Friday, December 29, 2006

Technology

Over the years I've been reading many different view points concerning technology. The other day I ran across a clear and concise definition and view of technology by Derrick Jensen over at the Derrick Jensen Discussion Forum. Once again, It's given me a lot to think about!

Here is the post:

I was just fantasizing about being interviewed by Stephen Colbert (I'm not starting a rumor that I'm going to be on there: I was just fantasizing) and I came up with a couple of articulations I think are really good.

"He" was asking, "Won't technology save us?"

I've been asked this a thousand times, and I'm happier now with what came to me today:

Technology by definition leverages power. That's its purpose. I'm all for leveraging power in both large and small ways whenever appropriate, but we have to ask: Who already has more power to leverage? Who controls this technology, these tools for leveraging power? Who _develops_ these technologies, these tools for leveraging power?

**

Of course this is old news, especially to anyone who's read In The Absence of the Sacred, etc. But I get it to a deeper level than I've understood it before.

And then later in the "interview," "he" asked "Who cares if salmon go extinct? Who cares if the oceans die?"

And I was thinking about what Lundy Bancroft says in Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men about this. I quote it in Endgame:

“It is also impossible to persuade an abusive man to change by convincing him that he would benefit, because he perceives the benefits of controlling his partner as vastly outweighing the losses. This is part of why so many men initially take steps to change their abusive behavior but then return to their old ways. There is another reason why appealing to his self-interest doesn’t work. The abusive man’s belief that his own needs should come ahead of his partner’s is at the core of the problem. Therefore when anyone, including therapists, tells an abusive man that he should change because that’s what’s best for him, they are inadvertently feeding his selfish focus on himself: You cannot simultaneously contribute to a problem and solve it.”
Let’s once again explicitly make the connection to the larger scale. It is impossible to persuade the civilized to change by convincing them that they would benefit and simultaneously allowing them to remain within the framework and reward system of civilization, because the civilized perceive the benefits of controlling those around them (including humans and nonhumans; including the land, air, water; including genetic structures; including molecular structures) as vastly outweighing the losses. This is part of why so many of the civilized initially take steps—or at least mouth rhetoric and pretend to take steps—to change their abusive behavior but then return to their exploitative ways. There is another reason why appealing to the self-interest of the civilized doesn’t work (apart from the fact that the entire economic system, indeed all of civilization, is based on this limited and unsustainable sense of self which leads people to believe it’s in one’s self-interest to exploit others, indeed, which causes it to be, within this limited sense of self, actually in one’s self-interest to exploit others): the belief of the civilized that their own needs should come ahead of the landbase’s is at the core of the problem. Therefore when people, including activists, tell a civilized person—for example, a CEO or politician—that he should change because that’s what’s best for him, they are inadvertently feeding his selfish focus on himself: You cannot simultaneously contribute to a problem and solve it.

***

So I was thinking about that and came up with an answer that I think gets to the point. If someone asks, "Why should I care about whether salmon live or die?" an appropriate response is, "Why should I care whether you live or die?"

If someone is in Nazi Germany and doesn't care whether Jews, Slavs, etc live or die, then I see no reason why someone in the resistance should care whether that German lives or dies. If someone is an 1830s US and doesn't care (except for economic reasons) whether a slave lives or dies, I see no reason why someone who cares about people who've been enslaved should care whether that slave supporter lives or dies.

It seems pretty clear.

In some ways it's David Ehrenfeld's question, of when you make some impassioned defense of some creature and someone says "What good is it?" to ask "Well, what good are you?" It is the same question pushed out a little bit.

5 comments:

Devin said...

Hey Curt --

I just don't share his premises.

"You cannot simultaneously contribute to a problem and solve it."

This makes sense only if one splits the world into categories of problem and solution. I don't do that, nor do I see it as a particularly useful thing to do. The only place I see this as being used is a defense mechanism for a disempowered "victim", "trapped" in a relationship with a so-called "abuser". I don't philosophize as a victim, nor will I lend my power to anyone else, which he seems to do quite frequently: "we have to ask: Who already has more power to leverage? Who controls this technology, these tools for leveraging power? Who _develops_ these technologies, these tools for leveraging power?" The implied answer to this question is some mysterious elite group that isn't even addressed. But my answer is entirely different. Who controls this technology? Who develops these technologies? WE DO. and no one does. Let me explain what I mean.

This gets into looking at the entire system of what he's calling "civilization". It's insane to look at a system and separate and split it apart into fractious individuals, without continuing to acknowledge the system. This insanity is what's at the heart of the "Man versus Nature" false dichotomy, which in turn is at the heart of everything Derrick Jensen writes about.

But it's interesting, because while at the same time he's talking about this false dichotomy, he's separating civilization from the planet and saying (repeatedly) that civilization is killing the planet. Bullshit! That's the false dichotomy again. Quinn says "we are not humanity" to illustrate a singular point -- that our particular culture is not the entire spread of human existence. But at the same time, we are humanity just as much as any other culture is humanity. Civilization and civilized humans ARE NOT A SEPARATE EVIL ENTITY. Civilization is of the Earth and from the Earth and by the Earth. And so are we.

So when we look at people and corporations, and split them into perpetrators and victims, oppressors and oppressed, abusers and abused, we're perpetuating the insanity that is at the root of these splits in the first place.

This would be terrible if I thought that we couldn't heal from a wound at the same time we continue to hurt that wound. I see no contradiction in this. In fact I don't know any other way to do it.

So his view is clear, perhaps. But to me it's clearly the viewpoint of a victim who is struggling to find empowerment. And if the first thing he does in this struggle is give all of his power to someone else, particularly to someone he sees as abusing him ... well, needless to say, I just don't find that very empowering. When I'm in a mental/emotional place like this I find it sickeningly desperate and weak. In a way what he's saying is heartbreaking, but in another way I want to get myself as far away from him as possible.

- Devin

Curt said...

Dear Devin,

Thank you for sharing what you think about Jensen's post. What you have said makes a lot of sense to me. I've been struggling alot lately with the "us vs them" thinking, I really don't know where I stand on it.

I'm going to give it some more thought. If I come up with anything that I feel is worth sharing I will either post it here or PM you over at IshCon.

Take care,

Curt

Jim said...

I agree with both Derrick and Devin on this one, and yet I see no contradiction in my own position. You see each viewpoint has perfectly useful consequences and applications depending on the results one wants. Each viewpoint swims in it's own context and world of application. Each to his own - as long as we're pushing in the same direction.

Neither position is entirely correct and both are huge generalisations. But in a world as complex as ours, with the big monkey brains we have - able to comprehend and hold what they can - and given the information we can get, these paradigms and other positive, realistic, strong ones like them are all we've got.

The Us/Them approach helps tremendously in goal setting - specifically defining one's 'enemies' and areas where resistance is required. It helps you see how You can stop being one of Them; how you can help Them to not be Them. It operates in the social domain.

The Us/Us approach is good for ensuring WE do the fucking work, remembering that Hitler or Mao was Me or You, and keeping in mind the huge biological, genetic and evolutionary history that got us here. It operates in the human domain.

It's midnight at the dawn of 2007 and I'm too drunk to post complete trains of thought (I should be out but I'm ill). I'll leave it there for now. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments.

Merry new year mate.

Jim

Curt said...

Jim wrote: "The Us/Them approach helps tremendously in goal setting - specifically defining one's 'enemies' and areas where resistance is required. It helps you see how You can stop being one of Them; how you can help Them to not be Them. It operates in the social domain."

Good point, Jim. Thank you for taking the time to point that out for us.

Curt

sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.


Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.


When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.



A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.



FAST VISUALS /WORDS MAKE SLOW EMOTIONS EXTINCT.

SCIENTIFIC /INDUSTRIAL /FINANCIAL THINKING DESTROYS EMOTIONAL CIRCUITS.

A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY CANNOT FEEL PAIN / REMORSE / EMPATHY.

A FAST (LARGE) SOCIETY WILL ALWAYS BE CRUEL TO ANIMALS/ TREES/ AIR/ WATER/ LAND AND TO ITSELF.


To read the complete article please follow either of these links :

PlanetSave

EarthNewsWire

sushil_yadav