: suppose you can go into an artificial world, have the experience of spending a week there, and come back and only a day has passed, or an hour, or a minute. If we can do that, all bets are off!

Again, this is under the naive assumption that we are in essence, self-directed and thus the future is open... at least to some degree. If this virtuality-based time compression does occur, (and I have heard nothing about it), then it is because it is necessary as a mechanism of control -or- it will be unavailable to the vast majority, and restricted to the major bloodlines.

Ran Prieur Wrote:The biggest weakness in my vision is that innovation can go with stability, that we can continue exploring and trying new things without repeatedly destabilizing ourselves by extending our power beyond our understanding.

Hahaha. That is funny. He flitters back and forth from being slightly aware that there is a supra-government, and that we are more or less self-directed.

Ran Prieur Wrote:One possibility is that we will diverge into multiple species. It happens all the time in nature, and for most of the history of hominids there were several kinds of us walking around. This could happen through biotech, or through ordinary evolution, which we still don't understand. Scientists have spent decades bombarding fruit flies with radiation, trying to produce a random mutation that would lead to a new species, and totally failed. But in another experiment, fruit flies were put through a maze with different exits depending on environmental preferences, and they formed distinct populations that refused to interbreed. It's a good guess that this is already happening with humans, and that our accelerating evolution is being driven not by our high population, but by increasing diversity of human environments, which is likely to continue. Maybe we will spin off subspecies that overspecialize themselves into extinction, while a few generalist core species survive.

This is the Trans-humanist agenda. At this point I suspect that he is one... if only passively moved along by the media and propaganda driving it.

Ran Prieur Wrote:If I had to guess, we're just going to keep making mistakes and falling down forever, and in that case the best we can do is minimize the severity of the falls. I think we're doing a pretty good job even in the present collapse, which is shaping up to be a big one. Innovations in efficient farming and water filtration and small-scale alternative energy are going to give many regions a soft landing. Even in America, which has a long way to fall, we might escape with no more than a severe depression, a mild fall in population, and a much-needed shakeout of technology and economics. Life will get more painful but also more meaningful, as billions of human-hours shift from processing paperwork and watching TV to intensive learning of new skills to keep ourselves alive. These skills will run the whole range, from tracking deer to growing tomatoes to fixing bicycles to building solar-powered wi-fi networks.

This is a fuzzy mixture of truth, naivete and silly speculation... though he did preface it as a "guess", it does indicate what is going on in his mind, and where it thrusts itself in it's brief moments of freedom.

Ran Prieur Wrote:I think we can see the future in popular fiction, but not the fiction we think. Most science fiction is either stuck in the recent past, in the industrial age's boundless optimism about machines, or it looks at the present by exploring the unintended consequences of high tech. Cyberpunk is better -- if you put a 1950's Disney version of the year 2000 through a cyberpunk filter, you would get very close to the real 2000. The key insight of cyberpunk is that more technology doesn't make things cleaner -- it makes things dirtier.

This is obviously Predictive Programming; something that he apparently knows nothing about.

Ran Prieur Wrote:Fantasy, while seeming to look at the past, might be seeing the future: elves and wizards could represent the increasing diversity of humans (or post-humans) after the breakdown of the industrial monoculture, and "magic" is clearly a glimpse of post-mechanistic scientific paradigms. And I think steampunk does the best of all, if you factor out the Victorian frippery. Like cyberpunk, it shows a human-made world that's as messy and alive as nature, but the technological system is a crazy hybrid of everything from "stone age" to "space age" -- thus refuting the very idea that we are locked into ages.

All of this is the mindless regurgitation of the garbage infused into the minds of the public by fashionable trends and serves to get society to expect and accept a man/machine merger. He is witnessing a forced amalgamation of different pieces of different cultures, past and present, to prepare Humanity for a shift into a global culture, while shattering the old ones and removing the roots within. If we have nothing but a messy mixture of ever-shifting crumbs of the past then we are ripe for the change into something new... having nothing concrete to hold on to... all things traditional and familial having been given up for the flashy rush of an ever-changing, piecemeal, culture.

Ran Prieur Wrote:Primitive people see time as a circle. Civilized people see it as a line. We are about to see it as an open plain where we can wander at will. History is broken. Go!

Oh god... OK. When I first glanced through this a few days ago there was enough for me to plan to come back when I had more time to go through it.
However... after a more thorough reading, I find Ran Prieur mildly interesting from an intellectual point of view, though being somewhat childlike in his world views. He is largely unaware of the greater forces that move us, keeping his small toe in the frigid waters of reality, while basking the rest of himself in the suffocatingly warm airs of indoctrination, swaddled and sucking on the teat of his oppressors... and preferring the taste of manufactured chemicals to earth-grown nutrition.
Reply
02-12-2013, 09:33 AM,
#4
RE: The Critique of Civilization
(02-12-2013, 03:05 AM)Valthrax Wrote:
Ran Prieur Wrote:Fantasy, while seeming to look at the past, might be seeing the future: elves and wizards could represent the increasing diversity of humans (or post-humans) after the breakdown of the industrial monoculture, and "magic" is clearly a glimpse of post-mechanistic scientific paradigms. And I think steampunk does the best of all, if you factor out the Victorian frippery. Like cyberpunk, it shows a human-made world that's as messy and alive as nature, but the technological system is a crazy hybrid of everything from "stone age" to "space age" -- thus refuting the very idea that we are locked into ages.

All of this is the mindless regurgitation of the garbage infused into the minds of the public by fashionable trends and serves to get society to expect and accept a man/machine merger. He is witnessing a forced amalgamation of different pieces of different cultures, past and present, to prepare Humanity for a shift into a global culture, while shattering the old ones and removing the roots within. If we have nothing but a messy mixture of ever-shifting crumbs of the past then we are ripe for the change into something new... having nothing concrete to hold on to... all things traditional and familial having been given up for the flashy rush of an ever-changing, piecemeal, culture.

I have to disagree with you. Transhumanism speaks of making a better human, of improving the human condition. Prieur speaks of learning how to think, to stop being conditioned by naive delineations. He sees culture as having the greatest force in changing us. In the end, evolution works toward functional diversity.

The global culture is the logical consequence of globalization. As far as I know Prieur lives in a frugal way doing the only thing that might stop the emergence of an ubiquitous culture.
Reply
02-12-2013, 01:17 PM, (This post was last modified: 02-12-2013, 04:58 PM by Valthrax.)
#5
RE: The Critique of Civilization

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying who Prieur is... regarding him, I only know of what has been written here... thus I can only make statements based upon that... which should be clear, and is all that I intended.

But Transhumanists believe that a human/machine merger is the next natural stage of Evolution... and that this merger is inevitable! Madness.

They are pushing Darwinian Evolution... which is a religion, (and is a political agenda... like Global Warming),... not science... of course, it also depends on what a person believes science to be.

Of course both Transhumanists and the religion of Darwinian Evolution were created to work together.. which is why one wipes the arse of the other... thus a person is inclined to believe in both... if they believe in either.

However, I did cover a bit of ground; do not get stuck on my 2nd last paragraph, it is meant to work hand in glove with the other things that I wrote... and I did agree with some of the things that he says... as I noted.

At any rate, I'll stand by what I wrote and at this point, it stands... though I did not put it forward as the beginnings of a debate, just to play the Devil's Advocate for the purposes of pointing out a few things that might not otherwise be clear.

Is this not the function of ConCen?
Reply
02-13-2013, 06:04 AM, (This post was last modified: 02-13-2013, 07:04 AM by R.R.)
#6
RE: The Critique of Civilization
I pretty much agree with Valthrax.

On the subject of Prieur; I originally posted and commented on his work because I felt he made some excellent points with valid criticisms of what we see around us. I also, albeit not in much detail, added some additional things which, in fairness, because it was in the book review thread, it was meant to be read in context of other ideas mentioned in there. That thread was created as a resource for research and wider thinking.

As for transhumanism and Darwinism; there is a lot to learn. I really should do a review and expand upon the ideas in this book, but I'll add a few comments to this review:

[Image: 86134.jpg]

Quote:Review: The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention.
By D. F. Noble. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. 273 pp.

Copyright: Canadian Journal of Communication

The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention closes more than 20 years of research of coming to terms with the power and the ambivalent character of technology in the modern (American) society. In America By Design (1977), Noble examined the convergence of science, technology, and corporate capitalism, offering a Marxist reading of the appropriation and exploitation of knowledge by the managerial class. 1984, in Forces of Production, he investigated the social history of industrial automation. In A World Without Women (1992), he focussed on the gender aspect of engineering arguing that its male-dominance continues the Christian, clerical culture from which it emerged. In the present book, Noble concludes his move from the material to the cultural forces shaping technology by examining the religious transcendentalism that motivates the techno-scientific project.

Noble addresses the question why Western Judeo-Christian culture has developed such an extraordinary obsession with technology. He argues that, at its core, technology embodies a tenet of religious millenarianism promising the transcendence of mortal life. It is the achievement of this provocative thesis to foreground that religion and technology are not so much opposing historical projects but rather that they are deeply intertwined. Noble traces the varying forms in which religious convictions have stimulated science and technology over the last thousand years and examines how they still shape their current development.

Basically what the critique of civilization exposes is a greater focus on the atrocities committed in the name of technology and 'progress'. The critique, however, sees these problems as inherent within technology without really looking at the social forces pursuing technology at the expense of people. What one has to do is look at and connect the dots. Essentially there has lingered a belief to create heaven on Earth, somewhat derived from religious traditions. State religions were a method of public control and surveillance - hiding behind them were the same forces throughout civilised history; what we can loosely term the mystery tradition. Religion may no longer be the driving force in shaping progress (religion remember 'civilised' foreign cultures long before the colonial era) but the people who used religion have now turned towards a more secular veil to achieve the same ages long goal. That is essentially the theme Noble expands upon, looking beyond the superficial and actually noticing that in practice, religion and technology have operated in similar fashions regardless of whatever perceptions arise from the use of those words. He goes on to show how the church, then Freemasonry and then the scientific establishments pushed technology - implicitly giving you a connection to the esoteric mystery traditions because you will find those forces behind those movements. At this point it is irrelevant what you believe the mystery tradition to be, it is just enough to know that it has been the driver behind human progress and development.

Continuing:

Quote:Noble begins his account in the ninth century at the court of Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne. There, in a radical departure from tradition, the philosopher John Scotus Erigena introduced the idea that the mechanical arts are "man's links with the Divine, their cultivation a means of salvation" (p. 17). Mechanical arts, a term used throughout the Middle Ages, comprised both science and technology. The knowledge (re)gained through mechanical arts, so Erigena argued, was an aspect of mankind's original endowment which had been obscured after the fall from paradise. Through the study and employment of technology, man's initial god-likeness could be, at least partially, restored. This new idea inspired a move away from seeking transcendence through the withdrawal from the world towards seeking it in extending man's dominion over nature, thus returning to the condition of paradise where Adam's knowledge was absolute. Throughout the Middle Ages a variety of brotherhoods embodied this spirit. Their members, exclusively men, viewed themselves as the vanguard to a restoration of the divine knowledge of man.

Charlemagne and that whole gang are interesting to study for a variety of reasons, but here you see the predominant idea behind technological pursuit and progress - anything else is pretty much propaganda. The idea is simple dominance and control.

Quote:Francis Bacon and other founders of modern science devoted themselves to finding new ways of getting closer to nature and deciphering the divine message of its making. Their scientific and religious ambitions were one and the same. Not only knowledge of the forms of nature, but knowledge of the divine design of nature was the goal, as scientists raised their eyes from Adam to his Father, from the image of God to His mind. Newton saw himself as a messiah and prophet. Utterly disinterested in the practical application of his knowledge, he believed that uncovering the hidden logic of the universe was to understand and identify with the mind of the creator, who by that time was increasingly considered as the divine watchmaker. With the colonialization of America the construction of paradise on earth became a decidedly more practical matter. And the spirit of engineering easily mixed with the militant Protestantism into a specific American credence of salvation through technology. The incremental advance of technology became enduring evidence of the progress towards perfection.

Perfection itself has been briefly and sporadically covered in the narcissism thread so you can now begin to see the mindset of the elites through history. Psychological maturity is something that is lacking in an analysis of both the critique of civilization and the critique of technology - criticisers essentially advocate that it is civilization itself or technology that turns people towards 'evil' (same argument with 'money') but in truth it is the level of maturity that dictates how these will be used. Manipulators, as in societal elites, will however usually attempt to recruit those who can be controlled which requires a certain lack of maturity.

Quote:The second half of Noble's account examines the religion of technology in four major projects of contemporary techno-science: nuclear weapons, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. Neither of those projects can be understood purely in terms of being useful to the improvement of the human condition, rather they are also "technologies of transcendence," promising to leave the disdained limitations of the body behind and to open a new, brighter chapter in the history of humanity.

The chapter on the atomic weapons program is the shortest and the weakest of the second part. A reason for the relatively poor findings might be that, contrary to other technological programs, the development of the atomic bomb was centrally planned and organized under the imperative of World War II, which left little room for other motivations to be become effective. Furthermore, the connection of an atomic war with the end of the world, Armageddon, is not very original as it is such a commonly used image.

The space program turns out to be a much more fertile field of exploration. Shooting people into space is read as the most literal attempt to leave Earth behind: to enter paradise physically. As the Apollo 11, the first manned capsule, landed on the moon in a spot called the Sea of Tranquillity, Erwin Aldrin--Presbyterian, Sunday-school teacher, and the second man on board (the other was Neil Armstrong)--asked Mission Control for radio silence. He then unpacked a small kit provided by his pastor, took communion, and read from the bible. This procedure was in full accordance with NASA, an organization where many of the leading members were very explicit about their religious convictions. But not only the engineers believed in the transcendental importance of this project. After Apollo 11's return form the moon, Richard Nixon declared: "This is the greatest week since the beginning of the world, the Creation" (p. 140)

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life both dream of creating something superior to man by endowing a bodiless machine with was is regarded as the divine part of man, his (and to much lesser extend, her) mind. The dream of creating life out of dead material is deeply rooted in mediaeval alchemy. The legendary Rabbi Low of Prague breathed life into a clay figure, the Golem in the 16th century. At least three of the major pioneers of AI, as Noble notes amused, believe themselves to be his direct descendants -- John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener and Marvin Minsky. Robotics and AI specialist at Carnegie Mellon, Hans Moravec, dreams that the brain can be downloaded into a computer system. Eternal life is just around the corner. As Moravec muses: "With enough dispersed copies, our permanent death would be unlikely." (p. 162) Paradise regained.

The most radical attempt to transcend the limitations of the fallen creation is to become the Creator Himself and to free humans from the deficiencies of their existence after the fall from grace. Physical and, ultimately, moral perfection of life itself is the goal of genetic engineers. Noble examines the Human Genome Project which has received, since 1990, massive government and private funding to map the entire gene sequence of a human being. This is not humble science devoted to bringing incremental advancement of the human condition. In the eyes of its current director, Francis Collins, this is nothing less than "the most important and the most significant project that humankind has ever mounted" (p. 191).

If technology has been deeply influenced by religious motives, why then is it so ambiguous in fulfilling its promises of a better life? As Noble concludes:

on a deeper cultural level, these technologies have not met basic human needs because, at the bottom, they have never really been about meeting them. They have been aimed rather at the loftier goal of transcending such mortal concerns altogether. In such an ideological context, inspired more by prophets than by profits, the needs neither of the mortals nor of the earth they inhabit are of any enduring consequence. And it is here that the religion of technology can be rightly considered a menace. (pp. 206-207)

This passage is as much conclusion as motivation of this book. As Noble argues, at the core of the project of technology is an irrational motivation. This needs to be acknowledged to make it accessible to a critique, urgently needed because of the threat posed by an ill-understood technology which has spun out of control.


Nobel's argument is stringent and forceful. However, he highlights only one aspect of the religion of technology: religious millenarianism. Even within this one aspect, Noble has a tendency to generalize. For him, all strands of Christianity are equal. He does not differentiate, for example, between different dogmas of Protestantism, or even between Protestantism and Catholicism. Max Weber's seminal Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, where this differentiation is prominent and very different religious influences on secular culture are foregrounded, is, strangely, ignored. All this makes it somewhat difficult to assess how important this one transcendental tenet really is. Noble does not present a well balanced, cautious argument but a vigorous critique. And it is the provocative radicality that makes the book so rewarding to read for everyone who is interested in understanding why technology has become so all-powerful in Western culture and what some of the (subconscious) stimuli of its dynamic are.


Here's some more work regarding the precursor of transhumanism and its ideological links and similarities to Freemasonry:

Cosmism

Connect the dots, link it together. Transhumanism will not improve the human condition, it is repackaged eugenics with the same agenda of alleged perfection - which are actually veiled in the symbols of Freemasonry.
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02-13-2013, 10:28 AM,
#7
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Relevant repost of similar themes of technology, nature and psychology:

Quote:The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations
by Christopher Lasch
© 1979

Published in New York by W. W. Norton & Company.
ISBN 0-393-30738-7

The following excerpts appear in the Afterword of the 1991 paperback edition, as reprinted from The World and I of February 1990.

A Faustian View of Technology

These considerations [of narcissism] help us to see how psychological defenses against separation anxiety – against early feelings of helplessness and dependence – can be elaborated in human culture. One way to deny our dependence on nature (on mothers) is to invent technologies designed to make ourselves masters of nature. Technology, when it is conceived in this way, embodies an attitude toward nature diametrically opposed to the exploratory attitude, as Klein calls it. It expresses a collective revolt against the limitations of the human condition. It appeals to the residual belief that we can bend the world to our desires, harness nature to our own purposes, and achieve a state of complete self-sufficiency. This Faustian view of technology has been a powerful force in Western history, reaching its climax in the Industrial Revolution, with its remarkable gains in productivity, and in the even more remarkable advances promised by the postindustrial information explosion.

Modern technology has achieved so many dazzling breakthroughs that we now find it difficult to envision any limits to collective human ingenuity. The secret of life itself is within our grasp, according to those who predict a revolution in genetics – in which case it may be possible for us to keep ourselves alive indefinitely or at least to extend the human life span to unheard-of lengths. This impending triumph over old age and death, we are told, is the ultimate tribute to humanity's power to master its surroundings. The prolongevity movement embodies the utopian possibilities of modern technology in its purest form. In the mid-seventies, Albert Rosenfeld, the movement's leading propagandist, predicted that "most of the major mysteries of the aging process" would be "solved" by the third decade of the twenty-first century. August Kinzel, former president of the Salk Institute, announced in 1967 that "we will lick the problem of aging completely, so that accidents will be essentially the only cause of death."

In psychological terms, the dream of subjugating nature is our culture's regressive solution to the problem of narcissism – repressive because it seeks to restore the primal illusion of omnipotence and refuses to accept limits on our collective self-sufficiency. In religious terms, the revolt against nature is also a revolt against God – that is, against the reality of our dependence on forces external to ourselves. The science of ecology – an example of the "exploratory" attitude toward nature, as opposed to the Faustian attitude – leaves no doubt about the inescapability of this dependence. Ecology indicates that human life is part of a larger organism and that human intervention into natural processes has far-reaching consequences that will always remain to some extent incalculable. Nature retains the upper hand: The very technologies designed to overcome natural limitations on human comfort and freedom many destroy the ozone layer, create a greenhouse effect, and make the earth unfit for human habitation.

Careful study of the consequences of our attempts to master nature leads only to a renewed appreciation of our dependence on nature. In the face of this evidence, the persistence of fantasies that envision technological self-sufficiency for the human race indicates that our culture is a culture of narcissism in a much deeper sense than is conveyed by journalistic slogans like "me-ism." No doubt there is too much selfish individualism in American life; but such diagnoses barely scratch the surface.

Twentieth-Century Gnosticism and the New Age Movement


Even our deeply rooted, misplaced faith in technology does not fully describe modern culture. What remains to be explained is how an exaggerated respect for technology can coexist with a revival of ancient superstitions, a belief in reincarnation, a growing fascination with the occult, and the bizarre forms of spirituality associated with the New Age movement. A widespread revolt against reason is as much a feature of our world as our faith in science and technology. Archaic myths and superstitions have reappeared in the very heart of the most modern, scientifically enlightened, and progressive nations in the world. The coexistence of advanced technology and primitive spirituality suggests that both are rooted in social conditions that make it increasingly difficult for people to accept the reality of sorrow, loss, aging, and death – to live with limits, in short. The anxieties peculiar to the modern world seem to have intensified old mechanisms of denial.

New Age spirituality, no less than technological utopianism, is rooted in primary narcissism. If the technological fantasy seeks to restore the infantile illusion of self-sufficiency, the New Age movement seeks to restore the illusion of symbiosis, a feeling of absolute oneness with the world. Instead of dreaming of the imposition of human will on the intractable world of matter, the New Age movement, which revives themes found in ancient Gnosticism, simply denies the reality of the material world. By treating matter essentially as an illusion, it removes every obstacle to the re-creation of a primary sense of wholeness and equilibrium – the return to Nirvana.

One of the most shocking psychological events of early infancy, as we have seen, is the discovery that the beloved caretakers on whom the infant depends for its life are at the same time the source of much of the infant's frustration. Parents – mothers in particular – provide gratification, but since their capacity to do this is not unlimited, they also, unavoidably, inflict the infant's first experiences of pain and sorrow. Parents also inflict pain on the child in their capacity as judges and disciplinarians. The reason the child finds it so difficult to acknowledge the union of gratification and suffering in a common source is that he thereby acknowledges his own dependence and limitations.

The perception of the parents' double nature entails the discovery that they are not mere projections of the child's own desires. A standard defense against this discovery – one of the standard mechanisms of denial – is the splitting of parental images into good and bad images. The infant's fantasies dissociate the frustrating and the pleasure-giving aspects of the adults who take care of him. Thus he invents idealized images of breasts side by side with images of omnipotent, threatening, and destructive maternal or paternal authority – a devouring vagina, a castrating penis or breast.

Religious dualism institutionalizes these primitive and regressive defenses by rigorously separating images of nurture and mercy from images of creation, judgment, and punishment. The particular version of dualism known as Gnosticism, which flourished in the Hellenistic world in the second, third, and fourth centuries A.D., carried this denial to its most radical conclusion. It condemned the entire material world as the creation of dark, evil powers. Gnosticism gave mythological form – often very touching and expressive form – to fantasies that serve to maintain the archaic illusion of oneness with a world absolutely responsive to one's own wishes and desires. By denying that a benign creator could have made a world in which both suffering and gratification have a place, Gnosticism kept alive the hope of a return to a spiritual condition in which those experiences are unknown. The secret knowledge that Gnostics prized so highly, into which only a few privileged souls were ever initiated, was precisely the original illusion of omnipotence; the memory of our divine origins, antecedent to our imprisonment in the flesh.

By interpreting the resurrection of Christ as a symbolic event, Gnostics avoided the Christian paradox of a suffering God. Unable to conceive of a union of spirit with matter, they denied that Jesus was a human being at all, depicting him instead as a spirit who presented himself to human perception in the illusory form of a human being. Their "grandiose mythology," as Hans Jonas calls it in his historical study The Gnostic Religion, purported to offer a definitive account of creation, according to which "human existence ... is only the stigma of a divine defeat." The material creation, including the life of human beings in the flesh, represented the triumph of inferior, diabolical deities; salvation lay in the spirit's escape from the body, in the remembrance of its celestial origin – not (as Christians believed) in reconciliation to the justice and beauty of a world that nevertheless includes evil.

The New Age movement has revived Gnostic theology in a form considerably adulterated by other influences and mixed up with imagery derived from science fiction – flying saucers, extraterrestrial intervention in human history, escape from the earth to a new home in space. What was often figurative and metaphorical in Gnosticism becomes literal in New Age writers like Ken Wilber, Robert Anton Wilson, and Doris Lessing. Where second-century Gnostics imagined the Savior as spirit mysteriously inhabiting a series of human bodies, their twentieth-century descendants conceive of him as a visitor from another solar system. Where the early Gnostics sought to recover the memory of man's original homeland without, however, assigning it an exact locale, New Age enthusiasts take the idea of heaven quite literally: Sirius seems to be the current favorite. (See, among many other books, Lessing's novel The Sirian Experiments.) They believe, moreover, that visitors from space built Stonehenge, the pyramids, and the lost civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis.

The New Age movement is to Gnosticism what fundamentalism is to Christianity – a literal restatement of ideas whose original value lay in their imaginative understanding of human life and the psychology of religious experience. When Shirley MacLaine finds Walt Whitman demanding that the universe be "judged from the standpoint of eternity," she takes this to refer to the immortality of the soul, not to the desirability of holding humans accountable to some kind of superhuman standard of conduct. In the same way, she attributes to Heinrich Heine a belief in reincarnation because he once asked, "Who can tell what tailor now inherits the soul of Plato?"

New Age spirituality may take strange shapes, but it is a prominent feature of our cultural landscape, like fundamentalism itself, which has grown steadily in recent years. The flowering of such movements has confounded earlier assumptions about the increasing secularization of modern life. Science has not displaced religion, as so many people once expected. Both seem to flourish side by side, often in grotesquely exaggerated form.

More than anything else, it is this coexistence of hyper-rationality and widespread revolt against rationality that justifies the characterization of our twentieth-century way of life as a culture of narcissism. These contradictory sensibilities have a common source. Both take root in the feelings of homelessness and displacement that afflict so many men and women today, in their heightened vulnerability to pain and deprivation, and in the contradiction between the promise that they can "have it all" and the reality of their limitations.

The best defenses against the terrors of existence are the homely comforts of love, work, and family life, which connect us to a world that is independent of our wishes yet responsive to our needs. It is through love and work, as Freud noted in a characteristically pungent remark, that we exchange crippling emotional conflict for ordinary unhappiness. Love and work enable each of us to explore a small corner of the world and to come to accept it on its own terms. But our society tends either to devalue small comforts or else to expect too much of them. Our standards of "creative, meaningful work" are too exalted to survive disappointment. Our ideal of "true romance" puts an impossible burden on personal relationships. We demand too much of life, too little of ourselves.

Our growing dependence on technologies no one seems to understand or control has given rise to feelings of powerlessness and victimization. We find it more and more difficult to achieve a sense of continuity, permanence, or connection with the world around us. Relationships with others are notably fragile; goods are made to be used up and discarded; reality is experienced as an unstable environment of flickering images. Everything conspires to encourage escapist solutions to the psychological problems of dependence, separation, and individuation, and to discourage the moral realism that makes it possible for human beings to come to terms with existential constraints on their power and freedom.

http://www.knappster.org/books/lasch.html
Reply
02-14-2013, 06:47 AM,
#8
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Another relevant repost:

Quote:Twilight of the Psychopaths

by Dr. Kevin Barrett

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.” – John Lennon, before his murder by CIA mind-control subject Mark David Chapman

When Gandhi was asked his opinion of Western civilization he said it would be a good idea. But that oft-cited quote, is misleading, assuming as it does that civilization is an unmitigated blessing.

Civilized people, we are told, live peacefully and cooperatively with their fellows, sharing the necessary labour in order to obtain the leisure to develop arts and sciences. And while that would be a good idea, it is not a good description of what has been going on in the so-called advanced cultures during the past 8,000 years.

Civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been based on slavery and “warfare.” Incidentally, the latter term is a euphemism for mass murder.


The prevailing recipe for civilization is simple:

1) Use lies and brainwashing to create an army of controlled, systematic mass murderers;

2) Use that army to enslave large numbers of people (i.e. seize control of their labour power and its fruits);

3) Use that slave labour power to improve the brainwashing process (by using the economic surplus to employ scribes, priests, and PR men). Then go back to step one and repeat the process.

Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, injure, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse. The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers—was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.

Military institutions are tailor-made for psychopathic killers. The 5% or so of human males who feel no remorse about killing their fellow human beings make the best soldiers. And the 95% who are extremely reluctant to kill make terrible soldiers — unless they are brainwashed with highly sophisticated modern techniques that turn them (temporarily it is hoped) into functional psychopaths.

In On Killing, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has re-written military history, to highlight what other histories hide: The fact that military science is less about strategy and technology, than about overcoming the instinctive human reluctance to kill members of our own species. The true “Revolution in Military Affairs” was not Donald Rumsfeld’s move to high-tech in 2001, but Brigadier Gen. S.L.A. Marshall’s discovery in the 1940s that only 15-20% of World War II soldiers along the line of fire would use their weapons: “Those (80-85%) who did not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges” (Grossman, p. 4).

Marshall’s discovery and subsequent research, proved that in all previous wars, a tiny minority of soldiers — the 5% who are natural-born psychopaths, and perhaps a few temporarily-insane imitators—did almost all the killing. Normal men just went through the motions and, if at all possible, refused to take the life of an enemy soldier, even if that meant giving up their own. The implication: Wars are ritualized mass murders by psychopaths of non-psychopaths. (This cannot be good for humanity’s genetic endowment!)

Marshall’s work, brought a Copernican revolution to military science. In the past, everyone believed that the soldier willing to kill for his country was the (heroic) norm, while one who refused to fight was a (cowardly) aberration. The truth, as it turned out, was that the normative soldier hailed from the psychopathic five percent. The sane majority, would rather die than fight.


The implication, too frightening for even the likes of Marshall and Grossman to fully digest, was that the norms for soldiers’ behaviour in battle had been set by psychopaths. That meant that psychopaths were in control of the military as an institution. Worse, it meant that psychopaths were in control of society’s perception of military affairs. Evidently, psychopaths exercised an enormous amount of power in seemingly sane, normal society.

How could that be? In Political Ponerology, Andrzej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests) psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth. Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths.

So-called conspiracy theorists, some of whom deserve the pejorative connotation of that much-abused term, often imagine that secret societies of Jews, Jesuits, bankers, communists, Bilderbergers, Muslim extremists, papists, and so on, are secretly controlling history, doing dastardly deeds, and/or threatening to take over the world. As a leading “conspiracy theorist” according to Wikipedia, I feel eminently qualified to offer an alternative conspiracy theory which, like the alternative conspiracy theory of 9/11, is both simpler and more accurate than the prevailing wisdom: The only conspiracy that matters is the conspiracy of the psychopaths against the rest of us.

Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as that power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate.
We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld—the criminal syndicate or overlapping set of syndicates that lurks above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it. In 9/11 and the 9/11 wars, we are seeing the final desperate power-grab or “endgame” (Alex Jones) of brutal, cunning gangs of CIA drug-runners and President-killers; money-laundering international bankers and their hit-men, economic and otherwise; corrupt military contractors and gung-ho generals; corporate predators and their political enablers; brainwashers and mind-rapists euphemistically known as psy-ops experts and PR specialists—in short, the whole sick crew of certifiable psychopaths running our so-called civilization. And they are running scared. It was their terror of losing control that they projected onto the rest of us by blowing up the Twin Towers and inciting temporary psychopathic terror-rage in the American public.

Why does the pathocracy fear it is losing control? Because it is threatened by the spread of knowledge. The greatest fear of any psychopath is of being found out. As George H. W. Bush said to journalist Sarah McClendon, December 1992, “If the people knew what we had done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us.” Given that Bush is reported to have participated in parties where child prostitutes were sodomized and otherwise abused, among his many other crimes, his statement to McClendon should be taken seriously.

Psychopaths go through life knowing that they are completely different from other people. They quickly learn to hide their lack of empathy, while carefully studying others’ emotions so as to mimic normalcy while cold-bloodedly manipulating the normals.

Today, thanks to new information technologies, we are on the brink of unmasking the psychopaths and building a civilization of, by and for the normal human being — a civilization without war, a civilization based on truth, a civilization in which the saintly few rather than the diabolical few would gravitate to positions of power. We already have the knowledge necessary to diagnose psychopathic personalities and keep them out of power. We have the knowledge necessary to dismantle the institutions in which psychopaths especially flourish — militaries, intelligence agencies, large corporations, and secret societies. We simply need to disseminate this knowledge, and the will to use it, as widely as possible.

Above all, we need to inform the public about how psychopaths co-opt and corrupt normal human beings. One way they do this, is by manipulating shame and denial — emotions foreign to psychopaths but common and easily-induced among normals.

Consider how gangs and secret societies (psychopaths’ guilds in disguise) recruit new members. Some criminal gangs and satanist covens demand that candidates for admission commit a murder to “earn their stripes.” Skull and Bones, the Yale-based secret society that supplies the CIA with drug-runners, mind-rapists, child abusers and professional killers, requires neophytes to lie naked in a coffin and masturbate in front of older members while reciting the candidate’s entire sexual history. By forcing the neophyte to engage in ritualized behaviour that would be horrendously shameful in normal society, the psychopaths’ guild destroys the candidate’s normal personality, assuming he had one in the first place, and turns the individual into a co-opted, corrupt, degraded shadow of his former self — a manufactured psychopath or psychopath’s apprentice.


This manipulation of shame has the added benefit of making psychopathic organizations effectively invisible to normal society. Despite easily available media reports, American voters in 2004 simply refused to see that the two major-party presidential candidates had lain naked in a coffin masturbating in front of older Bonesmen in order to gain admission to Skull and Bones and thus become members of the criminal overworld. Likewise, many Americans have long refused to see that hawkish elements of the overworld, operating through the CIA, had obviously been the murderers of JFK, MLK, RFK, JFK Jr., Malcolm X, ChÈ, AllendÈ, Wellstone, Lumumba, Aguilera, Diem, and countless other relatively non-psychopathic leaders. They refuse to see the continuing murders of millions of people around the world in what amounts to an American holocaust. They refuse to see the evidence that the psychopaths’ guilds running America’s most powerful institutions use the most horrific forms of sexualized abuse imaginable to induce multiple-personality-disorder in child victims, then use the resulting mind-control slaves as disposable drug-runners, prostitutes, Manchurian candidates, and even diplomatic envoys. And of course they refuse to see that 9/11 was a transparently obvious inside job, and that their own psychopath-dominated military-intelligence apparatus is behind almost every major terrorist outrage of recent decades.

All of this psychopathic behaviour at the top of the social hierarchy is simply too shameful for ordinary people to see, so they avert their gaze, just as wives of husbands who are sexually abusing their children sometimes refuse to see what is happening in plain view. If deep, deep denial were a river in Egypt, American citizens’ wilful blindness would be more like the Marianas Trench.

But thanks to the power of the internet, people everywhere are waking up. The only obvious non-psychopath among Republican presidential candidates, Ron Paul, also happens to be the only candidate in either party with significant grassroots support.

If “love” is embedded in the Revolution Ron Paul heralds, that is because Dr. Paul — a kindly, soft-spoken physician who has delivered more than 4,000 babies — implicitly recognizes that government is the invention and tool of psychopaths, and therefore must be strictly limited in scope and subjected to a rigorous system of checks and balances, lest the psychopath’s tools, fear and hatred, replace love as the glue that binds society together.

The decline in militarism since World War II in advanced countries, the spread of literacy and communications technology, and the people’s growing demands for a better life, together represent a gathering force that terrifies the pathocracy, (those alternately competing-then-cooperating gangs of psychopaths who have ruled through lies, fear and intimidation since the dawn of so-called civilization).

Since nuclear weapons have made war obsolete, the pathocracy is terrified that its favourite social control mechanism — ritualized mass slaughter — is increasingly unavailable. And if war was the great human tragedy, the pathocrats’ pathetic attempt at a war-substitute — the transparently phoney “war on terror” — is repeating it as sheerest farce.

Truly, we are witnessing the twilight of the psychopaths. Whether in their death throes they succeed in pulling down the curtain of eternal night on all of us, or whether we resist them and survive to see the dawn of a civilization worthy of the name, is the great decision in which all of us others, however humbly, are now participating.

http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2008/01/02/02073.html
Reply
02-19-2013, 11:59 PM,
#9
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Here's a quick review I found of a book that's well worth checking out in context of technological advancement. You can link the ideas presented in many ways - primarily alongside the idea that war is an excellent method of controlling mass populations. Basically as we head towards a technocratic New World Order, we can in some ways view manipulated wars as being not only a way to increase control and gain profits, but also to push forward technological progress, afterall, what are you going to spend those profits on? You can go even deeper and link it with ideas of a fallen ancient civilization where the survivors have been working towards reestablishing what once was - ideas that will be discussed as the thread develops:

Quote:[Image: the-fruits-of-war-how-military-conflict-...nology.jpg]

“The Fruits of War: how military conflict accelerates technology”

by Michael White

Simon & Schuster | August 2005 | ISBN 0743220242

Recommended by Usha Selvaraju : Bill Bryson points out in his A Short History of Nearly Everything that “sometimes the world just isn’t ready for a good idea”. Yet, Michael White’s examples of numerous technological advancements that were inspired by conflict and war reflect the urgency with which innovation and creativity can be mustered to give rise to some very useful inventions. It seems that when it comes to war, we are more than ready to make it more efficient and also reap the benefits of its fruits.

Despite not making his hypothesis absolutely clear in the beginning, White makes a subtle point by discussing the scientific advances made in health care in his first chapter. Curiously, the reader finds that they are reading about possibly some of the most significant advances in medical treatment of injuries being made on the battlefield. It gives the reader a new look at the necessity for destroying human life also giving rise to more (and thankfully less painful or fatal) ways of saving it.

White traces advances in weaponry from the cross-bow to the hydrogen bomb. He also charts the use of the written word, encryption and of course, the invention of the internet – all used for military purposes in one way or another. It is only towards the end that White makes his own opinion clear “…military need is the most influential and most varied influence on technological advance; without it, the modern world would be a very different place’ but that it is ‘not the only way in which innovation occurs”. Let’s hope not…

* * *

What the publisher says: “Michael White demonstrates in this superbly wide-ranging and brilliant history of innovation, that almost all major technological developments can be traced back to times of war. From the arrow to nuclear power; from cuneiform to the credit card; from the chariot to the bullet train and from the tribal drum to the Internet, our creativity owes much to the destructiveness of our nature. Accessible, thought-provoking and chock-full of fascinating facts, The Fruits of War is a superb history of science and innovation that shows how the best of humanity often flows from its worst.”

http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts/war_2943.jsp
Reply
03-21-2013, 02:30 PM,
#10
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Allan Savory - Keeping Cattle: cause or cure for climate crisis?





The video contains some interesting references to civilizations.
Reply
08-06-2013, 04:47 PM, (This post was last modified: 08-06-2013, 04:53 PM by R.R.)
#11
RE: The Critique of Civilization




Based on the ideas of Jacques Ellul:







Reply
08-11-2013, 06:20 AM,
#12
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Quote:NO WAY OUT?

by John Zerzan

Agriculture ended a vast period of human existence largely characterized by freedom from work, non-exploitation of nature, considerable gender autonomy and equality, and the absence of organized violence. It takes more from the earth than it puts back and is the foundation of private property. Agriculture encloses, controls, exploits, establishes hierarchy and resentment. Chellis Glendinning (1994) described agriculture as the “original trauma” that has devastated the human psyche, social life, and the biosphere.

But agriculture/domestication didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere, 10,000 years ago. Quite possibly, it was the culmination of a very slow acceptance of division of labor or specialization that began in earnest in Upper Paleolithic times, about 40,000 years ago. This process is behind what Horkheimer and Adorno termed “instrumental reason” in their Dialectic of Enlightment. Although still touted as the precondition for “objectivity,” human reason is no longer neutral. It has somehow become deformed, with devastating impact: our reason imprisons our true humanity, while destroying the natural world. How else to account for the fact that human activity has become so inimical to humans, as well as to all other earthly species? Something had already started to take us in a negative direction before agriculture, class stratification, the State, and industrialism institutionalized its wrongness.

This disease of reason, which interprets reality as an amalgamation of instruments, resources, and means, adds an unprecedented and uncontrolled measure of domination. As with technology, which is reason’s incarnation or materiality at any given time, reason’s “neutrality” was missing from the start. Meanwhile, we are taught to accept our condition. It’s “human nature” to be “creative,” goes part of the refrain.


Division of labor gives effective power to some, while narrowing or reducing the scope of all. This can be seen in the production of art as well as in technological innovation. The distinctive work of individual masters is apparent in the earliest cave art, and craft specialization is an essential aspect of the later development of “complex” (aka stratified) societies. Specified roles facilitated a qualitative rupture with long-standing human social patterns, in a remarkably short period of time. After two or three million years of an egalitarian foraging (aka hunter-gatherer) mode of existence, in only 10,000 years, the rapid descent into a civilized lifeway. Since then, an ever-accelerating course of social and ecological destructiveness in every sphere of life.

It’s also remarkable how complete the experience of civilization was from its very first stages. K. Aslihan Yener’s Domestication of Metal (2000) discusses complex industry in civilization’s opening act, the Early Bronze Age. She charts the organization and management of tin mining and smelting in Anatolia beginning in 8,000 BC. The archaeological evidence shows irrefutably that erosion, pollution, and deforestation were very significant consequences, as the earliest civilizations laid waste to much of the Middle East.

With civilization, how it is is how it’s always been. Russell Hoban’s 1980 novel, Riddley Walker, provides keen insight into the logic of civilization. What some call Progress, the narrator identifies as Power:

“It come to me then I know it Power dint go away. It ben and it wer and it wud be. It wer there and drawing. Power want it you to come to it with Power. Power wantit what ever cud happen to happen. Power wantit every thing moving frontways.”

The nature of the civilization project was clear from the beginning. As the swiftly arriving product of agriculture, the intensification of domination has been steady and sure. It’s telling that humans’ first monuments coincide with the first signs of domestication (R. Bradley in Mither, 1998). The sad linearity of civilization’s destruction of the natural world has been interrupted only by symptoms of self-destruction in the social sphere, in the form of wars. And when we recall with B.D. Smith (1995) that domestication is “the creation of a new form of plant and animal,” it becomes obvious that genetic engineering and cloning are anything but strange aberrations from the norm.

The contrast with thousands of generations of forager (hunter-gatherer) life is staggering. There is no dispute that these ancestors put sharing at the center of their existence. Throughout the anthropological literature, sharing and equality are synonymous with the forager social organization, characterized as bands of fifty or fewer people. In the absence of mediation or political authority, people enjoyed strong expressive bonds face-to-face with one another and in intimacy with nature.

Hewlett and Lamb (2000) explored the levels of trust and compassion in an Aka band of foragers in central Africa. The physical and emotional closeness between Aka children and adults, they concluded, is closely related to their benign orientation to the world. Conversely, Aka people see their environment as generous and supportive, at least in part, because of the unrestricted bonds among themselves. Colin Turnbull observed a very similar reality among the Mbuti in Africa, who addressed greetings to “Mother Forest, Father Forest.”

Agriculture is the founding model for all the systematic authoritarianism that followed, certainly including capitalism, and initiating the subjugation of women. Very early farming settlements contained “as many as 400 people” (Mithen et al, 2000). We know that expanding population was not a cause of agriculture but its result; this suggests a basic dynamic of the population problem. It appears that societies organized on a truly human scale fell victim to the exigencies of domestication. It may be that we can only solve the planet’s overpopulation problem by removing the root cause of basic estrangement from one another. With the advent of domestication, reproduction was not only rewarded economically; it also offered a compensation or consolation for so much that had been eradicated by civilization.

Amid the standardizing, disciplinary effects of today’s systems of technology and capital, we are subjected to an unprecedented barrage of images and other representations. Symbols have largely crowded out everything real and direct, both in the daily round of interpersonal interactions and in the accelerating extinction of nature. This state of affairs is generally accepted as inevitable, especially since received wisdom dictates that symbol-making is the cardinal, defining quality of a human being. We learn as children that all behavior, and culture itself, depend on symbol manipulation; this characteristic is what separates us from mere animals.


But a close look at Homo over our many, many millennia challenges the inexorability or “naturalness” of the dominance of symbols in our lives today. New discoveries are making newspaper headlines with increasing frequency. Archaeologists are finding that more than a million years ago, humans were as intelligent as ourselves—despite the fact that the earliest evidence to date of symbolic activity (figurines, cave art, ritual artifacts, time recordings, etc.) date to only 40,000 years ago or so. People used fire for cooking 1.9 million years ago; and built and sailed seagoing vessels at least 800,000 years ago!

These people must have been very intelligent; yet they left no tangible trace of symbolic thought until relatively recently. Likewise, although our ancestors of a million years ago had the I.Q. to enslave each other and destroy the planet, they refrained from doing so, until symbolic culture got going. Civilization advocates are making a concerted effort to find evidence of symbol use at a much earlier time, paralleling the unsuccessful effort in recent decades to locate evidence that would overturn the new anthropological paradigm of pre-agricultural harmony and well being. So far, their searches have not borne fruit.

There is an enormous time gap between clear signs of mental capacity and clear signs of any symbolizing at all. This discrepancy casts serious doubt on the adequacy of a definition of humans as essentially symbol makers. The apparent congruence between the beginnings of representation and the beginnings of what is unhealthy about our species seems even more important. Basic questions pretty much formulate themselves.

One such question concerns the nature of representation. Foucault argued that representation always involves a power relation. There may be a connection between representation and the power imbalance that is created when division of labor takes over human activity. In a similar vein, it is difficult to see how large social systems could have come about in the absence of symbolic culture. At a minimum, they appear to be inseparable.

Jack Goody (1997) referred to “the continuing pressure to represent.” Along with an easily identified impulse to communicate, is there not also something much less positive going on? For all those generations before civilization, folks did many things with their minds—including communicating—but they didn’t get symbolic about it. To re-present reality involves a move to a complete, closed system, of which language is the most obvious example and perhaps the original instance. Whence this will to create systems, to name and to count? Why this dimension that looks suspiciously like instrumental reason, with its essentially dominating core?

Language is routinely portrayed as a natural and inevitable part of our evolution. Like division of labor, ritual, domestication, religion? Complete the progression and we see that the end of the biosphere and total alienation are likewise “natural” and “inevitable.” Whether or not there can be a way out of the symbolic order is the pressing question.

“In the beginning was the Word”—the convening of the symbolic domain. After Eden’s freedom was revoked, Adam named the animals and the names were the animals. In the same way, Plato held that the word creates the thing. There is a moment of linguistic agreement, and from then on a categorized frame is imposed on all phenomena. This pact attempts to override the “original sin” of language, which is the separation of speech and world, words and things.


Many languages start out rich in verbs, but are gradually undone by the more common imperialism of the noun. This parallels the movement to a steadily more reified world, focusing on objects and goals at the expense of process. In similar fashion, the vivid naturalism of cave art gives way to an impoverished, stylized aesthetic. In both cases, the symbolic deal is sweetened by the promise of an enticing richness, but in each case the long-term results are deadly. Symbolic modes may begin with some freshness and vitality, but eventually reveal their actual poverty, their inner logic.

The innate sensual acuity of human infants steadily atrophies as they grow and develop in interaction with a symbolic culture that continues to infiltrate and monopolize most aspects of our lives. A few remnants of the unmediated, the direct still survive. Lovemaking, close relationships, immersion in wild nature, and the experience of birth and death awaken our senses and our intelligence, stimulating an unaccustomed hunger. We long for something other than the meager, artificial world of re-presentation, with its second-hand pallor.

Communication remains open to those invigorating flashes that pass, nonverbally, between people. All the crabbed, crimped, conditioned channels might be chucked, because we can’t live on what’s available. As levels of pain, loss, and emptiness rise, the reigning apparatus pumps out ever more unsatisfying, unsustaining lies.

Referring to telepathy, Sigmund Freud wrote in his New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, “One is led to a suspicion that this is the original, archaic method of communication.” Enculturated down to his toes, Freud didn’t celebrate this suspicion, and seemed to fear the life force that accompanied such non-cultural dynamics. Laurens van der Post (e.g. The Lost World of the Kalahari, 1958) related several firsthand observations of telepathic communication, over considerable distances, among the people who used to be called “Bushmen.” M. Pobers and Richard St. Barbe Baker, also writing in the 1950s, witnessed telepathy by indigenous people before they were colonized by civilization. I mention this in passing as one glimpse of the reality of the non-symbolic, a direct connection that actually existed not long ago, and that could be revived amid the ruins of representation.

Language and art may have originally appeared and united in ritual, a cultural innovation intended to bridge a new separation between people and their world. The term “animism” is often used, dismissively or even pejoratively, to describe the belief that non-human beings and even objects are inhabited by “spirits.” Just as the term “anarchism” is a summary description of anarchy, a pervasive viewpoint or state of being that rejects hierarchy, “animism” fails to capture the transformative quality of a shared awareness. In the case of anarchy, there is an awareness that living in equality with with other humans necessitates the rejection of all forms of domination, including leadership and political representation. “Animism” refers to the extension of that awareness to other life forms and even to “inanimate” dwellers on the planet such as rocks, clouds, and rivers. The fact that there is no word related to animism, analogous to anarchy, is an index of how distanced we are from this awareness, in our present state. Green anarchy explicitly states that anarchy must embrace the community of living beings, and in this sense takes a step toward re-awakening this awareness.

Did humans lose the awareness of belonging to an earthly community of living beings with the advent of domestication, division of labor, and agriculture? The construction of monuments and the beginnings of animal and human sacrifice would tend to support this hypothesis. Characteristically, the scapegoated victim is held responsible for communal misfortune and suffering, while the fundamental reasons for the community’s loss go unrecognized and unmitigated. Ritual involves “enormous amounts of energy” (Knight in Dunbar, Knight and Power, 1999); it is usually loud, multimediated, emotional, and redundant, testifying to the felt depth of the underlying crisis.

The movement from animism to ritual parallels the transformation of small, face-to-face groups into large, complex societies. Culture takes over, with specialized professionals in charge of the realm of the sacred. The longing for that original feeling of communion with other beings and egalitarian intimacy with one’s fellow humans can never be appeased by ritual activities developed within a hierarchical social system. This tendency culminates in the teachings of transcendant religions, that since the meaning of our lives has nothing to do with life on earth, we should pin our hopes on a heavenly reward. Conversely, as with the Aka and Mbuti described above, feelings of oneness with the earth and all its inhabitants, and a sense of the joy and meaningfulness of existence, seem to flourish when we humans live in egalitarian, face-to-face groups.


Returning to language, an agreed-upon banality is that reality is always inherently disclosed through language— that in fact reality is decisively mediated by language. Postmodernism ups this ante in two ways. Because language is basically a self-referential system, PM avers, language cannot really involve meaning. Further, there is only language (as there is only civilization); there is no escape from a world defined by language games (and domestication). But archaeological and ethnographic evidence shows clearly that human life has existed outside representation, and nothing definitively precludes humans from living that way again—however devoutly the postmodernists, in their accommodation to the system, may pray that this just cannot be.

The ultimate in representation is the current “society of the spectacle” described so vividly by Guy Debord. We now consume the image of living; life has passed into the stage of its representation, as spectacle. At the same time that technology offers virtual reality to the individual, the ensemble of electronic media creates a virtual community, an advanced symbolic state of passive consumption and learned helplessness.

But the balance sheet for the ruling order shows a mixed forecast. For one thing, representation in the political sector is met with skepticism and apathy similar to that evinced by representation in general. Has there ever been so much incessant yammer about democracy, and less real interest in it? To represent or be represented is a degradation, a reduction, both in the sense of symbolic culture and in terms of power.

Democracy, of course, is a form of rule. Partisans of anarchy should know this, though leftists have no problem with governance. Anarcho-syndicalists and other classical anarchists fail to question any of the more fundamental institutions, such as division of labor, domestication, domination of nature, Progress, technological society, etc.

To quote Riddley Walker again, as an antidote: “I cud feal some thing growing in me it wer like a grean sea surging in me it wer saying, LOSE IT. Saying, LET GO. Saying, THE ONLYES POWER IS NO POWER.” The heart of anarchy.

Heidegger, in Discourse on Thinking, counseled that an attitude of “openness to the mystery” promises “a new ground and foundation upon which we can stand and endure in the world of technology without being imperiled by it.” An anti-authoritarian orientation does not consist of this passive attitude, of changing only our consciousness. Instead, technology and its accomplice, culture, must be met by a resolute autonomy and refusal that looks at the whole span of human presence and rejects all dimensions of captivity and destruction.

http://www.johnzerzan.net/articles/no-way-out.html
Reply
08-13-2013, 11:55 PM,
#13
RE: The Critique of Civilization


Reply
08-28-2013, 10:30 PM,
#14
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Quote:Heidegger’s Critique of Modern Technology: On “The Question Concerning Technology”

by Paul Nadal

“Technology” in practices of development is often understood in terms of a means-end schema toward modernization. More, technology becomes the conceptual frame to signify progress and modernity. Indeed, technological products — from manufactured tools, electronics, bridges to skyscrapers — become so many objects signifying change, of what is new and what is modern. What follows is a critical reconstruction and summary of Heidegger’s essay, “The Question Concerning Technology” (1954). Taking up his essay for consideration in our present context has the benefit of critically asking for our times the questions that informed his philosophical investigation, namely, “What is technology” and is technology always a necessary “good.”

Heidegger understands the question concerning technology as essentially linked to the question of being. Technology, he argues, points to something essential about the constitution of our ontology, our way of being-in-the-world. What compelled him to write on technology lies in his observation that “everywhere [in Europe], [man] remain[s] unfree and chained to technology,” a situation in which the more technology advances itself the more it “threatens to slip from human control”.

Hence, a questioning of technology became necessary and urgent for Heidegger because modern technology brought with it a new way of ordering the world, which he saw as contaminating man’s authentic sense of being, thus signaling a certain crisis at bay in European industrial modernity. Although Heidegger’s essay is a text of philosophy, we can say it is also a work of critique in precisely the way he calls our attention to the (ontological and social) crisis brought out by modern technology’s new, albeit distorting, ways of ordering the world and hence also the reorganization of our cognitive perception of reality. Seeing the rise of modern technology’s dominance as tantamount to the sundering of man’s essential relation to being, Heidegger undertakes a questioning of technology in order to trace back a more primary meaning that has been lost and forgotten in technological modernity.


So let us begin with the question that Heidegger begins with, “What is technology?” The word “technology” stems from the Greek word techné, which designates “skill,” “art,” and “craft,” a mode of doing or making. It is in this spirit that Plato understood politics as fundamentally belonging to the domain of techné, politics as first and foremost a political skill to be learned, an art or, better yet, a kind of technology of the polis (city). Techné in the original Greek usage referred to both the skill or power of doing/making as well as that which is performed, produced, or fabricated—in other words, techné as designating both art and artifice. (In Filipino, gawa/gamit, approximates this sense of techné as both art and art-object.) Now, crucially, techné (art/artifice) is opposed to physis (nature), most fundamentally in terms of causality. On the one hand, the organic forms of nature are self-developing in the sense that they exhibit the principle of change within themselves (physis as the “arising out of something from itself,” a natural self-genesis). Techné, on the other hand, implies a mediation by an external agent (Reason) to an object in order to bring about change in it, which means that the principle of change is here foreign to the object. The opposition between physis and techné has generated the traditional divisions we have in Western philosophy of nature/culture and organic/inorganic, or that which is engendered “by nature” or that “by culture/art.”

All of the above is at play behind our common, colloquial understanding of technology, defined minimally as the human activity of furnishing means to effect a desired end. So, a bridge can be said to be a thing of technology because, as a product and performance of man’s dealings with physis through techné, nature by art, the bridge is the materialization or actualization of an intended, desired end: namely, the enabling of connection and transportation across discontinuous spaces. “The manufacture and utilization of equipment, tools, and machines, the manufactured and used things themselves, and the [social] needs and ends that they serve, all belong to what technology is”. The colloquial understanding of technology as availing means for an end, of man’s transactions with nature, is what Heidegger calls the merely instrumental and anthropological definition of technology.

This definition, however, is insufficient, even dangerous, for it leads to man’s hubris and does not allow one to get at the essence of technology. If we restrict our understanding of technology merely in the domain of techné, technology remains moored to a means-end schema of human instrumentality against nature. This theme is elaborated, of course, in the work of the Frankfurt School – Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and others – who viewed the culmination of Western Enlightenment in the early 20th century as precisely technology’s domination of nature, which, as they argue, ineluctably leads to the domination of man by man. In Adorno and Horkheimer’s words: “What human beings seek to learn from nature [physis] is how to use [techné] to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.” Because Western Enlightenment has become “totalitarian,” the world becomes intelligible to man only to make its multiple forms calculable, hence, “the control of internal and external nature has been made the absolute purpose of life. Now that self-preservation [of man] has been finally automated, reason is dismissed.” But not only is reason dismissed, reason itself becomes subsumed under technical or instrumental reason. As Marcuse writes: “Rationality is being transformed from a critical force into one of adjustment and compliance. Autonomy of reason loses its meaning in the same measure as the thoughts, feelings and actions of men are shaped by the technical requirements….Reason has found its resting place in the system of standardized control, production, and consumption.” The subsumption of reason under the technical attitude leads to “the subordination of thought to pregiven external standards,” in which thinking becomes routinized, standardized, made quantifiable and predictable. The Frankfurt School’s critique of the instrumentalization or technicalization of Reason under the sign of civilizational modernity is in line with Heidegger’s critique of technology as being fixed and exploited in a means-end schema of human instrumentality.
For Heidegger, this obfuscates a more originary, essential meaning of technology, namely, technology not as mere process of making, but as a fundamental mode of revealing.

To identify technology’s essence as revealing, Heidegger expands techné to encompass poiesis and episteme, Greek words that belong to the domain of revealing (aletheia) and, hence, have something to do with engendering and truth. In doing so, Heidegger denies the initial meaning of techné as making, whose social implications become the basis of the Frankfurt School’s critique of technology, insisting instead its fundamental imbrication with poiesis and episteme, in order to foreground what Heidegger describes as technology’s essential relation to a revealing (aletheia). First, techné is related to poiesis because before it is a making, it is a bringing-forth. Poiesis, the Greek word from which we get the word poetry, names that which brings-something-forth into presence, or that which renders the potentiality of the not-yet into explicit actuality. Hence, any activity or action which is the cause of a thing in the sense of bringing-something into presence belongs to poiesis.

Second, techné-as-poiesis is linked to episteme (knowledge/science) not only because every rational design is enabled by a certain knowledge, but also because what is brought-forth, what is disclosed, is a truth. So, to return to our example, a bridge is a kind of poiesis because it is a bringing-forth of man’s artificial fabrications of nature (physis), in which the materialization of ends embodied in the finished bridge displays the truth of man’s rational power. Thus, stitching together techné, poesis and episteme, that is to say, linking the power of making (techné) as primarily a mode of bringing-forth (poiesis), in which what is revealed is truth (episteme), Heidegger takes us away from the conventional and instrumentalist definition of technology as “a means to an end” toward an idea of technology as an originary form of truth-revealing, a disclosing of worlds, hence, a form of worlding. If we follow Heidegger’s reformulation of technology as a mode of revealing (aletheia), technology, in its essence, can be said to be poetic because it is a bringing-forth, whose causality, like poetry, “let[s]what is not yet present [to] arrive into presencing,” into the order of the presence or the real. This is what constitutes the original, essential meaning of technology. For if I understand Heidegger correctly, the essence of technology, then, is the poetic process of bringing something forth into presence and, as a mode of revealing, “frames” a world that is unfolded or unconcealed in the process.

Now, in its modality as revealing, the essence of technology is what Heidegger calls “enframing” [Ge-stell]. But, what is important is that the fundamental specificity of technology in Heidegger – a mode of revealing as enframing which pulls together techné, poiesis, and episteme – is nothing technological, it does not belong to the domain of the machine or the mechanical. Rather, “enframing” names the fundamental, ontological process of “revealing.” Hence, “to enframe“ refers to the process of an “opening up“ as a “gathering together of that setting-upon that sets-up man, [that] challenges him forth, to reveal [to himself] the real”. Enframing is not a tool or an apparatus, but (and this is the crucial point in Heidegger’s argument) the very condition of possibility for the truth of the real to be revealed, poetically, to man.

Modern technology, however, is not poetic. It does not belong to the essence of technology as a bringing-forth and revealing of a world. And this is precisely what is dangerous about it. The poetry of techné-as-poiesis is denied for a certain positivism or scientism. “Anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility,” as Adorno and Horkheimer write, is “viewed with suspicion,” becomes relegated as mere myth or superstition. Modern technology does not share the essence of technology because it is a different kind of truth-revealing: where the original essence of technology is the poetic revealing of bringing-something-forth, in modern technology the kind of revealing is what Heidegger describes as a “challenging” [Herausforden], a challenging that “puts to nature an unreasonable demand that it supply energy, which can [then] be extracted and stored” for man’s purposes.

While it is true that modern technology is also a kind of “enframing,” it is an enframing that enframes nature only in order to capture it, that is to say, not as the occasion for the truth of being to disclose itself, but nature disclosed merely as a valuable material resource to be extracted, expropriated, and used-up for whatever man desires or wills of it. Under conditions of modern technology, “the earth,” as Heidegger notes, “reveals itself as [only] a coal mining district, [its] soil as a mineral deposit”. Heidegger writes:

“The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth. Such challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about are ways of revealing [that dominate the age of technological modernity]”

The essence of technology as enframing (an ontological mode of revealing and bringing-forth truth) is thus perverted in modern technology. The essence of technology as enframing transmogrifies in European modernity precisely as “technological enframing,” an enframing that reduces the originary process of revealing and the organic power bringing-forth (poiesis) to mere instrumental ends. That is to say, “technological enframing” in modern technology reveals the world only insofar as it reveals the world as an energy resource, a thing to be used, what Heidegger describes as a “standing-reserve.” In the mechanization and industrialization of everyday life, reality becomes technologically enframed as a standing-reserve, which for Heidegger denies man to “enter into a more original revealing…to experience the call of a more primal truth”. . As he says, what is dangerous about modern technology is that its ways of enframing reality “conceals a former way of revealing,” it “blocks the shining-forth and holding sway of truth”. Under these conditions, man, in modern technology, becomes himself merely something technological.



*FULL ARTICLE INCLUDING CITATIONS*


http://belate.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/heidegger-modern-technology/
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10-20-2013, 12:23 AM, (This post was last modified: 10-20-2013, 12:24 AM by R.R.)
#15
RE: The Critique of Civilization
Quote:Why Humans Took Up Farming: They Like To Own Stuff

by Rhitu Chatterjee

May 13, 2013 5:42 PM

For decades, scientists have believed our ancestors took up farming some 12,000 years ago because it was a more efficient way of getting food. But a growing body of research suggests that wasn't the case at all.

"We know that the first farmers were shorter, they were more prone to disease than the hunter-gatherers," says , the director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, describing recent archaeological research.

Bowles' own work has found that the earliest farmers expended way more calories in growing food than they did in hunting and gathering it. "When you add it all up, it was not a bargain," says Bowles.

So why farm? Bowles lays out his theory in a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The reasons are complex, but they revolve around the concept of private property.

Think of these early farmers as prehistoric suburbanites of sorts. The first farmers emerged in less than a dozen spots in Asia and South America. Bowles says they were already living in small villages. They owned their houses and other objects, like jewelry, boats and a range of tools, including fishing gear.

They still hunted and foraged, but they didn't have to venture far for food: They had picked fertile places to settle down, and so food was abundant. For example, one group in what is present-day Iraq lived close to a gazelle migration route. During migration season, it was easy pickings — they killed more animals than they could eat in one sitting. They also harvested more grain from wild plants than they knew what to do with. And so, they built "pantries" — structures where they could store the extra food.

These societies had seen the value of owning stuff — they were already recognizing "private property rights," says Bowles. That's a big transition from nomadic cultures, which by and large don't recognize individual property. All resources, even in modern day hunter-gatherers, are shared with everyone in the community.

But the good times didn't last forever in these prehistoric villages. In some places, the weather changed for the worse. In other places, the animals either changed their migratory route or dwindled in numbers.

At this point, Bowles says these communities had a choice: They could either return to a nomadic lifestyle, or stay put in the villages they had built and "use their knowledge of seeds and how they grow, and the possibility of domesticating animals."

Stay put, they did. And over time, they also grew in numbers. Why? Because the early farmers had one advantage over their nomadic cousins: Raising kids is much less work when one isn't constantly on the move. And so, they could and did have more children.

In other words, Bowles thinks early cultures that recognized private property gave people a reason to plant roots in one place and invent farming — and stick with it despite its initial failures.

Bowles admits that this is just an informed theory. But to test it, he and his colleague Jung-Kyoo Choi built a mathematical model that simulated social and environmental conditions among early hunter-gatherers. In this simulation, farming evolved only in groups that recognized private property rights. What's more, in the simulations, once farming met private property, the two reinforced each other and spread through the world.

Bowles' theory offers a more nuanced explanation that ties together cultural, environmental and technological realities facing those first farmers, says , an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in the origins of agriculture.

But, he says, the challenge is to figure out who owned the property back then and how they ran it. "Was it owned by one individual?" Kuijt says. "Was it a mother and father and their children? ... Does it represent community or village property?"

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/13/183710778/why-humans-took-up-farming-they-like-to-own-stuff?ft=1&f=1053
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