Tea Partying with the Freak Brothers

Whew! These Occupy posts are far more difficult to pry from myself than their predecessors; the hands-on mechanics of putting the earlier stuff into practice in the present world, amongst the isolated pools of individuated consciousness we humans represent, each with his or her own vision of the whole, has been at the very least disorienting. I’ve lately revived an old motto i swiped from the good people at Oat Willie’s down in Austin, Texas: Onward Through the Fog! How odd is it that i’ve recently connected with some folks that hark back to that place in ways that are deeply surreal. Oat Willie’s and Fat Freddie will seem to be completely out of place in this bit, in which i mean to address the notion of cooperation amongst disparate factions, but not permanently i hope. By the end of this post, i hope to connect Occupy, The Tea Party, disparate passions, and yes, Hippies. It will be necessary to engage in some relatively surreal thinking.

Last night on a new Facebook page, “UNITE: OCCUPY,” (cap lock and all), i got into a conversation about this stuff started by a guy that asked whether anyone thought a joint event between Occupiers and Tea Partiers might be possible. Sure, i said, our Colorado Springs group had lots of Tea Partiers among its earliest enthusiasts, and although many have pulled away, there still exists a close association with many that veer sharply toward the Te Party camp, especially among Ron Paul supporters. The common ground Occupy shares with the Tea Party, at least t a grass root level, is substantial. There can be no doubt of the equally substantial differences. I suspect that it would take some pretty serious ideological barnstorming to bring the two camps together, but nothing prevents the groups from at least tentative discussion to find commonalities.

Tonight our Occupy group staged a talk by Tea Party stalwart, Constitutionalist Mike Holler. Mike seemed for all appearances to be an earnest and well-versed supporter of Constitutional “fundamentalism,” if you will. He peppered his talk with lots of my favorite quotes from my favorite founding fathers. He got a little testy about the revisionist history his kids bring home from college early on–perhaps indicative of one point of separation between Occupiers and Tea Partiers. Some of those are important. Occupy is international, where the Tea Party can display degrees of jingoism. I, personally, respect the earnest efforts of our Enlightenment founders, but recognize that they were flawed, and aver that their document was dated by racist, sexist, and elitist provisions and thinking that they might be excused from by noting their temporal milieu. We don’t have the same luxury. Occupy is legitimately grass root, supported by sweat and blood more than funded, where TP is, or at least became very quickly corporately funded “astroturf,” disingenuously proffering libertarian ideals as a smoke screen for corporate license to plunder. Occupiers are in my experience far more diverse than Tea Partiers. Socialist and Anarchist Occupiers are common, as are assorted races, genders, orientations, and religious persuasions, where Tea Partiers seem to my limited observation to be relatively homogeneously white Christian capitalist patriots. Mike interjected that both groups had been misrepresented by the media, and that seems likely to be so given that mainstream media seems content to misrepresent ’bout anything they report in this country, but Fox news and the rabid right like the Tea Party so much i have to wonder if he’s fallen victim to a personal soft spot.

Mike spoke eloquently enough in his effort to simplify the Constitution, focusing on issues of freedom, and state’s rights. He said very little with which i could find disagreement. He pointed out two major points of confluence between Occupy and the Tea Party–personal liberty, and a rally-cry, “No more Bailouts!” I suspect he fastidiously avoided some points he knew or at least feared might be contentious, like for example the ludicrous assertions i’ve heard often that environmental warnings from the scientific community stem from some kind of Satanic control scheme from the–well just whom is never too clear. The Vatican or something. Commies, i guess. That just maybe the best way for Tea Partiers and Occupiers to interact, though, for now, concentrating on the common aversion to what amounts to Fascism. Interacting from that perspective could exclude much conversation. It could put the Tea Party in the same position as the Occupy movement, after their Fascist sponsors withdraw in horror. Whatever. We Occupiers got on just fine with Tea Party Mike–“Mr. Constitution.”

Mike largely expressed notions we Occupiers could embrace. I suppose he could have done a bit of research and tailored his speech toward that end, but i think we just agree; he seemed a grassroot kind of guy, to me. He briefly alluded to schisms within the Tea Party, and there’s no sensible reason to avoid acknowledging the same within Occupy. Last night’s event was attended by Occupy people that have had such extreme altercations in their attempts to wrestle a semblance of ideological unity from a stubbornly liquid platform that it could easily enough have disintegrated into bedlam. I attended with my dear friend Thomas, with whom i often disagree. In fact, he and i often disagree so strongly that sometimes i feel like smacking him in back of the head. I expect he feels the same way about me at times. Maybe much of the time. Take note, war-mongers of the world: Thomas is a great guy, and even though we disagree with one another, sometimes strongly, neither of us has smacked the other in back of the head. Get it?

So here we were last night, disparate Occupiers engaging a Tea Party mouthpiece in a room full of people that have all experienced the vagaries of human interaction under a fairly pressurized circumstance over the past few months. No butterflies fluttered around the room, but no one worked up a bickering session, either. We worked together. All of us. One could recall the old adage that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but that would be devolution. I prefer to imagine that those with arguments present recognized the futility of scrapping amongst friends, if only below the radar of their Egos. Whether my nobler hopes for those pained souls in the room last night are valid or not, the assertions i made in these non-pages well before Occupy began remain true. The system we wrestle against is collapsing around our heads. And the solution is spiritual, to a far greater extent than it is temporal.

Fat Freddy is a comic book character that lives in Denver. Seriously. I met him a little while ago. (This only seems out of place, i promise.) Mr. Constitution Mike Holler expressed the opinion last night that our American republic, our constitutional federation of states, is in its final throes; that we are in a position where, ” it’s too late to save the country, but too early to start shooting.” Mike seemed tentative in expressing his hope that God might pull some kind of supernatural rabbit from his celestial hat to resolve our monumental national woes. I expect he feared perturbing the often non-Christian sensibilities of the Occupiers. He needn’t have worried quite so much–we may be largely skeptical of literal interpretations, but we’re pretty tolerant of that sort of thing. When i met Fat Freddy–an icon of counter-cultural activism important to me since childhood, an old-school Hippie with connection to the most famous and infamous of that crowd–he singled me out and pulled me aside to explain in some detail his expectation for a spiritual upheaval in coming days. Freddy’s taken up with the Urantia Book, a tome i’ve heard Christians disparage as devilish. I couldn’t see anything devilish about what he showed me. He earnestly explained his expectation for resolution. Soon.

We had come to Denver to talk about foreclosures and bank jiggery-pokery with another guy, and pulled up at Freddy’s house without knowing it. It just happened that way. These old Hippies like Tea Party fave, Ron Paul. (Follow along, now, i know it’s weird, and yeah, i know a lot of Occupiers don’t like Paul; i’m not sure about him myself). Also in attendance at that meeting was a woman i had been conversing with on line for quite a while in the context of Occupy. It took me nearly through the whole meeting to recognize her, because i knew her to live down in the Four Corners neighborhood of Colorado. She lives at Freddy’s now. This juxtaposition is so weird that now i’m expecting the Mad Hatter, or Lewis Carroll himself to pop up at some meeting quoting from Jabberwocky. Mike Holler holds out for resolution to the country’s woes in a traditional Christian context. My own suspicion, shared with J.B.S. Haldane, is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. But somewhere in the mix i am convinced that some divine Thing many of us think of as God is deeply interested in the little proceedings here on our little blue marble and that our interactions are subsequently and necessarily thus influenced.

We live right here. We have no choice but to manage things on a coarse, physical level; but we also live, i think, on an overlapping and less tangible plane, where we have more influence than we might ordinarily imagine. At the same time, things seem to occur herethere without our conscious direction. We’ll need to keep plugging away at things like grasping the Constitution, and taking on massive, quixotic quests like fighting banks and a world full of renegade, intransigent governments and power brokers, not to mention our own internal battles, as finely defined as within our own Souls. We’ll need to recognize the Truth in one another, even when it’s obscured by a bunch of worldly disagreement and fog. And so far as i can tell, were learning. Whatever that means.

Reprinted from hipgnosis.

Ye Aulde Memoir

Another old piece. These stories are distorted by romanticized memory, at times, and others likely remember them differently. I by no means intend to insult any of the real persons that lived through this stuff with a cavalier treatment of tender recollections, or harsh description of personalities or actions. Each of us always did exactly what seemed to be exactly the right things to do at the time. And there survives much, much love, which has grown and developed like it always does, in ways we never see coming.

I’m not putting these old ones up because i’m too lazy to write new. I’ll have one of those next–but some of this old stuff fits. Hope you like it.

11 May 2009

One day during the summer of 1980 my brother David was in the hospital at Case Western Reserve University for yet another open-heart surgery. The scene that day was dramatic I suppose, but for our family at the time, it was in many ways just another day. The state of the relationships between us had come to the condition that existed then because each and every incident that had occurred in the history of the Universe had added to that cumulative point. The way it came together then could have been viewed as tragic, I suppose, but we never noticed.

I don’t even remember how I got the news that this particular episode was approaching. David’s surgery that year was one of many—so many, in fact, that by now surgeons and academics had written papers on his congenital condition, and even given it a polysyllabic title. His lead surgeon, a Dr. Ankeny as I recall, had once claimed that he had “learned more from David Bass than fourteen years of medical school.” We four siblings had in effect grown up in the hospital, with the constant potential for death in attendance on a daily basis. Many years would pass between that summer and the moment I decided any of this was applicable to self-reflection, and the sweltering summer afternoon was as present and imminently experiential as any other I lived through during that period.
Our family seemed done that year. I had been out of the picture for over a year. Dad had left soon after, leaving a sour tinge in the air with those remaining, though I never blamed him. When David queued up for one more death-defying, experimental, split-chest open-heart surgery, Dad came back to Cleveland from Florida to put in an obligatory appearance.

Here was a meeting that defied conventional description. Dave, the least guilty of all our immediate family, had been deeply affected by Dad’s exit from the filial stage earlier that year. I hadn’t seen, or even spoken to Dad for well over a year, nor could our interactions prior to then be described as warm and supportive. Outnumbered by angry or indifferent family members, and perhaps less acclimated to hospitals as the rest of us, Dad was way out of his simpler, down-to-earth element.

I showed up unannounced, with glorious southern tart Candy Stone from Mobile, Alabama in tow, she in dirty bare feet, nearly illegal shorts, one of those dangerous eighties tube-tops, and very red eyes. I don’t think Dad spoke more than a half dozen words to me. His eyes told the whole story of uncertainty, pain, and failure. Dave, fresh from surgery, quite literally green, with a repulsive grey crust around his lips and appending to the tubes and what not projecting from several of his orifices, refused to see Dad. Refused to allow him in the room. Dad left unrequited to return to his exile in Florida. I didn’t see him again for many years.

Once, David, following the Dead tour in our Mom’s old family van showing all the effects of the Rust Belt, with his underage Russian girlfriend, his fiddle, and a patchouli oil manufacturing operation, got pulled over in Alabama, for sport. By this time, David was unkempt, smelly, and obviously committing some crime or another. The cops shook him down pretty good, but of course he had no contraband. He has a vice or two, but the heart thing keeps him from excess. He had that young Russian girlfriend, though, and Alabama’s finest figured they could really hang him out to dry, (dang hippie). But she and Dave convince the alpha cop to let them call her mom in New York to confirm that permission had been granted for the road trip and no heinous kidnapping was going on. The mother spoke zero English, but somehow the girlfriend convinced the cop to allow her to translate for her mother. Mother and daughter held a five minute conversation about the mental acuity of Alabama cops, duly translated as an expression of permission, and the travelers were on their way. David drawls this story on stage in his hillbilly persona, fiddle in hand. It’s hilarious.

It seemed to me for a long time that David was the only one of us to escape that little bubble of anti-reality that made up our family life while we siblings were young. Maybe he somehow managed to avoid being trapped in it in the first place, residing only temporarily, with some sort of metaphysical pass associated with potential imminent death. I don’t know, but years later, during one of the high points of my own endeavor, Renaissance Paint and Remodeling, I remember feeling jealous of David. This was a recurring sentiment, and all the more abberant for the fact that my strongest memory of it falls during a visit to Dave’s place in North Carolina that amounted to a just-in-case kind of deal before a heart transplant. Whatever the rationality or fairness of my little envy, (not real envy, mind you, but one of those little personality spikes that one notes and passes through), David is the one of us that got away the least damaged, and has lived his idiosyncratic dream out in full, down to the fine print, with joy.

Mom tells a story about my first day at school. Or maybe the second. I had asked some question that Miss Gardner couldn’t answer, and after day two, came home grousing about how those people were ignorant, and furthermore lazy, since no one had even bothered to look up a response. Mom likes to carry on about how smart her offspring are. She doesn’t usually bring up in public how warped we can be.

Mom, we brothers agree, bequeathed us a legacy of somewhat dubious mental processes. She’s nuts. We all know it. She knows it. Dad knows it. The rest of her family knows it well, and most of them recognize a common bond of familial, brand-name insanity that we all seem to share. I expect this is a more or less common thing among families, but I remain convinced that we are a bit stranger than most, at least in part because of the unique circumstances we lived through.

Back in the day, Mom’s thing was what they call control issues. The dynamic of her issues was so complex I can’t imagine I’ll ever figure it out. Some of her personality came to her by heredity from her mother, whom we call Mo. Much of it developed in that crucible of stress Dave kept heated by his repeated, continuous flirtation with death. Mom, responding to my over-the-top reaction to a pubescent hormonal tsunami, became madly obsessive with minutiae, dividing her time among us brothers and badgering us constantly in a fashion no one can really get unless they have their own experience to compare. I think she and I trapped ourselves in a sort of feedback loop that could have ended no other way.

I was out of the house for good, by the age of fifteen, for all purposes off to lead a life of crime, I suppose. For some years, I lived out my interpretation of the old Kerouac/Kesey/Abbie Hoffman mythos, on the road, in the street, an utterly directionless rebel. A good five or six years passed without more that a word or two passing between Mom and me.

I was nineteen when I came to Colorado Springs. The vague and unformulated manifesto for global revolution I had worked out in my head was on hold, kept in place by a twelve-pack of cheap beer. I had a job as an electrician, and didn’t see any reason to change that, but we actually didn’t do much of anything but work and drink beer that year.

One day Mom called to say Mike, another brother, got himself in trouble again and she expected him to “run away.” I told her to give him my number and I’d let her know when he called. He did just a few days later, and can I come pick him up over on south Circle.

Mike and I spent a couple years engaging in the sort of insanity to which we had become habituated in Cleveland. The reader will require imagination to add flesh to the story here. The statute of limitations may prevent backlash, but I don’t mean to poke at a bees’ nest, and it seems unlikely you might imagine anything more extreme than what actually took place. We weren’t stupid, though, and the business of working for wages, or relying on illicit behavior for advancement just wasn’t good enough, so we formed a construction company and went to work. That proved to be a trap. Maybe an extension of the weird, family trap that all of us have discussed so deeply, without resolution.

Mike and I had it in our minds that the working man’s habit of grousing over how management acts is crap and that if we were going to grouse, we ought to just take the reins ourselves. It turned out we were pretty good, too, in a lot of ways. We worked together for the best part of twenty years, and reached moments of national prominence in our little niche. The whole period was characterized by more bone-crushing stress and absurd, super-human feats. We had little breaks from the madness when we’d crash the business, which we did three times. We were great at getting shit done, but lousy at administration in the final analysis.

Hiring employees in the construction business kept me exposed to the street element to which I had become accustomed. I involved myself in various efforts to assist folks in their low-budget struggles, imagining still that I could somehow change the world. In fact, contrary to Mike’s primary obsession with business success, I figured the whole pursuit as a means to some vague end involving social revolution. For a while a religious experience had me involved with a church effort to “reach out” to the hoodlums that used to cruise Nevada Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights. I even managed to glean an ordination from the Baptists, though now I suspect they’d regret bequeathing me with it. My identification with street folks and the urge to help them rise above conditions has never left me. Actually I’ve worked up the notion that we could all stand to rise above conditions.

Dad. I went even longer without speaking with him than I did with Mom. He dealt with our family’s teen-aged fulguration by folding his hand and striking out on his own. Offered a transfer by his employer, the story goes, he told Mom, “I’d like you to come to Florida with me, but I don’t think I can love you anymore.” No woman in her right mind would go for that deal, and Mom didn’t fall for it either. Dad packed his company car and struck out, leaving his all-important nest egg, and everything else, behind. When David was in the hospital again that summer, that’s where Dad came from to visit him.

I had been away, and I don’t recall blaming Dad for his poor dealings with the family. He had been raised in a very old-school, European style, and he simply couldn’t handle our ways. To this day, in spite of Dad’s expression of a taste for “philosophy,” our conversations are often guarded, pregnant with unspoken truths. I still don’t know his philosophy.

Last summer Dad, my youngest brother, and I went to Montana to camp and fish, riding an outfitter’s horses into some of the most pristine wilderness left in the lower forty-eight. I had genuinely hoped to break the communication barrier that stands between us, but we had to settle for hugs and meaningful silences, for the most part. Dad still plays with his cards pressed tightly to his chest, flashing a look of panic if the conversational waters begin to threaten him with submersion. I guess he can’t swim.

Dad’s experience, it seems to me has also been different from the norm, though I’m uncertain that any human being matches that mythical standard. His family, unlike Mom’s, which fought in the Revolution, was barely American. They were proud American citizens, but their traditions came from old Europe, and they still lived communally on the old Bass farm as they had done for a thousand years.

During my childhood, whenever David was out of the hospital, we’d spend weekends at the farm with the scene looking very much like something from an era that had long since passed in this country, all Dad’s siblings and extended family eating together, playing cards, children roaming the grounds like Huck Finn. It was all rather idyllic, truly, and the moment Grandma Bass died and the farm disappeared under a layer of vulgar office towers marked the shift from one childhood to another.

Dad’s life since then became an effort to recreate those years. His brother and sister had never left the farm. Even when his brother Paul married and had a child, he stayed there on Rockside, as the place was known. I think that scene served as an anchor for my Dad, and when he retired, impressively early despite having suffered huge financial setbacks, he bought his own farm, secluded and sylvan, and moved his socially inept brother and sister in with him.

Paul was a very strange dude. Throughout his lifetime he suffered from some sort of condition that caused him to wobble quite a bit and to mumble when he spoke, like a cartoon character. I still have no idea what the actual condition was–it was never discussed in medical terms, and Paul worked, loved, laughed, and lived in a fashion perfectly suited to him. He represented another unusual facet of our lives that never seemed unusual to us, simply because it just had always been what it was. During his declining years, Paul became more and more difficult to live with, his condition developing into a matter that caused him to actually require care, rather than merely one engendering bemusement. He became cantankerous, incontinent, and dangerous to himself, given his refusal to use a cane. Dad actively cared for him, there on the new farm, forty-five minutes from a paved road, until he died a few years ago.

I couldn’t make the funeral, but I spoke to Dad on the phone as he was back in the city making arrangements. I told him I thought his dealings with Paul were among the most impressive and moving things I had ever seen. I still see it that way. The conversation, which lasted no more than ten minutes I guess, may have been the deepest we’ve ever shared.

For the past eight or nine years every Sunday, so long as I’m in town, I give away food we cook up to whomever we can get to come up to the Colorado College campus and sample our fare. Often our guests are homeless or dirt poor, but we’re not so much stipulating low economic clout as a qualifier. We’ll feed anyone. Dick Celeste, the former governor of my home state, Ohio, and once ambassador to India, comes now and then. He’s a friend, and I visit him at his home, during party season at CC. Arlo Guthrie came down to our basement kitchen once–I put him to work washing dishes. Many of the crowd I see every week are chronic though, plagued by demons I surmise to have been born in conditions similar to mine as a youth. I’ve occasionally contemplated the accusation of “enabling” bad behavior that people toss my way once in a while, but many of our regulars, some of whom I’ve known for twenty-five years, are simply never going to approach any sort of productivity. They are simply too extraordinarily damaged, and as the proverb goes, there, but for the grace of God, go I.

The Christian experience I mentioned earlier was a reflection, or maybe an extension, of spiritual drives I always apprehended. I pursued it heartily for a time, beginning my adult involvement with the sort of hands-on charity our Sunday kitchen represents in a Christian context. The Church always felt skewed to me though, and a couple years’ studying of the questions involved convinced me to adopt thinking anathema to most of my Christian friends. The exclusionary thinking shared by many church folk, in turn, began to seem anathema to me.

Something about my family and its ability to weather long, rending forces, becoming over time a stronger entity for all its roiling turbulence, seems to me akin to the aspect of the human condition that produces the wrecked lives that bring folks to visit me on Sunday afternoons. Further spiritual thinking–some would say metaphysical thinking–concerning Chaos and Oneness has encouraged me to feel like the separation between me and the crowd I serve is illusory in some indefinable fashion. When members of our family passed through periods during which we found it necessary to step back from one another, the bonds that hold us together never broke, and the etheric bonds between my soup kitchen crowd and me, and ambassadors or presidents, don’t seem breakable either. We all seem to share certain common struggles, differences arising simply from disparate approaches, variant perspectives. Our family, it turns out was never what we imagined it ought to be, but perhaps something greater, and more viable, after all.

Part of my mission in ditching the construction business for more cerebral and perhaps less lucrative pursuits at an age when many of my peers in the building industry are thinking of golf courses and retirement comes from a belief that the differences in individuals are reconcilable. Feeding people is necessary, but falls short of bridging the apparent expanse between souls. I still want to change the world, even though I understand the futility of such a grandiose notion. Utopians always fail. But I expect that each time some failure becomes apparent, we can learn a little something, and maybe the next day we can fail a little better.

No account of self-examination is ever going to be complete. I won’t be asserting anything about how I’ve come full circle. Our family will never return to the conditions of my childhood. Nor is the new generation my brothers and cousins and I have brought into the world a retread of old lives. I haven’t even touched on my own experiences as head of a new family, but my children live lives vastly different from their forbears, and even though I rather hope they can avoid some of my mistakes, I suspect they’ll be making many of their own. It seems to be in their genes to require hard lessons. But, like my tortured friends in line at CC on Sunday mornings, or those in my circle equally tortured but accustomed to fine linens, whatever they may suffer holds its own value.

We all learn what we must learn. Life is perfectly safe. Its lessons are self-taught, but deep. I genuinely plan to write a real memoir and a family history, for my kids’ sake, but by the time we come full circle, it’s too late to write about it.

Denver Daze

Occupy Colorado Springs is and has been a relatively staid affair. Our biggest marches have drawn maybe 200 participants, and the street corner has been generally host to small crowds and mostly friendly or indifferent passers by. Visits from police have been just that–visits, rather than assaults, even when the HOTT Team came to arrest me early in the morning on 18 October, and the intrepid Camping Jack on two more recent occasions. We had to take steps to force them to make my arrest. Many of the core participants at Acacia Park have never been involved in any sort of political processes at all, let alone public protestations. So when several of our number traveled to Denver last Saturday to join a boisterous crowd of around 3,000 souls emotions were high, mixed, and complex.

There can be no denying the nervous air among one van load during the trip to Civic Center Park, directly in front of the State Capitol building, on the western side. Shana expressed open fear, bless her heart, and i suspect she wasn’t the only of our number of like mind. Fear was generally dispelled by the excitement of the much larger Denver crowd, though, and as we marched around downtown under clear blue unseasonably warm Colorado skies, past the Mint, the Federal Reserve Building, down the 16th St. Mall where city employees took an unscheduled break to let us pass and bewildered shoppers either stared aghast or waved and grinned in support, up 17th St. past all the towering bank centers, and finally mounting the steps at the Capitol Building in defiance of specific instruction from city and police. Throughout the march, spirits were exuberant as cooperative bullhorn operators traded various, sometimes conflicting perspectives while our horde danced and prated along the sidewalks and streets, and we arrived at the Capitol in high, expectant spirits.

There had been quite a lot of friendly cops along for the march, but shortly after our arrival at the Capitol the armored legion showed up and began tactical operations to expel the somewhat rowdy crowd from its perch. I was there with my 15 year old son, so we pulled back from the danger zone when the announcement was made waving off the “unarrestable.” Adin and i observed the obscure scuffling, complete with clouds of gas, from the Park as we waited for the valiant crew of absurdly comical drag queens “manning” the field kitchen to finish the “pimp-ass risotto” we later had for lunch, flavored by tear gas. The cops cleared the Capitol steps and formed a double-lined phalanx at the eastern face of the Park, at the street edge of the sidewalk directly across from the kitchen and the hastily erected camps. The kitchen crew struggled to put a specifically verboten makeshift canopy over their operation, so the police could be sure and find them.

The police blocked Broadway for several blocks and pushed protesters off the street into the Park and stayed in a threatening stance for some 6 hours or so, waiting for the appointed hour of 7:00p when they razed the camps, apparently according to specific orders. The clearing of the street was punctuated by violence , at least some of which was beyond the pale. Photographer and protest participant Andrew Cleres was ruthlessly shot down from his tree-stand while obviously not a threat. Frankie Roper of our OCS group was transported to a local hospital after taking a “non-lethal” round to the chest, though he was not arrested and refused treatment so he could rush back to the proceedings. Cops pulled back to the street after their initial assault and held a line for several hours while listening to protesters preaching various words ranging between, “We love you; you are US,” to “Fuck off and die, Pigs!” while awaiting word to move on the camps, which they did at the appointed hour, throwing tents, food, and kitchen equipment into a city trash truck.

The police surrounded the empty camping areas afterward, and maintained their line at the street for some time, continuing to endure some very angry expressions by riled protesters. Around 8:00p they abruptly and rather anticlimactically just left, allowing protesters to claim a victory, of sorts.

Though my observations to follow may well clash somewhat with some attitudes expressed during much subsequent conversation, much of what i witnessed at as close a range as could be was very encouraging indeed. Protesters were extraordinarily courageous in the face of a volatile situation. At odds with some other observers, i suggest cops exercised pretty fair restraint. Frankie and Andrew were both rather overworked in the incidents linked above. Frankie’s foot had been rolled over by the motorcycle he then knocked to the ground when the cops jumped him, and police had no way to know that when they got him. He was not arrested. Throughout the day, during which there were only 20 arrests reported, i witnessed numerous instances of very angry protesters attempting to engage police violently. These incidents were mostly handled by the crowd by their moving in to separate the overwrought form the line of cops, and the few moments where things escalated to actual physical levels were marked by a lack of brutality by police, and an apparently strong reluctance to arrest anyone. And again, after executing announced plans to raze the camps the cops simply left the scene.

Among the most exceptionally poignant vignettes of the day was the scene at the kitchen between the clearing of the Capitol steps and its ultimate destruction. The queer high antics persisted in good humor through the entirety of the very tense day, and the line of grateful hungry continued steadily within shoulder-brushing distance of the armored squads; life, joy, and loving community on display under duress. Many protesters repeated the suggestion to police that they are fully welcome to lay down armor and join us for a sandwich and a bowl of soup, and some cops actually did so, braving the incredulous stares of their fellows before rejoining the line. All day, though more so during the march while still in a conversational mood, police expressed support for us protesters, and reluctance to be antagonistic on their own. When they returned at the close of Park hours in much smaller numbers to match the dwindling of our own, remaining protesters knew to clear to the sidewalk and no further incidents took place. By then, new supplies had been delivered by random donors, and a new kitchen was already turning out coffee and chili dogs from an adjusted position at the park’s edge.

There remains aroused spirits from many of the variously positioned players in this conflict of Ideas. Many U.S. armed forces veterans are very angry indeed at police seen as traitorous after the incident with Scott Olsen in Oakland, (don’t forget to continue to hold Scott in your prayers, if you do that sort of thing); however I, for one, am encouraged by the dramatic differences between what i saw in Denver Saturday and the stuff from my childhood where police would just wade through crowds swinging nightsticks with brutal efficiency at whomever was within range. Further encouragement came from the shift in mood the following day when much of the tension between holders of opposing opinion among our OCS core appeared to simply diffuse on its own in the face of the sheer size and intensity of the action in D-town.

My take: I am immensely proud of all the Occupiers that participated, (including perhaps most especially my son Adin, who chose to stay right up in the thick of things with us all day long), and steadfastly protected those of our own motivated beyond restraint from overstepping propriety. We are ALL one. The human race makes up a group of 100%, even if some of us need to catch up with the notion. We have a long way to go, but we’re learning. This thing will continue to be lumpy and chaotic, but we’re getting there. Because we have to, no matter what.

Joe Stack’s Piper Cherokee Manifesto

Single Engine AircraftIt’s getting so you can’t fly a plane into a federal office building and hope somebody will finally find your website. Though engineer Joseph Stack left an online statement to explain his last act of desperation against the IRS, it was deleted “in compliance with a request from the FBI.” I guess his web hosts think the 1st Amendment has an FBI exemption. Even Google’s cache was expunged. This has freed Reporters to characterize Stack’s missive as a crazed rant. Nothing threatens the establishment like this conclusion: “Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, … violence … is the only answer. The cruel joke is that [those] at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at … fools like me all along.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear that a self-made engineer-businessman who has his own plane, commits suicide on principles he has articulated in a manifesto, I’m curious to hear him out.

I’m reminded of the sad story of the desperate antiwar activist who set himself on fire as a final protest of the escalating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew accomplices would only dissuade him, so he chose an isolated spot where he could proceed unmolested and set up a video camera to record the act. Naturally, policemen were the first to encounter his body and thus the footage of dramatic statement are consigned to the obscurity of their files.

single engine airplaneFortunately the internet is still too porous for redaction on the grounds of national security, or whatever reason the FBI contrived to censor Stack’s suicide note/screed/diatribe. The Smoking Gun has the usual non-text scans of what Joseph Stack wrote before he piloted his single-engine Piper PA-28 into the Austin TX IRS office. Here’s the full text of Stack’s manifesto.

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?”  The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.  The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken.  Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it.  I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head.  Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy.  Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all.  We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principles represented by its founding fathers.  Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”.  I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood.  These days anyone who really stands up for that principle is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind.  Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies.  Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”.  It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system?  Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand.  Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand.  The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is.  If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s.  Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English.  Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.  In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.  We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t stealing from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).  We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.  However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.  It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie.  It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father.  I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker.  Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.  Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement.  All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time.  When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me).  I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread.  I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made.  I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report (http://www.synergistech.com/1706.shtml#ConferenceCommitteeReport) regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (http://www.synergistech.com/ic-taxlaw.shtml).

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

·      “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

·      “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

·      “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated.  The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d).  Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave.  Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.  I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity.  This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”.  Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise.  The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists).  This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle.  If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks.  Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s.  Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that.  The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco.  However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall.  Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed.  Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare.  Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months.  This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive.  Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!  After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change.  Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while.  So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done.  I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.  The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA.  This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income.  I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need.  The sleazy government decided that they disagreed.  But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.  Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present.  After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again.  But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle.  After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order.  I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting.  Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit.  By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented).  Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone.  The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything.  Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”.  Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone.  The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.  Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough).  In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.  It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants.  I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.  But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I ensure nothing will change.  I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white-washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less.  I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are.  Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.  The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.  I am finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)

02/18/2010

Vaneigem on energy as commodity

NMT’s in-house Situationist has been conceptualizing a way forward well expressed in this May 2009 interview of Raoul Vaneigem:
Situationist“We are being “offered” biofuels on the condition we agree to transgenic rapeseed farming. Eco-tourism will accelerate the plundering of our biosphere. Windmill farms are being built without any advantage to the consumers. Those are the areas where intervention is possible. Natural resources belong to us, they are free, they must be made to serve the freedom of life. It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work. …

Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.”
–Raoul Vaneigem, 2009

Interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, for e-flux, Journal #6. See original article or the copy mirrored below:

In Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem

Hans Ulrich Obrist: I just visited Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau, who have written an appeal to Barack Obama. What would your appeal and/or advice be to Obama?

Raoul Vaneigem: I refuse to cultivate any relationship whatsoever with people of power. I agree with the Zapatistas from Chiapas who want nothing to do with either the state or its masters, the multinational mafias. I call for civil disobedience so that local communities can form, coordinate, and begin self-producing natural power, a more natural form of farming, and public services that are finally liberated from the scams of government by the Left or the Right. On the other hand, I welcome the appeal by Chamoiseau, Glissant, and their friends for the creation of an existence in which the poetry of a life rediscovered will put an end to the deadly stranglehold of the commodity.

HUO: Could we talk about your beginnings? How did your participation in situationism begin, and what was your fundamental contribution? At the outset of your relationship with the SI, there was the figure of Henri Lefebvre. What did he mean to you at the time? Why did you decide to send him poetic essays?

RV: I would first like to clarify that situationism is an ideology that the situationists were unanimous in rejecting. The term “situationist” was ever only a token of identification. Its particularity kept us from being mistaken for the throngs of ideologues. I have nothing in common with the spectacular recuperation of a project that, in my case, has remained revolutionary throughout. My participation in a group that has now disappeared was an important moment in my personal evolution, an evolution I have personally pressed on with in the spirit of the situationist project at its most revolutionary. My own radicality absolves me from any label. I grew up in an environment in which our fighting spirit was fueled by working class consciousness and a rather festive conception of existence. I found Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life captivating. When La Somme et le reste [The Sum and the Remainder] was published, I sent him an essay of sorts on “poetry and revolution” that was an attempt to unify radical concepts, Lettrist language, music, and film imagery by crediting them all with the common virtue of making the people’s blood boil. Lefebvre kindly responded by putting me in touch with Guy Debord who immediately invited me to Paris. The two of us had very different temperaments, but we would agree over a period of nearly ten years on the need to bring consumer society to an end and to found a new society on the principle of self-management, where life supersedes survival and the existential angst that it generates.

HUO: Which situationist projects remain unrealized?

RV: Psychogeography, the construction of situations, the superseding of predatory behavior. The radicality, which, notwithstanding some lapses, never ceased to motivate us, remains a source of inspiration to this day. Its effects are just beginning to manifest themselves in the autonomous groups that are now coming to grips with the collapse of financial capitalism.

HUO: The Situationist International defined the situationist as someone who commits her- or himself to the construction of situations. What were those situations for you, concretely? How would you define the situationist project in 2009?

RV: By its very style of living and thinking, our group was already sketching out a situation, like a beachhead active within enemy territory. The military metaphor is questionable, but it does convey our will to liberate daily life from the control and stranglehold of an economy based on the profitable exploitation of man. We formed a “group-at-risk” that was conscious of the hostility of the dominant world, of the need for radical rupture, and of the danger of giving in to the paranoia typical of minds under siege. By showing its limits and its weaknesses, the situationist experience can also be seen as a critical meditation on the new type of society sketched out by the Paris Commune, by the Makhnovist movement and the Republic of Councils wiped out by Lenin and Trotsky, by the libertarian communities in Spain later smashed by the Communist Party. The situationist project is not about what happens once consumer society is rejected and a genuinely human society has emerged. Rather, it illuminates now how lifestyle can supersede survival, predatory behavior, power, trade and the death-reflex.

HUO: You and Guy Debord are the main protagonists of the situationist movement. How do you see Debord’s role and your role?

RV: Not as roles. That is precisely what situationism in its most ridiculous version aims at: reducing us to cardboard cut-outs that it can then set up against one another according to the spectacle’s standard operating procedure. I am simply the spokesman, among others, of a radical consciousness. I just do what I can to see that resistance to market exploitation is transformed into an offensive of life, and that an art of living sweeps away the ruins of oppression.

HUO: What were your reasons for resigning from the group?

RV: Following the occupation movements of May 1968, we knew that some recuperation was afoot. We were familiar with the mechanisms of alienation that would falsify our ideas and fit them neatly into the cultural puzzle. It became clear to us, during the last conference in Venice, that we had failed to shatter those mechanisms, that in fact they were shattering us from the inside. The group was crumbling, the Venice conference was demonstrating its increasing uselessness, and the only answers put forward were commensurate with the self-parody we had fallen into. Dissension intensified to the point of paranoid denunciation: of betrayals of radicality, of breaches of revolutionary spirit, of dereliction of conscience. Those times of catharsis and anathema are now long past, and it might be useful to examine how it is that we sowed the seeds of failure for which the group ended up paying such a heavy price. The shipwreck, however, did not indiscriminately sweep away to the shores of oblivion all of us who participated in the adventure. The group vanished in such a way as to allow the individuals to either consolidate their radicality, disown it, or lapse into the imposture of radicalism. I have attempted to analyze our experimental adventure in Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre [Between Mourning the World and Exuberant Life].

HUO: You have written a lot on life, not survival. What is the difference?

RV: Survival is budgeted life. The system of exploitation of nature and man, starting in the Middle Neolithic with intensive farming, caused an involution in which creativity—a quality specific to humans—was supplanted by work, by the production of a covetous power. Creative life, as had begun to unfold during the Paleolithic, declined and gave way to a brutish struggle for subsistence. From then on, predation, which defines animal behavior, became the generator of all economic mechanisms.

HUO: Today, more than forty years after May ‘68, how do you feel life and society have evolved?

RV: We are witnessing the collapse of financial capitalism. This was easily predictable. Even among economists, where one finds even more idiots than in the political sphere, a number had been sounding the alarm for a decade or so. Our situation is paradoxical: never in Europe have the forces of repression been so weakened, yet never have the exploited masses been so passive. Still, insurrectional consciousness always sleeps with one eye open. The arrogance, incompetence, and powerlessness of the governing classes will eventually rouse it from its slumber, as will the progression in hearts and minds of what was most radical about May 1968.

HUO: Your new book takes us on a trip “between mourning the world and exuberant life.” You revisit May ‘68. What is left of May ‘68? Has it all been appropriated?

RV: Even if we are today seeing recycled ideologies and old religious infirmities being patched up in a hurry and tossed out to feed a general despair, which our ruling wheelers and dealers cash in on, they cannot conceal for long the shift in civilization revealed by May 1968. The break with patriarchal values is final. We are moving toward the end of the exploitation of nature, of work, of trade, of predation, of separation from the self, of sacrifice, of guilt, of the forsaking of happiness, of the fetishizing of money, of power, of hierarchy, of contempt for and fear of women, of the misleading of children, of intellectual dominion, of military and police despotism, of religions, of ideologies, of repression and the deadly resolutions of psychic tensions. This is not a fact I am describing, but an ongoing process that simply requires from us increased vigilance, awareness, and solidarity with life. We have to reground ourselves in order to rebuild—on human foundations—a world that has been ruined by the inhumanity of the cult of the commodity.

HUO: What do you think of the current moment, in 2009? Jean-Pierre Page has just published Penser l’après crise [Thinking the After-Crisis]. For him, everything must be reinvented. He says that a new world is emerging now in which the attempt to establish a US-led globalization has been aborted.

RV: The agrarian economy of the Ancien Régime was a fossilized form that was shattered by the emerging free-trade economy, from the 1789 revolution on. Similarly, the stock-dabbling speculative capitalism whose debacle we now witness is about to give way to a capitalism reenergized by the production of non-polluting natural power, the return to use value, organic farming, a hastily patched-up public sector, and a hypocritical moralization of trade. The future belongs to self-managed communities that produce indispensable goods and services for all (natural power, biodiversity, education, health centers, transport, metal and textile production . . .). The idea is to produce for us, for our own use—that is to say, no longer in order to sell them—goods that we are currently forced to buy at market prices even though they were conceived and manufactured by workers. It is time to break with the laws of a political racketeering that is designing, together with its own bankruptcy, that of our existence.

HUO: Is this a war of a new kind, as Page claims? An economic Third World War?

RV: We are at war, yes, but this is not an economic war. It is a world war against the economy. Against the economy that for thousands of years has been based on the exploitation of nature and man. And against a patched-up capitalism that will try to save its skin by investing in natural power and making us pay the high price for that which—once the new means of production are created—will be free as the wind, the sun, and the energy of plants and soil. If we do not exit economic reality and create a human reality in its place, we will once again allow market barbarism to live on.

HUO: In his book Making Globalization Work, Joseph Stiglitz argues for a reorganization of globalization along the lines of greater justice, in order to shrink global imbalances. What do you think of globalization? How does one get rid of profit as motive and pursue well-being instead? How does one escape from the growth imperative?

RV: The moralization of profit is an illusion and a fraud. There must be a decisive break with an economic system that has consistently spread ruin and destruction while pretending, amidst constant destitution, to deliver a most hypothetical well-being. Human relations must supersede and cancel out commercial relations. Civil disobedience means disregarding the decisions of a government that embezzles from its citizens to support the embezzlements of financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to the bankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug the sinkhole of corruption, when we could allocate them instead to the self-management of free power networks in every local community? The direct democracy of self-managed councils has every right to ignore the decrees of corrupt parliamentary democracy. Civil disobedience towards a state that is plundering us is a right. It is up to us to capitalize on this epochal shift to create communities where desire for life overwhelms the tyranny of money and power. We need concern ourselves neither with government debt, which covers up a massive defrauding of the public interest, nor with that contrivance of profit they call “growth.” From now on, the aim of local communities should be to produce for themselves and by themselves all goods of social value, meeting the needs of all—authentic needs, that is, not needs prefabricated by consumerist propaganda.

HUO: Edouard Glissant distinguishes between globality and globalization. Globalization eradicates differences and homogenizes, while globality is a global dialogue that produces differences. What do you think of his notion of globality?

RV: For me, it should mean acting locally and globally through a federation of communities in which our pork-barreling, corrupt parliamentary democracy is made obsolete by direct democracy. Local councils will be set up to take measures in favor of the environment and the daily lives of everyone. The situationists have called this “creating situations that rule out any backtracking.”

HUO: Might the current miscarriages of globalization have the same dangerous effects as the miscarriages of the previous globalization from the ‘30s? You have written that what was already intolerable in ‘68 when the economy was booming is even more intolerable today. Do you think the current economic despair might push the new generations to rebel?

RV: The crisis of the ‘30s was an economic crisis. What we are facing today is an implosion of the economy as a management system. It is the collapse of market civilization and the emergence of human civilization. The current turmoil signals a deep shift: the reference points of the old patriarchal world are vanishing. Percolating instead, still just barely and confusedly, are the early markers of a lifestyle that is genuinely human, an alliance with nature that puts an end to its exploitation, rape, and plundering. The worst would be the unawareness of life, the absence of sentient intelligence, violence without conscience. Nothing is more profitable to the racketeering mafias than chaos, despair, suicidal rebellion, and the nihilism that is spread by mercenary greed, in which money, even devalued in a panic, remains the only value.

HUO: In his book Utopistics, Immanuel Wallerstein claims that our world system is undergoing a structural crisis. He predicts it will take another twenty to fifty years for a more democratic and egalitarian system to replace it. He believes that the future belongs to “demarketized,” free-of-charge institutions (on the model, say, of public libraries). So we must oppose the marketization of water and air.1 What is your view?

RV: I do not know how long the current transformation will take (hopefully not too long, as I would like to witness it). But I have no doubt that this new alliance with the forces of life and nature will disseminate equality and freeness. We must go beyond our natural indignation at profit’s appropriation of our water, air, soil, environment, plants, animals. We must establish collectives that are capable of managing natural resources for the benefit of human interests, not market interests. This process of reappropriation that I foresee has a name: self-management, an experience attempted many times in hostile historical contexts. At this point, given the implosion of consumer society, it appears to be the only solution from both an individual and social point of view.

HUO: In your writing you have described the work imperative as an inhuman, almost animal condition. Do you consider market society to be a regression?

RV: As I mentioned above, evolution in the Paleolithic age meant the development of creativity—the distinctive trait of the human species as it breaks free from its original animality. But during the Neolithic, the osmotic relationship to nature loosened progressively, as intensive agriculture became based on looting and the exploitation of natural resources. It was also then that religion surfaced as an institution, society stratified, the reign of patriarchy began, of contempt for women, and of priests and kings with their stream of wars, destitution, and violence. Creation gave way to work, life to survival, jouissance to the animal predation that the appropriation economy confiscates, transcends, and spiritualizes. In this sense market civilization is indeed a regression in which technical progress supersedes human progress.

HUO: For you, what is a life in progress?

RV: Advancing from survival, the struggle for subsistence and predation to a new art of living, by recreating the world for the benefit of all.

HUO: My interviews often focus on the connections between art and architecture/urbanism, or literature and architecture/urbanism. Could you tell me about the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism?

RV: That was an idea more than a project. It was about the urgency of rebuilding our social fabric, so damaged by the stranglehold of the market. Such a rebuilding effort goes hand in hand with the rebuilding by individuals of their own daily existence. That is what psychogeography is really about: a passionate and critical deciphering of what in our environment needs to be destroyed, subjected to détournement, rebuilt.

HUO: In your view there is no such thing as urbanism?

RV: Urbanism is the ideological gridding and control of individuals and society by an economic system that exploits man and Earth and transforms life into a commodity. The danger in the self-built housing movement that is growing today would be to pay more attention to saving money than to the poetry of a new style of life.

HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You call Oarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?

RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future.

HUO: Is Oarystis based on natural power, like the Metabolist cities? Rem Koolhaas and I are working on a book on the Japanese Metabolists. When I read your wonderful text on Oarystis, I was reminded of that movement from the 1960s, especially the floating cities, Kikutake’s water cities. Is Oarystis a Metabolist city?

RV: When Oarystis was published, the architect Philippe Rothier and Diane Hennebert, who ran Brussels’ Architecture Museum at the time, rightly criticized me for ignoring the imaginative projects of a new generation of builders. Now that the old world is collapsing, the fusion of free natural power, self-built housing techniques, and the reinvention of sensual form is going to be decisive. So it is useful to remember that technical inventiveness must stem from the reinvention of individual and collective life. That is to say, what allows for genuine rupture and ecstatic inventiveness is self-management: the management by individuals and councils of their own lives and environment through direct democracy. Let us entrust the boundless freedoms of the imaginary to childhood and the child within us.

HUO: Several years ago I interviewed Constant on New Babylon. What were your dialogues with Constant and how do you see New Babylon today?

RV: I never met Constant, who if I am not mistaken had been expelled before my own association with the SI. New Babylon’s flaw is that it privileges technology over the formation of an individual and collective way of life—the necessary basis of any architectural concept. An architectural project only interests me if it is about the construction of daily life.

HUO: How can the city of the future contribute to biodiversity?

RV: By drawing inspiration from Alphonse Allais, by encouraging the countryside to infiltrate the city. By creating zones of organic farming, gardens, vegetable plots, and farms inside urban space. After all, there are so many bureaucratic and parasitical buildings that can’t wait to give way to fertile, pleasant land that is useful to all. Architects and squatters, build us some hanging gardens where we can go for walks, eat, and live!

HUO: Oarystis is in the form of a maze, but it is also influenced by Venice and its public piazzas. Could you tell us about the form of Oarystis?

RV: Our internal space-time is maze-like. In it, each of us is at once Theseus, Ariadne, and Minotaur. Our dérives would gain in awareness, alertness, harmony, and happiness if only external space-time could offer meanders that could conjure up the possible courses of our futures, as an analogy or echo of sorts—one that favors games of life, and prevents their inversion into games of death.

HUO: Will museums be abolished? Could you discuss the amphitheater of memory? A protestation against oblivion?

RV: The museum suffers from being a closed space in which works waste away. Painting, sculpture, music belong to the street, like the façades that contemplate us and come back to life when we greet them. Like life and love, learning is a continuous flow that enjoys the privilege of irrigating and fertilizing our sentient intelligence. Nothing is more contagious than creation. But the past also carries with it all the dross of our inhumanity. What should we do with it? A museum of horrors, of the barbarism of the past? I attempted to answer the question of the “duty of memory” in Ni pardon, ni talion [Neither Forgiveness Nor Retribution]:

Most of the great men we were brought up to worship were nothing more than cynical or sly murderers. History as taught in schools and peddled by an overflowing and hagiographic literature is a model of falsehood; to borrow a fashionable term, it is negationist. It might not deny the reality of gas chambers, it might no longer erect monuments to the glory of Stalin, Mao or Hitler, but it persists in celebrating the brutish conqueror: Alexander, called the Great—whose mentor was Aristotle, it is proudly intoned—Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Napoleon, the throngs of generals, slaughterers of peoples, petty tyrants of the city or the state, torturer–judges, Javerts of every ilk, conniving diplomats, rapists and killers contracted by religions and ideologies; so much high renown carved from baseness, wickedness, and abjection. I am not suggesting we should unpave the avenues of official history and pave the side alleys instead. We are not in need of a purged history, but of a knowledge that scoops out into broad daylight facts that have been obscured, generation after generation, by the unceasing stratification of prejudice. I am not calling for a tribunal of the mind to begin condemning a bunch of undesirables who have been bizarrely put up on pedestals and celebrated in the motley pantheons of official memory. I just want to see the list of their crimes, the mention of their victims, the recollection of those who confronted them added to the inventory of their unsavory eulogies. I am not suggesting that the name of Francisco Ferrer wipe out that of his murderer, Alfonso XIII, but that at the very least everything be known of both. How dare textbooks still cultivate any respect for Bonaparte, responsible for the death of millions, for Louis XIV, slaughterer of peasants and persecutor of Protestants and freethinkers? For Calvin, murderer of Jacques Gruet and Michel Servet and dictator of Geneva, whose citizens, in tribute to Sébastien Castellion, would one day resolve to destroy the emblems and signs of such an unworthy worship? While Spain has now toppled the effigies of Francoism and rescinded the street names imposed by fascism, we somehow tolerate, towering in the sky of Paris, that Sacré-Coeur whose execrable architecture glorifies the crushing of the Commune. In Belgium there are still avenues and monuments honoring King Leopold II, one of the most cynical criminals of the nineteenth century, whose “red rubber” policy—denounced by Mark Twain, by Roger Casement (who paid for this with his life), by Edward Dene Morel, and more recently by Adam Hochschild—has so far bothered nary a conscience. This is a not a call to blow up his statues or to chisel away the inscriptions that celebrate him. This is a call to Belgian and Congolese citizens to cleanse and disinfect public places of this stain, the stain of one of the worst sponsors of colonial savagery. Paradoxically, I do tend to believe that forgetting can be productive, when it comes to the perpetrators of inhumanity. A forgetting that does not eradicate remembering, that does not blue-pencil memory, that is not an enforceable judgment, but that proceeds rather from a spontaneous feeling of revulsion, like a last-minute pivot to avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk. Once they have been exposed for their inhumanity, I wish for the instigators of past brutalities to be buried in the shroud of their wrongs. Let the memory of the crime obliterate the memory of the criminal.
3

HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?

RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.

HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?

RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.

HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).

RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.

HUO: Where is love in Oarystis?

RV: Everywhere. The love affair, as complex as it is simple, will serve as the building block for the new solidarity relations that sooner or later will supersede selfish calculation, competition, competitiveness, and predation, causes of our societies’ dehumanization.

HUO: Where is the city of the dead? In a forest rather than a cemetery?

RV: Yes, a forest, an auditorium in which the voices of the dead will speak amidst the lushness of nature, where life continuously creates itself anew.

HUO: Have you dreamt up other utopian cities apart from Oarystis? Or a concrete utopia in relation to the city?

RV: No, but I have not given up hope that such projects might mushroom and be realized one day, as we begin reconstructing a world devastated by the racketeering mafias.

HUO: In 1991 I founded a Robert Walser museum, a strollological museum, in Switzerland. I have always been fascinated by your notion of the stroll. Could you say something about your urban strolls with and without Debord? What about Walser’s? Have other strollologists inspired you?

RV: I hold Robert Walser in high regard, as many do. His lucidity and sense of dérive enchanted Kafka. I have always been fascinated by the long journey Hölderlin undertook following his break-up with Diotima. I admire Chatwin’s Songlines, in which he somehow manages to turn the most innocuous of walks into an intonation of the paths of fate, as though we were in the heart of the Australian bush. And I appreciate the strolls of Léon-Paul Fargue and the learning of Héron de Villefosse. My psychogeographic dérives with Guy Debord in Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Beersel, and Antwerp were exceptional moments, combining theoretical speculation, sentient intelligence, the critical analysis of beings and places, and the pleasure of cheerful drinking. Our homeports were pleasant bistros with a warm atmosphere, havens where one was oneself because one felt in the air something of the authentic life, however fragile and short-lived. It was an identical mood that guided our wanderings through the streets, the lanes and the alleys, through the meanderings of a pleasure that our every step helped us gauge in terms of what it might take to expand and refine it just a little further. I have a feeling that the neighborhoods destroyed by the likes of Haussmann, Pompidou, and the real estate barbarians will one day be rebuilt by their inhabitants in the spirit of the joy and the life they once harbored.

HUO: What possibilities do you see for disalienation and détournement in 2009?

RV: This is a time of unprecedented chaos in material and moral conditions. Human values are going to have to compensate for the effects of the only value that has prevailed so far: money. But the implosion of financial totalitarianism means that this currency, which has so tripped us up, is now doomed to devaluation and a loss of all meaning. The absurdity of money is becoming concrete. It will gradually give way to new forms of exchange that will hasten its disappearance and lead to a gift economy.

HUO: What are the conditions for dialogue in 2009? Is there a way out of this system of isolation?

RV: Dialogue with power is neither possible nor desirable. Power has always acted unilaterally, by organizing chaos, by spreading fear, by forcing individuals and communities into selfish and blind withdrawal. As a matter of course, we will invent new solidarity networks and new intervention councils for the well-being of all of us and each of us, overriding the fiats of the state and its mafioso-political hierarchies. The voice of lived poetry will sweep away the last remaining echoes of a discourse in which words are in profit’s pay.

HUO: In your recent books you discuss your existence and temporality. The homogenizing forces of globalization homogenize time, and vice versa. How does one break with this? Could you discuss the temporality of happiness, as a notion?

RV: The productivity- and profit-based economy has implanted into lived human reality a separate reality structured by its ruling mechanisms: predation, competition and competitiveness, acquisitiveness and the struggle for power and subsistence. For thousands of years such denatured human behaviors have been deemed natural. The temporality of draining, erosion, tiredness, and decay is determined by labor, an activity that dominates and corrupts all others. The temporality of desire, love, and creation has a density that fractures the temporality of survival cadenced by work. Replacing the temporality of money will be a temporality of desire, a beyond-the-mirror, an opening to uncharted territories.

HUO: Is life ageless?

RV: I don’t claim that life is ageless. But since survival is nothing but permanent agony relieved by premature death, a renatured life that cultivates its full potential for passion and creation would surely achieve enough vitality to delay its endpoint considerably.

HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life was a trigger for May ’68, and you have stated in other interviews that it is your key book that you are continually rewriting. Was the book an epiphany? How did it change the course of your work? What had you been doing previously?

RV: The book was prompted by an urgent need I was feeling at the time for a new perspective on the world and on myself, to pull me out of my state of survival, by means other than through suicide. This critical take on a consumer society that was corrupting and destroying life so relentlessly made me aware and conscious of my own life drive. And it became clear to me very quickly that this wasn’t a purely solipsistic project, that many readers were finding their own major concerns echoed there.

HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life ends on an optimistic note: “We have a world of pleasures to win, and nothing to lose but boredom.”4 Are you still an optimist today?

RV: “Pessimists, what is it you were hoping for?,” Scutenaire wrote. I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist. I try to remain faithful to a principle: desire everything, expect nothing.

HUO: What is the most recent version of the book?

RV: Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre [Between Mourning the World and Exuberant Life].

HUO: What book are you working on at the moment?

RV: I would love to have the resources to complete a Dictionary of Heresies, so as to clarify and correct the historical elements included in The Movement of the Free Spirit and Resistance to Christianity.

HUO: The question of temporality also brings us to Proust and his questionnaire (see inset). What might your definition of happiness be in 2009?

RV: Living ever more intensely and passionately in an ever more intense world. To those who sneer at my ecstatic candor, I reply with a phrase that brings me great comfort: “The desire for an other life is that life already.”5

HUO: Do you have unrealized projects? Unrealized books, unrealized projects in fields other than writing, unrealized architectural projects?

RV: My priority is to live better and better in a world that is more and more human. I would love to build the “urban countryside” of Oarystis, but I’m not just waiting patiently, like Fourier at the Palais Royal, for some billionaire to decide to finance the project only to lose everything to the financial crash a minute later.

HUO: What about your collaborations with other artists, painters, sculptors, designers, filmmakers?

RV: I don’t collaborate with anyone. At times I have offered a few texts to artist friends, not as a commentary on their work but as a counterpoint to it. Art moves me when, in it, I can sense its own overcoming, something that goes beyond it; when it nurtures a trace of life that blossoms as a true aspiration, the intuition of a new art of living.

HUO: Could you tell me about Brussels? What does Brussels mean to you? Where do you write?

RV: I live in the country, facing a garden and woods where the rhythm of the seasons has retained its beauty. Brussels as a city has been destroyed by urbanists and architects who are paid by real estate developers. There are still a few districts suitable for nice walks. I am fond of a good dozen wonderful cafés where one can enjoy excellent artisanal beers.

HUO: Do you agree with Geremek’s view that Europe is the big concern of the twenty-first century?

RV: I am not interested in this Europe ruled by racketeering bureaucracies and corrupt democracies. And regions only interest me once they are stripped of their regionalist ideology and are experiencing self-management and direct democracy. I feel neither Belgian nor European. The only homeland is a humanity that is at long last sovereign.

HUO: You have used a lot of pseudonyms. Je est un autre [I is an other]? How do you find or choose pseudonyms? How many pseudonyms have you used? Is there a complete list?

RV: I don’t keep any kind of score. I leave it up to the inspiration of the moment. There is nothing secret about using a pseudonym. Rather, it is about creating a distance, most often in commissioned work. This allows me to have some fun while alleviating my enduring financial difficulties, which I have always refused to resolve by compromising with the world of the spectacle.

HUO: A book that has been used by many artists and architects has been your Dictionnaire de citations pour servir au divertissement et a l’intelligence du temps [Dictionary of Quotations for the Entertainment and Intelligence of Our Time]. Where did that idea come from?

RV: It was a suggestion from my friend Pierre Drachline, who works for the Cherche Midi publishing house.

HUO: You have often criticized environmental movements who try to replace existing capitalism with capitalism of a different type. What do you think of Joseph Beuys? What non-capitalist project or movement do you support?

RV: We are being “offered” biofuels on the condition we agree to transgenic rapeseed farming. Eco-tourism will accelerate the plundering of our biosphere. Windmill farms are being built without any advantage to the consumers. Those are the areas where intervention is possible. Natural resources belong to us, they are free, they must be made to serve the freedom of life. It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work.

HUO: Last but not least, Rilke wrote that wonderful little book of advice to a young poet. What would your advice be to a young philosopher-writer in 2009?

RV: To apply to his own life the creativity he displays in his work. To follow the path of the heart, of what is most alive in him.

Translated from the French by Eric Anglès

In other little girl news…

Laura Dekker sails aboard Guppy
13-year-old Laura Dekker wants to challenge the recent round-the-world age record, but the Dutch government prevented her departure on the grounds that 13 might be too young. Dekker’s supportive parents are being painted as reckless and cavalier. The spin from the Netherlands bookends well with the little-girl-lost klaxon out of California: eccentrics are untrustworthy. Behavior deviating from norm can be probable cause all of itself to suspect a) child neglect or b) even horrific criminality.

On the improbably wisdom of circling the world at 13: probably if you’re not of legal age to represent yourself on a contract, let alone customs documents, you shouldn’t be traveling solo by boat or plane. That preempts the debate about whether under-age or marginally qualified recreational sailors should put an unwarranted burden on maritime rescue resources.

Shrouded by the implied criticisms of the Dekker family, were some very relevant details that their daughter was born while the couple was circumnavigating the world, and spent her childhood on the sea. Laura Dekker got own yacht when she was six. SIX. And was sailing solo by age ten. Does that register? TEN. Who are we, past-our-prime landlubbers, to assess her competence?

Junior Ms. Dekker ran afoul of authorities when she sailed to England alone. The British insisted that her father fly to accompany her return. He protested that his daughter was fully able to return of her own, but was forced to relent. He flew to England, but secretly cast her off and snuck back by plane. When the Dutch authorities discovered that the daughter was still sailing alone, they intercepted her arrival.

A family of eccentrics shut down.

The off-the-charts ugliness in California, with the rescue of Jaycee Dugard, appears more inhuman with each day’s revelations. And more queasily human, as her zealously religious abductor attempts to communicate to the press about a forthcoming “heartwarming story” he forecasts will emerge.

Victim too of the repulsive mess is feeding of paranoia: the public’s impulse to image how the young Dugard could have been rescued sooner. If only neighbors had been more alert to Phillip Garrido’s creepy behavior; religious zealousness, homeschooling, differently behaved children, the odd eccentricities, become in hindsight the probable cause for our regret not having searched the Garrido backyard sooner.

How many estranged neighbors are now calling the police on each other, hopeful to unearth depraved sexual deviance. How more uncomfortable are we making eccentrics, especially the solitary sort without family, more self-conscious about merely behaving differently?

Addict, pederast dies, much fanfare

But let’s look past the innuendo and unproven transgressions, to celebrate the man’s contribution to the cannon of Western popular music product. Please!

I hear celebrities dismiss the allegations of Michael Jackson’s pedophilia like too much water under the bridge, which would be true I suppose, if Jackson’s victims were more like John Wayne Gacy’s, buried under Neverland, instead of tucked into San Fernando Valley homes, divvying multimillion-dollar payoffs with their enterprising panderer parents. Will the confidentiality clauses stand between the public ever knowing which pederast was the more prolific? That innuended, I do concur those bottoms were small fry compared to Jackson’s true sick imprint on America.

The Michael Jackson TM projected a perversion of role models. Not even a cynical anti-hero, the self-crowned King of Pop was the nul-idol. Jackson rejected his skin color, his sexuality, even his place of belonging among mortals. Other than pathos for the sick dance-cyborg who never had a childhood, what humanity did Jackson share to communicate? To be fair, it wasn’t Jackson who kept the spotlight trained on his black/white Icarus act, foisting the unnatural deception that man can soar with a single glove.

Now dead, Jocko is heralded as among the greatest. But MJ was an internationally recognized poster child for enfeebled humanity, a glorified counter-renaissance man, resembling a human being like a drag queen pretends femininity. He may have channeled vinyl High Fructose Corn Syrup like no other, walking backward while dancing and such, but worth what legacy exactly? Jackson shares the ignobless of the Big Mac, the Lucky Strike cigarette, and DDT. Iconic and good riddance.

Michael Jackson did nothing for black emancipation, or acceptance of homosexuals, or the plight of the children of poverty. The vast majority of the world’s children are “robbed of their childhoods,” you narcissistic rich dumb-ass, and that didn’t stop you from amassing your vast fortune at their expense.

Jackson probably did more to amplify the phobia against pedophiles, the single minority he did incarnate, by denying the preponderance of indicators, by vilifying his accusers, instead of taking his riches to Dubai right from the start, to show the world into what true debauchers wet their willies.

He might even have championed sympathy for plastic surgery binge-purgers, but he lied about that worm-hole until his nose literally fell off. I remember when Jackson made public appearances in surgery masks, feeding the fiction that he was a germophobe. Meanwhile everyone in Hollywood knew from their own rhinoplasties about the actual face-saving purpose of those masks.

Perversely, it was Jackson’s least aberrant eccentricity that killed him. Drugs. Even as TV viewers watch Jackson’s body pass from helicopter to ambulance, over a red carpet no less, Big Pharma makes sure that the talking heads refer to Jackson’s narcotics as “pain-killers.” Jocko was in constant pain, apparently, like Rush Limbaugh and all overachievers etc, hence their susceptibility to addiction. You’d think the alibi would eventually defy credulity.

Prescription drugs circulate among the well-to-do, with the same ease with which the rich have access to good lawyers. The difference between street and medical drugs is that no one cares about the heroin or crack addict’s “pain.”

All the celebrities speaking in tribute to Michael Jackson want to minimize the ugliness Jacko paraded, even, and especially his drug habit. Some who profess to have been close friends express their utter shock at Jackson’s passing, at his frail condition and the magnitude of his drug use. How close could they have been?! Or how culpable are they still on Big Pharma’s not-yet-upped jig?

Jackson was the King of Sick Culture. His collaborator eulogizers are its second tier whores. What contemptible shills, who’ve got theirs, behind their Beverly Hills gates and their own golden narcotics tickets. Even at the premature passing of a unique creative soul, due without question to drug abuse, his peers don’t want to aggravate the corporate forces which continue to pervert the human social animal to beyond self-recognition.

Mother Jones: You Don’t Need a Vote

Mary Harris Jones portrait from her 1925 autobiographyAfter the 1914 Ludlow Massacre and the later capitulation of the UMWA union, Mother Jones, by now 85 years old, toured the US to spread the word about what happened. She wrote in her autobiography, about a meeting in Kansas City: “I told the great audience that packed the hall that when their coal glowed red in their fires, it was the blood of the workers, of men who went down into black holes to dig it, of women who suffered and endured, of little children who had but a brief childhood. ‘You are being warmed and made comfortable with human blood’ I said. … ‘The miners lost,’ I told them, because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.'”

From The Autobiography of Mother Jones, Chapter 22:
YOU DON’T NEED A VOTE TO RAISE HELL.

Five hundred women got up a dinner and asked me to speak. Most of the women were crazy about women suffrage. They thought that Kingdom-come would follow the enfranchisement of women.

“You must stand for free speech in the streets,” I told them.

“How can we,” piped a woman, “when we haven’t a vote?”

“I have never had a vote,” said I, “and I have raised hell all over this country! You don’t need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!”

Some one meowed, “You’re an anti!”

“I am not an anti to anything which will bring freedom to my class,” said I. “But I am going to be honest with you sincere women who are working for votes for women. The women of Colorado have had the vote for two generations and the working men and women are in slavery. The state is in slavery, vassal to the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company and its subsidiary interests. A man who was present at a meeting of mine owners told me that when the trouble started in the mines, one operator proposed that women be disfranchised because here and there some woman had raised her voice in behalf of the miners. Another operator jumped to his feet and shouted, ‘For God’s sake! What are you talking about! If it had not been for the women’s vote the miners would have beaten us long ago!'”

Some of the women gasped with horror. One or two left the room. I told the women I did not believe in women’s rights nor in men’s rights but in human rights. “No matter what your fight,” I said, “don’t be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. I have just fought through sixteen months of bitter warfare in Colorado. I have been up against armed mercenaries but this old woman, without a vote, and with nothing but a hatpin has scared them.

“Organized labor should organize its women along industrial lines. Politics is only the servant of industry. The plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.”

“Fighting for our freedom”

That’s a theme that comes up from time to time.
I’ll point out something a couple (literally, they’re married to each other) of Air Force Sergeants boast about, from when they were on TDY in Turkey, their wing was doing the Northern No-Fly Zone over Kurdistan, another ethnic group without a National Identity Recognized by the Great Powers.
They make jokes about the time one of their pilots murdered a Kurdish shepherd. One of the Kurds they were allegedly “protecting”.

Blew him and his sheep smooth away, took away his family’s support and all their property, and said he thought the sheep were Militants.

Not long thereafter, the Same Sources Of Information the Trolls Keep Citing as “accurate” told that there had not been one single incident of Civilians being killed, that the “smart weapons” like the ones sold to the Israeli and Saudi armies and air forces were so precise they only took out Militants.

The two Air Force Sergeants, one of them I grew up with, knew her since childhood.

And she was boasting and LAUGHING about making a widow and orphans out of the mans family and destroyed their means of surviving as well.

The Joke they tell about it is “The Pilot was feeling “SHEEPISH because he was having a BAAADDD DAY”

The Trolls may feel free to use it as a party joke at their next Klan Rally…
or Campus Republican Meeting…

…same difference, like Yogi Berra says.

The Godless God fearing Americans

What is all this Goddamn pomp? “Non-believers” got a mention in Barack Obama’s inaugural address, dead last after Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus, even though they rank second, and even though church abstainers actually comprise the majority of Americans. Yet even this second day, mentions of God, Lord, and prayer, continue ad nauseum. Talk about disrespect.

And why are atheists and agnostics named in the negative? Why aren’t they called rationalists? Churchgoers should be called reason disabled. What a farce. Are Americans to believe that Obama and his wife, Harvard grads, are religious? And which of the shysters of DC can be considered spiritual?

I’m watching the service at the National Cathedral, which, taking into account the time zones, is eating well into Obama’s first day in office. Assembled are a bunch of pharisees, a disproportionate sampling for certain, to voice their prayers for our lawmakers. Where were they when Bush and cronies were in attendance?

NOTE:
Was Obama’s multi denominational ceremony representative of American believers? Let’s have a look at the distribution of the 20 religious leaders attending the National Prayer Service, as they relate to their corresponding population segments, in descending order of size:

5 PROTESTANT EVANGELICALS, representing 27% of the US population:
Rev. Sharon Watkins, president, Disciples of Christ in North America
Rev. Andy Stanley, North Point Community Church
Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, Believers Christian Fellowship Church
Rev. Cynthia Hale, Ray of Hope Christian Church
Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners

7 MAINLINE PROTESTANTS, 21%
Katharine Jefferts-Schori, presiding bishop, Episcopal Church
Rev. John Bryson Chane, Washington Episcopal Bishop
Rev. Samuel Lloyd, dean of the cathedral, Episcopal Church
Canon Carol Wade, cathedral’s precentor
(Note: Episcopalians represent !.3%, but are third richest group)
Rev. Otis Moss Jr., father of pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ
Kirbyjon Caldwell, Windsor Village United Methodist Church
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Reformed Church in America

2 CATHOLICS, 22%
Donald Wuerl, Washington Catholic Archbishop
Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, auxiliary bishop, Washington archdiocese

1 MUSLIM, at 3%
Ingrid Mattson, president, Islamic Society of North America

1 each, HINDU and ORTHODOX, in sum 1.7%
Uma Mysorekar, president, Hindu Temple Society of North America
Archbishop Demetrios, primate, Greek Orthodox Church in America

3 JEWS, at 1.5% (but richest)
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun
Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

(Is that AIPAC’s influence extending to America’s Christians?)

How about that corpulent Saddleback creep Rick Warren, reciting a completely forgettable invocation at yesterday’s inauguration?

Unheard by the masses was Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson’s earlier invocation, which was fathoms deeper than any of these high priests. HBO didn’t air it in their coverage of the Sunday inaugural buildup, but it’s available on Youtube. Here’s the transcript:

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
(Opening Inaugural Event, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, January 18, 2009)
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson,
Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

Compare and contrast to Rick Warren’s pop Sunday School simpleton-centric tripe. Transcripts have been posted online, discreetly correcting Warren’s 44/43 arithmetic error.

Almighty God, Our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of You alone. It all comes from You, it all belongs to You, it all exists for Your glory. History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’ and You are the compassionate and merciful one and You are loving to everyone You have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the united states. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a a son of an African Immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans. United not by race or religion or by blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations, all people will stand accountable before You. We now commit our new president and his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Brave New Chickens

Not what you might think.

Actually it’s from a segment of “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel, coupled in with Aldous Huxley’s frequently banned book.

This one (I watched it today) was on Eggs.

And they proceeded to show what’s essentially a mechanized Egg Factory.

From time to time as I write this I’ll put in references to the book.

Civilization is sterilization, repeated 50,000 times between the ages of 5 and 6…

So they’ve got these hens, right, the basis of The Egg industry. A couple hundred thousand of them.

Raised in cages. Fed by a conveyor belt that delivers a mixture of feed that’s scientifically measured out for Maximum Egg Production.

Mesh floor so their droppings fall onto another conveyor belt.

All the cages identical, all the portions of the feed identical, the eggs as standardized as possible, the hens so identical they look like they’ve been cloned.

They lay their eggs, which roll out the cage onto yet another of those damned conveyor belts.

For the sake of literary diversity I’ll insert here, the hens looked like one huge Bokanovsky Group.

I’ll point out that one of the big commercial sponsors of the show is an Investment Banking group whose advertising- du-jour has thousands of Identical Looking factory workers (who aren’t the customers of the investment bank, no, we’re not THAT important to them) first at their identical, uniform “individual” workstations. Wearing of course uniforms. Sterile White Uniforms. Like the chickens, white. Sterile.

One wonders if they have a catheter arrangement where their droppings fall through the floor onto another conveyor belt…

Then that segues into the workers at the Cafeteria, at perfectly spaced, identical round white tables, (all of this As Seen From Above, so we’re literally “looking down on them”) eating identical meals, and I’d swear by the Lord God who made us all that they were eating in unison, coordinated just as surely as if they were marching.

Civilization is sterilization, repeated 50,000 times between the ages of 5 and 6.

The eggs are carried by the conveyor belts through various machines which measure them, by volume then by weight.

Machines that pick them up 5 dozen at a time and stack them quickly, efficiently, quietly, cleanly, then stacks them onto carts. Here one of the Human Intervention squads come in, identical looking workers wearing Sterile White Clothes pushing the carts onto conveyor belts which carry them into a refrigerated storage area.

Then they’re rolled, again by machines, this one triggered by a thermostat, and fed through some more sorting apparati.

A bright light is shone from behind them, and a computer reads the image to find each egg which is cracked, and mark it out for removal.

Another Worker Drone goes in with a scoop and efficiently as any machine, scoops the “tagged” eggs out.

Another computer imaging device spots which ones have traces of blood in the egg.

And the routine is once again repeated.

Then about 2 minutes more of the Glory Of The Machine being expounded…

Then the Narrator chirps much about how the chickens start laying eggs when they’re 7 weeks old, and have a productive cycle of about 52 months. Just under 4 and a half years.

Then they get a free, all expenses paid trip to the slaughterhouse.
The Narrator actually used that expression.

Which we’ve seen that mechanized, standardized operation as well…

From Hatch to Hatchet all Untouched by Human Hands.

Now, I’m sure some Industrial Apologist Type A-2 is going to give the same identical speech the Director of World Hatcheries gave to John the Savage in the book.

When John the Savage and Bernard Marx had, in a Rage Against the Machine action, interrupted the doping of a Bokanovsky Group, where they were being given their Soma rations, which triggered an Automated Security system where Soma in vaporized form was sprayed through vents in the walls and ceilings, and a Recorded Voice says “Friends, why are you being angry? Everybody belongs to everybody else, after all. ” and a couple of other Mass Calming subliminal messages they had repeated to them in their Hypnopædia sessions 100,000 times between the ages of 5 and 7…

Then Bernard and John the Savage and their friend are talking to the Director of World Hatcheries and it’s calmly explained to them, the DWH shows John the Savage copies of Shakespeare and the Bible and other Anti-social books, says the people were already so well conditioned that even if the books were given to them, they would simply dismiss it with one or more of the one-line platitudes they had been taught since childhood….

By the way, the “Hatcheries” means where Humans were grown in glass bottles until birth.

No mother, no father, just “Genetic Donors”.

The message? Conform or Else.

Pushing computers on school children

playColorado Springs D-11 is one of the worst examples of pushing computers onto children in a mindless and destructive manner. I have seen children that are forced onto the computers as supposedly a form of tutoring there, and the children often respond by just shutting the material out altogether from their minds.

Nobody likes to be programed by computers it seems, but the D-11 Adminstrators haven’t figured that out. Or is it that teachers work and get paid for it, but computers don’t? Never mind the actual results here. Never mind the damage to children done. Computers are in, and teaching is not.

There is big money in pushing these computers onto the kids, and the Alliance for Childhood does a good job of exposing that at their website. Also their film, Where do the choildren play? will be shown next week Thursday 11-13-2008 at 7pm locally at the Mountain Park Environmental Center in Beulah. Worth a watch if you have the time and can get out there?

And here is another question? Where do the children play in Iraq?

Opening ceremonies of Beijing Olympics star humanity in his own flea circus

Metropolis science fiction horror
Can you remember an Olympic Games opening ceremony that was not spectacular? Suffice it to say Beijing was the biggest, befitting the world’s most populous nation. “Awesome” provides perfectly qualified praise. I have to say this spectacle invoked colossal horror as it drew a full-color digital smiley face over Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Automatons
I thought the drumming performance was the most impressive. Two thousand (and eight) drummers beating their hands on antique-style drums set in mobile tables. The bare skinned drummers beat hard, seemingly to illuminate the square table surfaces, like fireflies assigned coordinates in an array, or a spider’s web.

We’ve admired marching ceremonies before, and synchronized flags. We marvel at the precision ensembles of Rockettes, Busby Berkley choreography, and, for want of an example further afield, the Chinese circus. What made the Bird Nest Stadium extreme so horrific was the miniaturization of man’s role. If it had been a Seurat painting, one man, one dot, we might have been comforted to see ourselves woven into a tapestry which created an artistic expression. Instead, long shots showed the full effect to be an LED board, each pixel either on or off, flickering based on whether that person was activated or not. Man as electron, charged or uncharged.

I wondered what was the stadium perspective. Did the audience of 91,000 see the large electronic panel or the matrix of individuals sweating to power it? An aerial view gave the TV audience the full effect, while other cameras zoomed in as if to provide a microscopic perspective of the human termites working frenetically in the machine.

Putting people in the role of insect automatons would seem to me a phobia of a humanitarian society. But the mechanized human component of the 2008 opening ceremonies was not disharmonious with the way we already see China. Everywhere performers were tethered, playing tiny roles in gargantuan schemes. Some provided the piston power to undulating cubes. They revealed themselves only at the end, and emerged only partially, free but to give a smile and wave. These giant light-board shows were switched by computers, their human components alerted by electric signal, be it light, or tone, or sensor, to synchronize their positions. A TV commentator who remarked about the amazing lack of wires, would be overlooking how his personal computing devices communicate these days.

Human labor
The human element was required for the spectacle, otherwise we’ve seen more complex LEDs on old ballpark scoreboards. Technically the chain-link of humans was superfluous, but doesn’t it represent China, where labor costs are negligible?

And so we cheered the 2008 drummers, who worked drums mounted into tables that could pass for work desks. Indeed the drummers were bent over them like bent people, galley slaves exerting themselves to the rhythm of the whip. It was a sea of modern slaves, the sweatshop laborers. Actually, two thousand and eight impressed the crowd, but that number is probably small for a factory workforce. Probably there are scenes like this many times as big in daily Chinese work life.

Food processing

Later the performance took on a Disneyesque quality as dancers opened umbrellas illuminated with large smiling faces of children. Is that a touch-stone theme for pseudo international-harmony? The promise of children? I wondered after seeing the drummers harnessed to their sewing tables, coordinated by an electronic whip-master, if the faces of children represented the child workforce. In traditional cultures childhood idleness ends when a child can carry water or sweep the floor. The idealized child is a Western facade and here China appears eager to celebrate the ruse. Mankind’s aspiration should emulate the innocuous, non-threatening smile of a child.

Gladiators
Never before have I gotten a clearer sense of the Olympics as gladiator games. The audience are the privileged few, who do not bring politics to the games except the rivalry of nationalism, a preference for their athletes, rooting for a win to enhance their prestige. Ninety dignitaries were in attendance in Beijing. And what a celebration of harmony. Regardless the turmoil between nations outside, between world leaders, harmony. Because they’re going nowhere. Only rebels and coups threaten the ruling class. Did you know an IOC rule forbids the display of flags of entities not competing in the games?

Politics don’t enter the minds of the athlete class because they’ve got a singular focus, their performance. Some strive for financial rewards, others are focused on the physical achievement. All are vying to please the emperor, to live to compete again.

Even as the techno pageantry dazzled, by the end I was still shocked to see a human being reduced to flintlock to carry the flame to the gigantic torch, a blazing industrial altar.

The colossal fireworks show looked to be outside the view of the stadium audience, but I saw no throngs outdoors to witness it. The pyrotechnics reminded me of Shock and Awe the first night in Baghdad, cameras well recessed to take it all in. It turns out a chunk of the fireworks was CGI for the TV spectacular.

In hindsight for me the highlight of the evening was seeing President Bush sitting next to Vladimir Putin, each saluting their athletes in turn, neither turning toward each other, at least on camera, while in Georgia US backed forces battled Russian soldiers in all out war. An example of a tangible measure to which politics are kept out of the Olympic Games.

Photos:
Drummer pool

Umbrella children

Hairy monkeys of old Beijing

Beijing handicraftBEIJING- Eric once told me that he liked hanging around his artist friend, Patti Smithsonian, because she saw creative potential in nearly everything. He’d see a stack of old paper and head for the garbage can. She’d stop him. “Don’t throw that away! Let’s tear it into strips and make a papier-mâché hat!” That kind of thing.

I’ve since experienced the same thing with my project-princess daughter. Packing materials, raffia, old lightbulbs, used ribbon — nothing gets tossed until I’ve run it by my little artist’s eye.

Winding my way through the hutongs of central Beijing yesterday, I came across something that will give Devon and Patti a year’s worth of new ideas. Hairy monkeys. An old folk handicraft started in the late Qing dynasty, hairy monkeys are made from the furry magnolia bud and the shed skin of the ever-present and super-screechy cicada. Resembling human beings in action — fortune tellers, barbers, fruit sellers, street hawkers — the hairy monkeys recall the urban life and customs of old Beijingers. Treasures from childhood, the monkeys are still loved by the elderly hutong-dwellers.

I found them completely hilarious and charming. I know Devon will, too. The already-long list of things I can’t pitch out will get even longer as it grows to encompass the entire outdoors.

Gardasil? Guard-a-shill.

Merck Vioxx GardasilFederal health officials are very disappointed with us. It seems we are not lining up in appropriately vast numbers to receive the vaccinations the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends. To nudge us along, the results of a study involving 838 teenage girls, disproportionately black, Hispanic and poor — a survey completed nearly 5 years ago — have been released with much hype and hysteria. 1 in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease! They are teeming with the human papilloma virus (HPV)! Go get your 9-year-old the Gardasil vaccine to prevent cervical cancer!

A few facts to mull over. First of all, HPV is actually 100 different viruses that live on the skin. They are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and cause terrible things like the embarrassing wart you had on your thumb in third grade. 37 of HPVs can be sexually transmitted. As with most viruses, an HPV infection generally resolves on its own, usually with no symptoms or lasting effects. In the case that an HPV infection lasts for years and years, it may indeed lead to cervical cancer. However, it is easily detected with a routine Pap test and, if found, successfully treated. So exactly how will vaccinating our 9 to 14-year-old daughters benefit anyone?

Well, it will benefit Merck and Company, the maker of Gardasil, to the tune of a billion dollars a year. It will benefit the doctors who provide the vaccination for $400 a pop, plus the cost of the three required office visits. It will benefit hospitals when the young girls become sick from the vaccine. In the 18 months since the vaccine was approved by the ever-vigilant FDA, there have been 1,981 emergency room visits and 143 hospitalizations directly attributable to Gardasil. It will also benefit funeral homes and morgues. So far Gardasil has caused 51 life-threatening events and the deaths of 11 girls. Lest you disbelieve me, you may check out the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System which is maintained by the CDC and the FDA.

Okay, I’m convinced, you say. I won’t vaccinate my daughter. Ah, not so fast. Merck representatives have been feverishly traversing the country encouraging state legislatures to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls. That’s right: mandatory. Leading the obeisance charge is Texas Governor Rick Perry, who recently issued an executive order mandating that all girls entering the sixth grade receive the vaccine. Read this again, an executive order. He completely bypassed the Texas legislature, parental authority, and normal political process. He ordered Gardasil into law. And, guess what? He has ties to Merck. Why does this shit not even surprise me anymore?

Good at playing follow the leader, nearly every state legislature is going to mandate the HPV vaccine for girls between 12 and 14. This sickens me beyond belief.

To recap:
*The HPV encompasses more than 100 different viruses, 37 of which are sexually transmitted. Gardasil prevents only 4 of the HPV strains.

*HPV is so common that 80% of women have had it by the time they’re 50.

*HPV is easily detected during an annual gynecological exam and easily treated if found.

*Gardasil is expensive, dangerous, possibly deadly.

*The long-term effects of Gardasil are unknown. (Keep in mind the recently discovered connection between childhood vaccinations and autism).

One more tidbit of info. Merck is also the maker of Vioxx, a harmless little drug that relieves the pain of arthritis. Turns out, and of course they knew this, that Vioxx greatly increases the incidence of heart attack. It took more than a few deaths before Merck pulled Vioxx from the shelves, one of the largest drug recalls in history. The company is spending millions fighting and losing class-action lawsuits involving their last harmless wonder drug. What I wonder is why anyone continues to trust anything Merck claims. The strong-arm marketing campaign for Gardasil should be renamed Gardasil: Helping us pay for Vioxx losses one young cervix at a time.

Parents, please do NOT subject your daughters to Merck’s Gardasil vaccine. And when you are told by your school district that it is mandatory for school entry, remind them that under the law you are able to OPT OUT. It may take an affidavit from your pediatrician, but that’s an office visit you should gladly pay for.

I had a blue Christmas without you

Advent wreath
I felt more than a bit empty around Christmas this year. For the first time it seemed completely devoid of meaning. No one believes in God. No one believes in Santa. There’s nothing particularly thrilling to give or get. There’s just an obligation to pour money into the pockets of corporate pricks and fill our houses with crap none of us needs, or even really wants.

I remember Christmas as magical. But, as I reflect on my childhood, the magic of the holiday was closely tied to religious ritual. Coming into church on a Sunday soon after Thanksgiving, back when Christmas lights didn’t begin showing up by Halloween and could still be cause for celebration, we’d find the Advent wreath suspended from the rafters. Oh, yes! Christmas is coming! The three purple candles, a pink one for the third Sunday of Advent, a white candle for Christmas Eve. Each candle with its own story and symbolic meaning.

The beautiful haunting Christmas carols. O Come O Come, Emmanuel was my favorite. It still gives me goosebumps. The nativity display. The Christmas story with its shepherds and wise men and camels and bright stars and inns and stables and mangers and gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oh my! I just loved it all.

My poor darling children have none of this, thanks to me. I, like many of my generation, have largely rejected organized religion. Unfortunately, I now understand hypocrisy and oppression and believe that the church is guilty of all the sins it forbids. But what do we do about our spiritual longings? How do we find meaning and impart that meaning to our children who are daily bombarded with despicable messages from our commercialized world? For meaning surely does exist.

I am at a loss when it comes to recreating Christmas magic without a little baby Jesus to help me. And I can’t just pull him out of a box in the attic and blow the dust off of him so he can lay in his manger Christmas morning. My parents did this, and it was okay, because we knew all about him, every day of every year, so it didn’t smack of phoniness like it does when I try to bring him into the Christmas mix.

I have no answers. My children sense my sadness around Christmas, and they know it has something to do with religion. But it doesn’t really. It has to do with meaning, significance, all things lofty and sublime. It has to do with my remembered feelings of joy and sheer awe at the birth of the Savior. It’s the Christmas spirit that, without a miracle, my children will never know.

Nature Deficit Disorder

There is a book out that postulates that children today are being deprived of any real contact with nature and any real contact with a certain childhood independence, too. In fact, Salon carries an interview with the author, Richard Louv, titled ‘Do today’s kid’s have nature-deficit disorder?‘ The answer is an obvious… YES they do.

And it can only get much worse, too.

Everybody is concerned about ‘genocide’, but hardly any attention is turned to speciecide where habitat destruction is eliminating the wild in life worldwide. We can expect that nature-deficit disorder will become the normal state of mankind as a result. What a sad world we are leaving our kids and all future generations.

Industrial Society and Its Future

Theodore Kaczynski the UnabomberUnabomber Ted Kaczynski on how to get published (paragraph 96):
 
“If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. … In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.”

On technology delivering mankind from menial labor:

“It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people will spend their time shining each others shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. “ (para. 176)

On genetic engineering:

“If you think that big government interferes in your life too much now, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous. … Just think—an irresponsible genetic engineer might create a lot of terrorists.” (para. 123, note 19)

For archival purposes, here is the 1995 “UNABOMBER MANIFESTO.”

Industrial Society and Its Future

Introduction

1.
The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering—even in “advanced” countries.

2.
The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it may eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: there is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

3.
If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

4.
We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence: it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a political revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.

5.
In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.

The psychology of modern leftism

6.
Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.

7.
But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much a movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology. (Also, see paragraphs 227-230.)

8.
Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this. All we are trying to do is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the whole truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th century.

9.
The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.

Feelings of inferiority

10.
By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits; low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have some such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

11.
When someone interprets as derogatory almost anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identifies) we conclude that he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is pronounced among minority rights activists, whether or not they belong to the minority groups whose rights they defend. They are hypersensitive about the words used to designate minorities and about anything that is said concerning minorities. The terms “negro,” “oriental,” “handicapped” or “chick” for an African, an Asian, a disabled person or a woman originally had no derogatory connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the feminine equivalents of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations have been attached to these terms by the activists themselves. Some animal rights activists have gone so far as to reject the word “pet” and insist on its replacement by “animal companion.” Leftish anthropologists go to great lengths to avoid saying anything about primitive peoples that could conceivably be interpreted as negative. They want to replace the world “primitive” by “nonliterate.” They seem almost paranoid about anything that might suggest that any primitive culture is inferior to our own. (We do not mean to imply that primitive cultures are inferior to ours. We merely point out the hypersensitivity of leftish anthropologists.)

12.
Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to upper-middle-class families.

13.
Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals) or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not mean to suggest that women, Indians, etc. are inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology.)

14.
Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may not be as strong and as capable as men.

15.
Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They say they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he grudgingly admits that they exist; whereas he enthusiastically points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.

16.
Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative,” “enterprise,” “optimism,” etc., play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.

17.
Art forms that appeal to modern leftish intellectuals tend to focus on sordidness, defeat and despair, or else they take an orgiastic tone, throwing off rational control as if there were no hope of accomplishing anything through rational calculation and all that was left was to immerse oneself in the sensations of the moment.

18.
Modern leftish philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science, objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally relative. It is true that one can ask serious questions about the foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the concept of objective reality can be defined. But it is obvious that modern leftish philosophers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psychological needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings of inferiority run so deep that he cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior. This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the concept of mental illness and of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are antagonistic to genetic explanations of human abilities or behavior because such explanations tend to make some persons appear superior or inferior to others. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or blame for an individual’s ability or lack of it. Thus if a person is “inferior” it is not his fault, but society’s, because he has not been brought up properly.

19.
The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter, a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong, and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant behavior.[1] But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.

20.
Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they prefer masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist trait.

21.
Leftists may claim that their activism is motivated by compassion or by moral principles, and moral principle does play a role for the leftist of the oversocialized type. But compassion and moral principle cannot be the main motives for leftist activism. Hostility is too prominent a component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power. Moreover, much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help. For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or dogmatic terms? Obviously it would be more productive to take a diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs. Helping black people is not their real goal. Instead, race problems serve as an excuse for them to express their own hostility and frustrated need for power. In doing so they actually harm black people, because the activists’ hostile attitude toward the white majority tends to intensify race hatred.

22.
If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to invent problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.

23.
We emphasize that the foregoing does not pretend to be an accurate description of everyone who might be considered a leftist. It is only a rough indication of a general tendency of leftism.

Oversocialization

24.
Psychologists use the term “socialization” to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are over-socialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel. Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.

25.
The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people.[2]

26.
Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means by which our society socializes children is by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of himself. Moreover the thought and the behavior of the oversocialized person are more restricted by society’s expectations than are those of the lightly socialized person. The majority of people engage in a significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick to get ahead of the other guy. The oversocialized person cannot do these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of shame and self-hatred. The oversocialized person cannot even experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to the accepted morality; he cannot think “unclean” thoughts. And socialization is not just a matter of morality; we are socialized to conform to many norms of behavior that do not fall under the heading of morality. Thus the oversocialized person is kept on a psychological leash and spends his life running on rails that society has laid down for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another.

27.
We argue that a very important and influential segment of the modern left is oversocialized and that their oversocialization is of great importance in determining the direction of modern leftism. Leftists of the oversocialized type tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper-middle class. Notice that university intellectuals[3] constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment.

28.
The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society. Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are not in conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes[4]) for a long time. These values are explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles.

29.
Here is an illustration of the way in which the oversocialized leftist shows his real attachment to the conventional attitudes of our society while pretending to be in rebellion against it. Many leftists push for affirmative action, for moving black people into high-prestige jobs, for improved education in black schools and more money for such schools; the way of life of the black “underclass” they regard as a social disgrace. They want to integrate the black man into the system, make him a business executive, a lawyer, a scientist just like upper-middle-class white people. The leftists will reply that the last thing they want is to make the black man into a copy of the white man; instead, they want to preserve African American culture. But in what does this preservation of African American culture consist? It can hardly consist in anything more than eating black-style food, listening to black-style music, wearing black-style clothing and going to a black-style church or mosque. In other words, it can express itself only in superficial matters. In all essential respects leftists of the oversocialized type want to make the black man conform to white, middle-class ideals. They want to make him study technical subjects, become an executive or a scientist, spend his life climbing the status ladder to prove that black people are as good as white. They want to make black fathers “responsible.” They want black gangs to become nonviolent, etc. But these are exactly the values of the industrial-technological system. The system couldn’t care less what kind of music a man listens to, what kind of clothes he wears or what religion he believes in as long as he studies in school, holds a respectable job, climbs the status ladder, is a “responsible” parent, is nonviolent and so forth. In effect, however much he may deny it, the oversocialized leftist wants to integrate the black man into the system and make him adopt its values.

30.
We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the oversocialized type, never rebel against the fundamental values of our society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society’s most important principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account, violence is for them a form of “liberation.” In other words, by committing violence they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.

31.
We realize that many objections could be raised to the foregoing thumb-nail sketch of leftist psychology. The real situation is complex, and anything like a complete description of it would take several volumes even if the necessary data were available. We claim only to have indicated very roughly the two most important tendencies in the psychology of modern leftism.

32.
The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And today’s society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.

The power process

33.
Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the “power process.” This is closely related to the need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it autonomy and will discuss it later (paragraphs 42-44).

34.
Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized. Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power. But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one’s power.

35.
Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.

36.
Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.

37.
Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.

Surrogate activities

38.
But not every leisured aristocrat becomes bored and demoralized. For example, the emperor Hirohito, instead of sinking into decadent hedonism, devoted himself to marine biology, a field in which he became distinguished. When people do not have to exert themselves to satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for themselves. In many cases they then pursue these goals with the same energy and emotional involvement that they otherwise would have put into the search for physical necessities. Thus the aristocrats of the Roman Empire had their literary pretensions; many European aristocrats a few centuries ago invested tremendous time and energy in hunting, though they certainly didn’t need the meat; other aristocracies have competed for status through elaborate displays of wealth; and a few aristocrats, like Hirohito, have turned to science.

39.
We use the term “surrogate activity” to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that effort required him to use his physical and mental facilities in a varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person’s pursuit of a goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito’s studies in marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn’t know all about the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity, because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.)

40.
In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to satisfy one’s physical needs. It is enough to go through a training program to acquire some petty technical skill, then come to work on time and exert very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence, and most of all, simple obedience. If one has those, society takes care of one from cradle to grave. (Yes, there is an underclass that cannot take physical necessities for granted, but we are speaking here of mainstream society.) Thus it is not surprising that modern society is full of surrogate activities. These include scientific work, athletic achievement, humanitarian work, artistic and literary creation, climbing the corporate ladder, acquisition of money and material goods far beyond the point at which they cease to give any additional physical satisfaction, and social activism when it addresses issues that are not important for the activist personally, as in the case of white activists who work for the rights of nonwhite minorities. These are not always pure surrogate activities, since for many people they may be motivated in part by needs other than the need to have some goal to pursue. Scientific work may be motivated in part by a drive for prestige, artistic creation by a need to express feelings, militant social activism by hostility. But for most people who pursue them, these activities are in large part surrogate activities. For example, the majority of scientists will probably agree that the “fulfillment” they get from their work is more important than the money and prestige they earn.

41.
For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals (that is, goals that people would want to attain even if their need for the power process were already fulfilled). One indication of this is the fact that, in many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth. The scientist no sooner solves one problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster. Many people who pursue surrogate activities will say that they get far more fulfillment from these activities than they do from the “mundane” business of satisfying their biological needs, but that it is because in our society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality. More importantly, in our society people do not satisfy their biological needs autonomously but by functioning as parts of an immense social machine. In contrast, people generally have a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities.

Autonomy

42.
Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of autonomy in working toward their goals. Their efforts must be undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own direction and control. Yet most people do not have to exert this initiative, direction and control as single individuals. It is usually enough to act as a member of a small group. Thus if half a dozen people discuss a goal among themselves and make a successful joint effort to attain that goal, their need for the power process will be served. But if they work under rigid orders handed down from above that leave them no room for autonomous decision and initiative, then their need for the power process will not be served. The same is true when decisions are made on a collective basis if the group making the collective decision is so large that the role of each individual is insignificant.[5]

43.
It is true that some individuals seem to have little need for autonomy. Either their drive for power is weak or they satisfy it by identifying themselves with some powerful organization to which they belong. And then there are unthinking, animal types who seem to be satisfied with a purely physical sense of power (the good combat soldier, who gets his sense of power by developing fighting skills that he is quite content to use in blind obedience to his superiors).

44.
But for most people it is through the power process—having a goal, making an autonomous effort and attaining the goal—that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go throughout the power process the consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc.[6]

Sources of social problems

45.
Any of the foregoing symptoms can occur in any society, but in modern industrial society they are present on a massive scale. We aren’t the first to mention that the world today seems to be going crazy. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. There is good reason to believe that primitive man suffered from less stress and frustration and was better satisfied with his way of life than modern man is. It is true that not all was sweetness and light in primitive societies. Abuse of women was common among the Australian aborigines, transexuality was fairly common among some of the American Indian tribes. But it does appear that generally speaking the kinds of problems that we have listed in the preceding paragraph were far less common among primitive peoples than they are in modern society.

46.
We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions. It is clear from what we have already written that we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people. But it is not the only one. Before dealing with disruption of the power process as a source of social problems we will discuss some of the other sources.

47.
Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the break-down of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe.

48.
It is well known that crowding increases stress and aggression. The degree of crowding that exists today and the isolation of man from nature are consequences of technological progress. All pre-industrial societies were predominantly rural. The industrial Revolution vastly increased the size of cities and the proportion of the population that lives in them, and modern agricultural technology has made it possible for the Earth to support a far denser population than it ever did before. (Also, technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because it puts increased disruptive powers in people’s hands. For example, a variety of noise-making devices: power mowers, radios, motorcycles, etc. If the use of these devices is unrestricted, people who want peace and quiet are frustrated by the noise. If their use is restricted, people who use the devices are frustrated by the regulations… But if these machines had never been invented there would have been no conflict and no frustration generated by them.)

49.
For primitive societies the natural world (which usually changes only slowly) provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of security. In the modern world it is human society that dominates nature rather than the other way around, and modern society changes very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable framework.

50.
The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

51.
The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their communities. Beyond that, a technological society has to weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal loyalties of small-scale communities were stronger than loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.

52.
Suppose that a public official or a corporation executive appoints his cousin, his friend or his co-religionist to a position rather than appointing the person best qualified for the job. He has permitted personal loyalty to supersede his loyalty to the system, and that is “nepotism” or “discrimination,” both of which are terrible sins in modern society. Would-be industrial societies that have done a poor job of subordinating personal or local loyalties to loyalty to the system are usually very inefficient. (Look at Latin America.) Thus an advanced industrial society can tolerate only those small-scale communities that are emasculated, tamed and made into tools of the system.[7]

53.
Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been widely recognized as sources of social problems. but we do not believe they are enough to account for the extent of the problems that are seen today.

54.
A few pre-industrial cities were very large and crowded, yet their inhabitants do not seem to have suffered from psychological problems to the same extent as modern man. In America today there still are uncrowded rural areas, and we find there the same problems as in urban areas, though the problems tend to be less acute in the rural areas. Thus crowding does not seem to be the decisive factor.

55.
On the growing edge of the American frontier during the 19th century, the mobility of the population probably broke down extended families and small-scale social groups to at least the same extent as these are broken down today. In fact, many nuclear families lived by choice in such isolation, having no neighbors within several miles, that they belonged to no community at all, yet they do not seem to have developed problems as a result.

56.
Furthermore, change in American frontier society was very rapid and deep. A man might be born and raised in a log cabin, outside the reach of law and order and fed largely on wild meat; and by the time he arrived at old age he might be working at a regular job and living in an ordered community with effective law enforcement. This was a deeper change than that which typically occurs in the life of a modern individual, yet it does not seem to have led to psychological problems. In fact, 19th century American society had an optimistic and self-confident tone, quite unlike that of today’s society.[8]

57.
The difference, we argue, is that modern man has the sense (largely justified) that change is imposed on him, whereas the 19th century frontiersman had the sense (also largely justified) that he created change himself, by his own choice. Thus a pioneer settled on a piece of land of his own choosing and made it into a farm through his own effort. In those days an entire county might have only a couple of hundred inhabitants and was a far more isolated and autonomous entity than a modern county is. Hence the pioneer farmer participated as a member of a relatively small group in the creation of a new, ordered community. One may well question whether the creation of this community was an improvement, but at any rate it satisfied the pioneer’s need for the power process.

58.
It would be possible to give other examples of societies in which there has been rapid change and/or lack of close community ties without the kind of massive behavioral aberration that is seen in today’s industrial society. We contend that the most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way. We don’t mean to say that modern society is the only one in which the power process has been disrupted. Probably most if not all civilized societies have interfered with the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But in modern industrial society the problem has become particularly acute. Leftism, at least in its recent (mid-to-late -20th century) form, is in part a symptom of deprivation with respect to the power process.

Disruption of the power process in modern society

59.
We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group. The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.

60.
In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to consist increasingly of artificially created drives.

61.
In primitive societies, physical necessities generally fall into group 2: They can be obtained, but only at the cost of serious effort. But modern society tends to guaranty the physical necessities to everyone[9] in exchange for only minimal effort, hence physical needs are pushed into group 1. (There may be disagreement about whether the effort needed to hold a job is “minimal”; but usually, in lower- to middle-level jobs, whatever effort is required is merely that of obedience. You sit or stand where you are told to sit or stand and do what you are told to do in the way you are told to do it. Seldom do you have to exert yourself seriously, and in any case you have hardly any autonomy in work, so that the need for the power process is not well served.)

62.
Social needs, such as sex, love and status, often remain in group 2 in modern society, depending on the situation of the individual.[10] But, except for people who have a particularly strong drive for status, the effort required to fulfill the social drives is insufficient to satisfy adequately the need for the power process.

63.
So certain artificial needs have been created that fall into group 2, hence serve the need for the power process. Advertising and marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed of. It requires serious effort to earn enough money to satisfy these artificial needs, hence they fall into group 2. (But see paragraphs 80-82.) Modern man must satisfy his need for the power process largely through pursuit of the artificial needs created by the advertising and marketing industry,[11] and through surrogate activities.

64.
It seems that for many people, maybe the majority, these artificial forms of the power process are insufficient. A theme that appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts many people in modern society. (This purposelessness is often called by other names such as “anomie” or “middle-class vacuity.”) We suggest that the so-called “identity crisis” is actually a search for a sense of purpose, often for commitment to a suitable surrogate activity. It may be that existentialism is in large part a response to the purposelessness of modern life.[12] Very widespread in modern society is the search for “fulfillment.” But we think that for the majority of people an activity whose main goal is fulfillment (that is, a surrogate activity) does not bring completely satisfactory fulfillment. In other words, it does not fully satisfy the need for the power process. (See paragraph 41.) That need can be fully satisfied only through activities that have some external goal, such as physical necessities, sex, love, status, revenge, etc.

65.
Moreover, where goals are pursued through earning money, climbing the status ladder or functioning as part of the system in some other way, most people are not in a position to pursue their goals autonomously. Most workers are someone else’s employee and, as we pointed out in paragraph 61, must spend their days doing what they are told to do in the way they are told to do it. Even most people who are in business for themselves have only limited autonomy. It is a chronic complaint of small-business persons and entrepreneurs that their hands are tied by excessive government regulation. Some of these regulations are doubtless unnecessary, but for the most part government regulations are essential and inevitable parts of our extremely complex society. A large portion of small business today operates on the franchise system. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that many of the franchise-granting companies require applicants for franchises to take a personality test that is designed to exclude those who have creativity and initiative, because such persons are not sufficiently docile to go along obediently with the franchise system. This excludes from small business many of the people who most need autonomy.

66.
Today people live more by virtue of what the system does for them or to them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. And what they do for themselves is done more and more along channels laid down by the system. Opportunities tend to be those that the system provides, the opportunities must be exploited in accord with the rules and regulations,[13] and techniques prescribed by experts must be followed if there is to be a chance of success.

67.
Thus the power process is disrupted in our society through a deficiency of real goals and a deficiency of autonomy in pursuit of goals. But it is also disrupted because of those human drives that fall into group 3: the drives that one cannot adequately satisfy no matter how much effort one makes. One of these drives is the need for security. Our lives depend on decisions made by other people; we have no control over these decisions and usually we do not even know the people who make them. (“We live in a world in which relatively few people—maybe 500 or 1,000—make the important decisions”—Philip B. Heymann of Harvard Law School, quoted by Anthony Lewis, New York Times, April 21, 1995.) Our lives depend on whether safety standards at a nuclear power plant are properly maintained; on how much pesticide is allowed to get into our food or how much pollution into our air; on how skillful (or incompetent) our doctor is; whether we lose or get a job may depend on decisions made by government economists or corporation executives; and so forth. Most individuals are not in a position to secure themselves against these threats to more than a very limited extent. The individual’s search for security is therefore frustrated, which leads to a sense of powerlessness.

68.
It may be objected that primitive man is physically less secure than modern man, as is shown by his shorter life expectancy; hence modern man suffers from less, not more than the amount of insecurity that is normal for human beings. but psychological security does not closely correspond with physical security. What makes us feel secure is not so much objective security as a sense of confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves. Primitive man, threatened by a fierce animal or by hunger, can fight in self-defense or travel in search of food. He has no certainty of success in these efforts, but he is by no means helpless against the things that threaten him. The modern individual on the other hand is threatened by many things against which he is helpless; nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, nation-wide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.

69.
It is true that primitive man is powerless against some of the things that threaten him; disease for example. But he can accept the risk of disease stoically. It is part of the nature of things, it is no one’s fault, unless it is the fault of some imaginary, impersonal demon. But threats to the modern individual tend to be man-made. They are not the results of chance but are imposed on him by other persons whose decisions he, as an individual, is unable to influence. Consequently he feels frustrated, humiliated and angry.

70.
Thus primitive man for the most part has his security in his own hands (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) whereas the security of modern man is in the hands of persons or organizations that are too remote or too large for him to be able personally to influence them. So modern man’s drive for security tends to fall into groups 1 and 3; in some areas (food, shelter, etc.) his security is assured at the cost of only trivial effort, whereas in other areas he cannot attain security. (The foregoing greatly simplifies the real situation, but it does indicate in a rough, general way how the condition of modern man differs from that of primitive man.)

71.
People have many transitory drives or impulses that are necessarily frustrated in modern life, hence fall into group 3. One may become angry, but modern society cannot permit fighting. In many situations it does not even permit verbal aggression. When going somewhere one may be in a hurry, or one may be in a mood to travel slowly, but one generally has no choice but to move with the flow of traffic and obey the traffic signals. One may want to do one’s work in a different way, but usually one can work only according to the rules laid down by one’s employer. In many other ways as well, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations (explicit or implicit) that frustrate many of his impulses and thus interfere with the power process. Most of these regulations cannot be disposed with, because they are necessary for the functioning of industrial society.

72.
Modern society is in certain respects extremely permissive. In matters that are irrelevant to the functioning of the system we can generally do what we please. We can believe in any religion we like (as long as it does not encourage behavior that is dangerous to the system). We can go to bed with anyone we like (as long as we practice “safe sex”). We can do anything we like as long as it is unimportant. But in all important matters the system tends increasingly to regulate our behavior.

73.
Behavior is regulated not only through explicit rules and not only by the government. Control is often exercised through indirect coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole. Most large organizations use some form of propaganda[14] to manipulate public attitudes or behavior. Propaganda is not limited to “commercials” and advertisements, and sometimes it is not even consciously intended as propaganda by the people who make it. For instance, the content of entertainment programming is a powerful form of propaganda. An example of indirect coercion: There is no law that says we have to go to work every day and follow our employer’s orders. Legally there is nothing to prevent us from going to live in the wild like primitive people or from going into business for ourselves. But in practice there is very little wild country left, and there is room in the economy for only a limited number of small business owners. Hence most of us can survive only as someone else’s employee.

74.
We suggest that modern man’s obsession with longevity, and with maintaining physical vigor and sexual attractiveness to an advanced age, is a symptom of unfulfillment resulting from deprivation with respect to the power process. The “mid-life crisis” also is such a symptom. So is the lack of interest in having children that is fairly common in modern society but almost unheard-of in primitive societies.

75.
In primitive societies life is a succession of stages. The needs and purposes of one stage having been fulfilled, there is no particular reluctance about passing on to the next stage. A young man goes through the power process by becoming a hunter, hunting not for sport or for fulfillment but to get meat that is necessary for food. (In young women the process is more complex, with greater emphasis on social power; we won’t discuss that here.) This phase having been successfully passed through, the young man has no reluctance about settling down to the responsibilities of raising a family. (In contrast, some modern people indefinitely postpone having children because they are too busy seeking some kind of “fulfillment.” We suggest that the fulfillment they need is adequate experience of the power process—with real goals instead of the artificial goals of surrogate activities.) Again, having successfully raised his children, going through the power process by providing them with the physical necessities, the primitive man feels that his work is done and he is prepared to accept old age (if he survives that long) and death. Many modern people, on the other hand, are disturbed by the prospect of death, as is shown by the amount of effort they expend trying to maintain their physical condition, appearance and health. We argue that this is due to unfulfillment resulting from the fact that they have never put their physical powers to any use, have never gone through the power process using their bodies in a serious way. It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never had a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house. It is the man whose need for the power process has been satisfied during his life who is best prepared to accept the end of that life.

76.
In response to the arguments of this section someone will say, “Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through the power process.” For such people the value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the system gives them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash.

How some people adjust

77.
Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied with society as it is. We now discuss some of the reasons why people differ so greatly in their response to modern society.

78.
First, there doubtless are differences in the strength of the drive for power. Individuals with a weak drive for power may have relatively little need to go through the power process, or at least relatively little need for autonomy in the power process. These are docile types who would have been happy as plantation darkies in the Old South. (We don’t mean to sneer at “plantation darkies” of the Old South. To their credit, most of the slaves were not content with their servitude. We do sneer at people who are content with servitude.)

79.
Some people may have some exceptional drive, in pursuing which they satisfy their need for the power process. For example, those who have an unusually strong drive for social status may spend their whole lives climbing the status ladder without ever getting bored with that game.

80.
People vary in their susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. Some people are so susceptible that, even if they make a great deal of money, they cannot satisfy their constant craving for the shiny new toys that the marketing industry dangles before their eyes. So they always feel hard-pressed financially even if their income is large, and their cravings are frustrated.

81.
Some people have low susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. These are the people who aren’t interested in money. Material acquisition does not serve their need for the power process.

82.
People who have medium susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques are able to earn enough money to satisfy their craving for goods and services, but only at the cost of serious effort (putting in overtime, taking a second job, earning promotions, etc.) Thus material acquisition serves their need for the power process. But it does not necessarily follow that their need is fully satisfied. They may have insufficient autonomy in the power process (their work may consist of following orders) and some of their drives may be frustrated (e.g., security, aggression) (We are guilty of oversimplification in paragraphs 80-82 because we have assumed that the desire for material acquisition is entirely a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. Of course it’s not that simple).

83.
Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement. An individual lacking goals or power joins a movement or an organization, adopts its goals as his own, then works toward these goals. When some of the goals are attained, the individual, even though his personal efforts have played only an insignificant part in the attainment of the goals, feels (through his identification with the movement or organization) as if he had gone through the power process. This phenomenon was exploited by the fascists, Nazis and communists. Our society uses it, too, though less crudely. Example: Manuel Noriega was an irritant to the U.S. (goal: punish Noriega). The U.S. invaded Panama (effort) and punished Noriega (attainment of goal). The U.S. went through the power process and many Americans, because of their identification with the U.S., experienced the power process vicariously. Hence the widespread public approval of the Panama invasion; it gave people a sense of power.[15] We see the same phenomenon in armies, corporations, political parties, humanitarian organizations, religious or ideological movements. In particular, leftist movements tend to attract people who are seeking to satisfy their need for power. But for most people identification with a large organization or a mass movement does not fully satisfy the need for power.

84.
Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power process is through surrogate activities. As we explained in paragraphs 38-40, a surrogate activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that the individual pursues for the sake of the “fulfillment” that he gets from pursuing the goal, not because he needs to attain the goal itself. For instance, there is no practical motive for building enormous muscles, hitting a little ball into a hole or acquiring a complete series of postage stamps. Yet many people in our society devote themselves with passion to bodybuilding, golf or stamp collecting. Some people are more “other-directed” than others, and therefore will more readily attach importance to a surrogate activity simply because the people around them treat it as important or because society tells them it is important. That is why some people get very serious about essentially trivial activities such as sports, or bridge, or chess, or arcane scholarly pursuits, whereas others who are more clear-sighted never see these things as anything but the surrogate activities that they are, and consequently never attach enough importance to them to satisfy their need for the power process in that way. It only remains to point out that in many cases a person’s way of earning a living is also a surrogate activity. Not a pure surrogate activity, since part of the motive for the activity is to gain the physical necessities and (for some people) social status and the luxuries that advertising makes them want. But many people put into their work far more effort than is necessary to earn whatever money and status they require, and this extra effort constitutes a surrogate activity. This extra effort, together with the emotional investment that accompanies it, is one of the most potent forces acting toward the continual development and perfecting of the system, with negative consequences for individual freedom (see paragraph 131). Especially, for the most creative scientists and engineers, work tends to be largely a surrogate activity. This point is so important that is deserves a separate discussion, which we shall give in a moment (paragraphs 87-92).

85.
In this section we have explained how many people in modern society do satisfy their need for the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But we think that for the majority of people the need for the power process is not fully satisfied. In the first place, those who have an insatiable drive for status, or who get firmly “hooked” on a surrogate activity, or who identify strongly enough with a movement or organization to satisfy their need for power in that way, are exceptional personalities. Others are not fully satisfied with surrogate activities or by identification with an organization (see paragraphs 41, 64). In the second place, too much control is imposed by the system through explicit regulation or through socialization, which results in a deficiency of autonomy, and in frustration due to the impossibility of attaining certain goals and the necessity of restraining too many impulses.

86.
But even if most people in industrial-technological society were well satisfied, we (FC) would still be opposed to that form of society, because (among other reasons) we consider it demeaning to fulfill one’s need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization, rather than through pursuit of real goals.

The motives of scientists

87.
Science and technology provide the most important examples of surrogate activities. Some scientists claim that they are motivated by “curiosity;” that notion is simply absurd. Most scientists work on highly specialized problems that are not the object of any normal curiosity. For example, is an astronomer, a mathematician or an entomologist curious about the properties of isopropyltrimethylmethane? Of course not. Only a chemist is curious about such a thing, and he is curious about it only because chemistry is his surrogate activity. Is the chemist curious about the appropriate classification of a new species of beetle? No. That question is of interest only to the entomologist, and he is interested in it only because entomology is his surrogate activity. If the chemist and the entomologist had to exert themselves seriously to obtain the physical necessities, and if that effort exercised their abilities in an interesting way but in some nonscientific pursuit, then they couldn’t give a damn about isopropyltrimethylmethane or the classification of beetles. Suppose that lack of funds for postgraduate education had led the chemist to become an insurance broker instead of a chemist. In that case he would have been very interested in insurance matters but would have cared nothing about isopropyltrimethylmethane. In any case it is not normal to put into the satisfaction of mere curiosity the amount of time and effort that scientists put into their work. The “curiosity” explanation for the scientists’ motive just doesn’t stand up.

88.
The “benefit of humanity” explanation doesn’t work any better. Some scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the human race—most of archeology or comparative linguistics for example. Some other areas of science present obviously dangerous possibilities. Yet scientists in these areas are just as enthusiastic about their work as those who develop vaccines or study air pollution. Consider the case of Dr. Edward Teller, who had an obvious emotional involvement in promoting nuclear power plants. Did this involvement stem from a desire to benefit humanity? If so, then why didn’t Dr. Teller get emotional about other “humanitarian” causes? If he was such a humanitarian then why did he help to develop the H-bomb? As with many other scientific achievements, it is very much open to question whether nuclear power plants actually do benefit humanity. Does the cheap electricity outweigh the accumulating waste and risk of accidents? Dr. Teller saw only one side of the question. Clearly his emotional involvement with nuclear power arose not from a desire to “benefit humanity” but from a personal fulfillment he got from his work and from seeing it put to practical use.

89.
The same is true of scientists generally. With possible rare exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal (a scientific problem to solve), to make an effort (research) and to attain the goal (solution of the problem.) Science is a surrogate activity because scientists work mainly for the fulfillment they get out of the work itself.

90.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Other motives do play a role for many scientists. Money and status for example. Some scientists may be persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status (see paragraph 79) and this may provide much of the motivation for their work. No doubt the majority of scientists, like the majority of the general population, are more or less susceptible to advertising and marketing techniques and need money to satisfy their craving for goods and services. Thus science is not a pure surrogate activity. But it is in large part a surrogate activity.

91.
Also, science and technology constitute a mass power movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement (see paragraph 83).

92.
Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.

The nature of freedom

93.
We are going to argue that industrial-technological society cannot be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing the sphere of human freedom. But because “freedom” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways, we must first make clear what kind of freedom we are concerned with.

94.
By “freedom” we mean the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large organization. Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence; food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised. It is important not to confuse freedom with mere permissiveness (see paragraph 72).

95.
It is said that we live in a free society because we have a certain number of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But these are not as important as they seem. The degree of personal freedom that exists in a society is determined more by the economic and technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of government.[16] Most of the Indian nations of New England were monarchies, and many of the cities of the Italian Renaissance were controlled by dictators. But in reading about these societies one gets the impression that they allowed far more personal freedom than our society does. In part this was because they lacked efficient mechanisms for enforcing the ruler’s will: There were no modern, well-organized police forces, no rapid long-distance communications, no surveillance cameras, no dossiers of information about the lives of average citizens. Hence it was relatively easy to evade control.

96.
As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press. We certainly don’t mean to knock that right: it is very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect. To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.

97.
Constitutional rights are useful up to a point, but they do not serve to guarantee much more than what could be called the bourgeois conception of freedom. According to the bourgeois conception, a “free” man is essentially an element of a social machine and has only a certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of the individual. Thus the bourgeois’s “free” man has economic freedom because that promotes growth and progress; he has freedom of the press because public criticism restrains misbehavior by political leaders; he has a rights to a fair trial because imprisonment at the whim of the powerful would be bad for the system. This was clearly the attitude of Simon Bolivar. To him, people deserved liberty only if they used it to promote progress (progress as conceived by the bourgeois). Other bourgeois thinkers have taken a similar view of freedom as a mere means to collective ends. Chester C. Tan, “Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,” page 202, explains the philosophy of the Kuomintang leader Hu Han-min: “An individual is granted rights because he is a member of society and his community life requires such rights. By community Hu meant the whole society of the nation.” And on page 259 Tan states that according to Carsum Chang (Chang Chun-mai, head of the State Socialist Party in China) freedom had to be used in the interest of the state and of the people as a whole. But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes? FC’s conception of freedom is not that of Bolivar, Hu, Chang or other bourgeois theorists. The trouble with such theorists is that they have made the development and application of social theories their surrogate activity. Consequently the theories are designed to serve the needs of the theorists more than the needs of any people who may be unlucky enough to live in a society on which the theories are imposed.

98.
One more point to be made in this section: It should not be assumed that a person has enough freedom just because he says he has enough. Freedom is restricted in part by psychological control of which people are unconscious, and moreover many people’s ideas of what constitutes freedom are governed more by social convention than by their real needs. For example, it’s likely that many leftists of the oversocialized type would say that most people, including themselves are socialized too little rather than too much, yet the oversocialized leftist pays a heavy psychological price for his high level of socialization.

Some principles of history

99.
Think of history as being the sum of two components: an erratic component that consists of unpredictable events that follow no discernible pattern, and a regular component that consists of long-term historical trends. Here we are concerned with the long-term trends.

First principle

100.
If a small change is made that affects a long-term historical trend, then the effect of that change will almost always be transitory – the trend will soon revert to its original state. (Example: A reform movement designed to clean up political corruption in a society rarely has more than a short-term effect; sooner or later the reformers relax and corruption creeps back in. The level of political corruption in a given society tends to remain constant, or to change only slowly with the evolution of the society. Normally, a political cleanup will be permanent only if accompanied by widespread social changes; a small change in the society won’t be enough.) If a small change in a long-term historical trend appears to be permanent, it is only because the change acts in the direction in which the trend is already moving, so that the trend is not altered but only pushed a step ahead.

101.
The first principle is almost a tautology. If a trend were not stable with respect to small changes, it would wander at random rather than following a definite direction; in other words it would not be a long-term trend at all.

Second principle

102.
If a change is made that is sufficiently large to alter permanently a long-term historical trend, then it will alter the society as a whole. In other words, a society is a system in which all parts are interrelated, and you can’t permanently change any important part without changing all the other parts as well.

Third principle

103.
If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance. (Unless various other societies have passed through the same change and have all experienced the same consequences, in which case one can predict on empirical grounds that another society that passes through the same change will be likely to experience similar consequences.)

Fourth principle

104.
A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance, then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to.

105.
The third and fourth principles result from the complexity of human societies. A change in human behavior will affect the economy of a society and its physical environment; the economy will affect the environment and vice versa, and the changes in the economy and the environment will affect human behavior in complex, unpredictable ways; and so forth. The network of causes and effects is far too complex to be untangled and understood.

Fifth principle

106.
People do not consciously and rationally choose the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of social evolution that are not under rational human control.

107.
The fifth principle is a consequence of the other four.

108.
To illustrate: By the first principle, generally speaking an attempt at social reform either acts in the direction in which the society is developing anyway (so that it merely accelerates a change that would have occurred in any case) or else it only has a transitory effect, so that the society soon slips back into its old groove. To make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important aspect of a society, reform is insufficient and revolution is required. (A revolution does not necessarily involve an armed uprising or the overthrow of a government.) By the second principle, a revolution never changes only one aspect of a society; and by the third principle changes occur that were never expected or desired by the revolutionaries. By the fourth principle, when revolutionaries or utopians set up a new kind of society, it never works out as planned.

109.
The American Revolution does not provide a counterexample. The American “Revolution” was not a revolution in our sense of the word, but a war of independence followed by a rather far-reaching political reform. The Founding Fathers did not change the direction of development of American society, nor did they aspire to do so. They only freed the development of American society from the retarding effect of British rule. Their political reform did not change any basic trend, but only pushed American political culture along its natural direction of development. British society, of which American society was an off-shoot, had been moving for a long time in the direction of representative democracy. And prior to the War of Independence the Americans were already practicing a significant degree of representative democracy in the colonial assemblies. The political system established by the Constitution was modeled on the British system and on the colonial assemblies. With major alteration, to be sure—there is no doubt that the Founding Fathers took a very important step. But it was a step along the road the English-speaking world was already traveling. The proof is that Britain and all of its colonies that were populated predominantly by people of British descent ended up with systems of representative democracy essentially similar to that of the United States. If the Founding Fathers had lost their nerve and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence, our way of life today would not have been significantly different. Maybe we would have had somewhat closer ties to Britain, and would have had a Parliament and Prime Minister instead of a Congress and President. No big deal. Thus the American Revolution provides not a counterexample to our principles but a good illustration of them.

110.
Still, one has to use common sense in applying the principles. They are expressed in imprecise language that allows latitude for interpretation, and exceptions to them can be found. So we present these principles not as inviolable laws but as rules of thumb, or guides to thinking, that may provide a partial antidote to naive ideas about the future of society. The principles should be borne constantly in mind, and whenever one reaches a conclusion that conflicts with them one should carefully reexamine one’s thinking and retain the conclusion only if one has good, solid reasons for doing so.

Industrial-technological society cannot be reformed

111.
The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. There has been a consistent tendency, going back at least to the Industrial Revolution for technology to strengthen the system at a high cost in individual freedom and local autonomy. Hence any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society. Consequently, such a change either would be a transitory one—soon swamped by the tide of history—or, if large enough to be permanent would alter the nature of our whole society. This by the first and second principles. Moreover, since society would be altered in a way that could not be predicted in advance (third principle) there would be great risk. Changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would be realized that they would gravely disrupt the system. So any attempts at reform would be too timid to be effective. Even if changes large enough to make a lasting difference were initiated, they would be retracted when their disruptive effects became apparent. Thus, permanent changes in favor of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words, by revolutionaries, not reformers.

112.
People anxious to rescue freedom without sacrificing the supposed benefits of technology will suggest naive schemes for some new form of society that would reconcile freedom with technology. Apart from the fact that people who make suggestions seldom propose any practical means by which the new form of society could be set up in the first place, it follows from the fourth principle that even if the new form of society could be once established, it either would collapse or would give results very different from those expected.

113.
So even on very general grounds it seems highly improbable that any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile freedom with modern technology. In the next few sections we will give more specific reasons for concluding that freedom and technological progress are incompatible.

Restriction of freedom is unavoidable in industrial society

114.
As explained in paragraph 65-67, 70-73, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot influence. This is not accidental or a result of the arbitrariness of arrogant bureaucrats. It is necessary and inevitable in any technologically advanced society. The system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function. At work, people have to do what they are told to do, otherwise production would be thrown into chaos. Bureaucracies have to be run according to rigid rules. To allow any substantial personal discretion to lower-level bureaucrats would disrupt the system and lead to charges of unfairness due to differences in the way individual bureaucrats exercised their discretion. It is true that some restrictions on our freedom could be eliminated, but generally speaking the regulation of our lives by large organizations is necessary for the functioning of industrial-technological society. The result is a sense of powerlessness on the part of the average person. It may be, however, that formal regulations will tend increasingly to be replaced by psychological tools that make us want to do what the system requires of us. (Propaganda 14, educational techniques, “mental health” programs, etc.)

115.
The system has to force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. For example, the system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It can’t function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to excel in these fields. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world. Among primitive peoples the things that children are trained to do are in natural harmony with natural human impulses. Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active outdoor pursuits—just the sort of things that boys like. But in our society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which most do grudgingly.

116.
Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society’s requirements: welfare leeches, youth-gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds.

117.
In any technologically advanced society the individual’s fate must depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the cooperation of very large numbers of people and machines. Such a society must be highly organized and decisions have to be made that affect very large numbers of people. When a decision affects, say, a million people, then each of the affected individuals has, on the average, only a one-millionth share in making the decision. What usually happens in practice is that decisions are made by public officials or corporation executives, or by technical specialists, but even when the public votes on a decision the number of voters ordinarily is too large for the vote of any one individual to be significant.[17] Thus most individuals are unable to influence measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. There is no conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society. The system tries to “solve” this problem by using propaganda to make people want the decisions that have been made for them, but even if this “solution” were completely successful in making people feel better, it would be demeaning.

118.
Conservatives and some others advocate more “local autonomy.” Local communities once did have autonomy, but such autonomy becomes less and less possible as local communities become more enmeshed with and dependent on large-scale systems like public utilities, computer networks, highway systems, the mass communications media, the modern health care system. Also operating against autonomy is the fact that technology applied in one location often affects people at other locations far away. Thus pesticide or chemical use near a creek may contaminate the water supply hundreds of miles downstream, and the greenhouse effect affects the whole world.

119.
The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.[18] Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn’t function if everyone starved; it attends to people’s psychological needs whenever it can conveniently do so, because it couldn’t function if too many people became depressed or rebellious. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. Too much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,” no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

120.
Efforts to make room for a sense of purpose and for autonomy within the system are no better than a joke. For example, one company, instead of having each of its employees assemble only one section of a catalogue, had each assemble a whole catalogue, and this was supposed to give them a sense of purpose and achievement. Some companies have tried to give their employees more autonomy in their work, but for practical reasons this usually can be done only to a very limited extent, and in any case employees are never given autonomy as to ultimate goals—their “autonomous” efforts can never be directed toward goals that they select personally, but only toward their employer’s goals, such as the survival and growth of the company. Any company would soon go out of business if it permitted its employees to act otherwise. Similarly, in any enterprise within a socialist system, workers must direct their efforts toward the goals of the enterprise, otherwise the enterprise will not serve its purpose as part of the system. Once again, for purely technical reasons it is not possible for most individuals or small groups to have much autonomy in industrial society. Even the small-business owner commonly has only limited autonomy. Apart from the necessity of government regulation, he is restricted by the fact that he must fit into the economic system and conform to its requirements. For instance, when someone develops a new technology, the small-business person often has to use that technology whether he wants to or not, in order to remain competitive.

The ‘bad’ parts of technology cannot be separated from the ‘good’ parts

121.
A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the “bad” parts of technology and retain only the “good” parts. Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can’t have much progress in medicine without the whole technological system and everything that goes with it.

122.
Even if medical progress could be maintained without the rest of the technological system, it would by itself bring certain evils. Suppose for example that a cure for diabetes is discovered. People with a genetic tendency to diabetes will then be able to survive and reproduce as well as anyone else. Natural selection against genes for diabetes will cease and such genes will spread throughout the population. (This may be occurring to some extent already, since diabetes, while not curable, can be controlled through the use of insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other diseases susceptibility to which is affected by genetic degradation of the population. The only solution will be some sort of eugenics program or extensive genetic engineering of human beings, so that man in the future will no longer be a creation of nature, or of chance, or of God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions), but a manufactured product.

123.
If you think that big government interferes in your life too much now, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous.[19]

124.
The usual response to such concerns is to talk about “medical ethics.” But a code of ethics would not serve to protect freedom in the face of medical progress; it would only make matters worse. A code of ethics applicable to genetic engineering would be in effect a means of regulating the genetic constitution of human beings. Somebody (probably the upper-middle class, mostly) would decide that such and such applications of genetic engineering were “ethical” and others were not, so that in effect they would be imposing their own values on the genetic constitution of the population at large.[20] Even if a code of ethics were chosen on a completely democratic basis, the majority would be imposing their own values on any minorities who might have a different idea of what constituted an “ethical” use of genetic engineering. The only code of ethics that would truly protect freedom would be one that prohibited any genetic engineering of human beings, and you can be sure that no such code will ever be applied in a technological society. No code that reduced genetic engineering to a minor role could stand up for long, because the temptation presented by the immense power of biotechnology would be irresistible, especially since to the majority of people many of its applications will seem obviously and unequivocally good (eliminating physical and mental diseases, giving people the abilities they need to get along in today’s world). Inevitably, genetic engineering will be used extensively, but only in ways consistent with the needs of the industrial-technological system.

Technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom

125.
It is not possible to make a lasting compromise between technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through repeated compromises. Imagine the case of two neighbors, each of whom at the outset owns the same amount of land, but one of whom is more powerful than the other. The powerful one demands a piece of the other’s land. The weak one refuses. The powerful one says, “OK, let’s compromise. Give me half of what I asked.” The weak one has little choice but to give in. Some time later the powerful neighbor demands another piece of land, again there is a compromise, and so forth. By forcing a long series of compromises on the weaker man, the powerful one eventually gets all of his land. So it goes in the conflict between technology and freedom.

126.
Let us explain why technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom.

127.
A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster than the walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace—one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they have to depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop and wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note the important point we have illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily remain optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves forced to use it.)

128.
While technological progress as a whole continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance considered by itself appears to be desirable. Electricity, indoor plumbing, rapid long-distance communications . . . how could one argue against any of these things, or against any other of the innumerable technical advances that have made modern society? It would have been absurd to resist the introduction of the telephone, for example. It offered many advantages and no disadvantages. Yet as we explained in paragraphs 59-76, all these technical advances taken together have created a world in which the average man’s fate is no longer in his own hands or in the hands of his neighbors and friends, but in those of politicians, corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and bureaucrats whom he as an individual has no power to influence.[21] The same process will continue in the future. Take genetic engineering, for example. Few people will resist the introduction of a genetic technique that eliminates a hereditary disease. It does no apparent harm and prevents much suffering. Yet a large number of genetic improvements taken together will make the human being into an engineered product rather than a free creation of chance (or of God, or whatever, depending on your religious beliefs).

129.
Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation. Not only do people become dependent as individuals on a new item of technology, but, even more, the system as a whole becomes dependent on it. (Imagine what would happen to the system today if computers, for example, were eliminated.) Thus the system can move in only one direction, toward greater technologization. Technology repeatedly forces freedom to take a step back—short of the overthrow of the whole technological system.

130.
Technology advances with great rapidity and threatens freedom at many different points at the same time (crowding, rules and regulations, increasing dependence of individuals on large organizations, propaganda and other psychological techniques, genetic engineering, invasion of privacy through surveillance devices and computers, etc.) To hold back any one of the threats to freedom would require a long and difficult social struggle. Those who want to protect freedom are overwhelmed by the sheer number of new attacks and the rapidity with which they develop, hence they become pathetic and no longer resist. To fight each of the threats separately would be futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution not reform.

131.
Technicians (we use this term in its broad sense to describe all those who perform a specialized task that requires training) tend to be so involved in their work (their surrogate activity) that when a conflict arises between their technical work and freedom, they almost always decide in favor of their technical work. This is obvious in the case of scientists, but it also appears elsewhere: Educators, humanitarian groups, conservation organizations do not hesitate to use propaganda or other psychological techniques to help them achieve their laudable ends. Corporations and government agencies, when they find it useful, do not hesitate to collect information about individuals without regard to their privacy. Law enforcement agencies are frequently inconvenienced by the constitutional rights of suspects and often of completely innocent persons, and they do whatever they can do legally (or sometimes illegally) to restrict or circumvent those rights. Most of these educators, government officials and law officers believe in freedom, privacy and constitutional rights, but when these conflict with their work, they usually feel that their work is more important.

132.
It is well known that people generally work better and more persistently when striving for a reward than when attempting to avoid a punishment or negative outcome. Scientists and other technicians are motivated mainly by the rewards they get through their work. But those who oppose technological invasions of freedom are working to avoid a negative outcome, consequently there are a few who work persistently and well at this discouraging task. If reformers ever achieved a signal victory that seemed to set up a solid barrier against further erosion of freedom through technological progress, most would tend to relax and turn their attention to more agreeable pursuits. But the scientists would remain busy in their laboratories, and technology as it progresses would find ways, in spite of any barriers, to exert more and more control over individuals and make them always more dependent on the system.

133.
No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology. History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all change or break down eventually. But technological advances are permanent within the context of a given civilization. Suppose for example that it were possible to arrive at some social arrangements that would prevent genetic engineering from being applied to human beings, or prevent it from being applied in such a ways as to threaten freedom and dignity. Still, the technology would remain waiting. Sooner or later the social arrangement would break down. Probably sooner, given that pace of change in our society. Then genetic engineering would begin to invade our sphere of freedom, and this invasion would be irreversible (short of a breakdown of technological civilization itself). Any illusions about achieving anything permanent through social arrangements should be dispelled by what is currently happening with environmental legislation. A few years ago it seemed that there were secure legal barriers preventing at least some of the worst forms of environmental degradation. A change in the political wind, and those barriers begin to crumble.

134.
For all of the foregoing reasons, technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom. But this statement requires an important qualification. It appears that during the next several decades the industrial-technological system will be undergoing severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and especially due to problems of human behavior (alienation, rebellion, hostility, a variety of social and psychological difficulties). We hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will cause it to break down, or at least weaken it sufficiently so that a revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than technology.

135.
In paragraph 125 we used an analogy of a weak neighbor who is left destitute by a strong neighbor who takes all his land by forcing on him a series of compromises. But suppose now that the strong neighbor gets sick, so that he is unable to defend himself. The weak neighbor can force the strong one to give him his land back, or he can kill him. If he lets the strong man survive and only forces him to give his land back, he is a fool, because when the strong man gets well he will again take all the land for himself. The only sensible alternative for the weaker man is to kill the strong one while he has the chance. In the same way, while the industrial system is sick we must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.

Simpler social problems have proved intractable

136.
If anyone still imagines that it would be possible to reform the system in such a way as to protect freedom from technology, let him consider how clumsily and for the most part unsuccessfully our society has dealt with other social problems that are far more simple and straightforward. Among other things, the system has failed to stop environmental degradation, political corruption, drug trafficking or domestic abuse.

137.
Take our environmental problems, for example. Here the conflict of values is straightforward: economic expedience now versus saving some of our natural resources for our grandchildren. [22] But on this subject we get only a lot of blather and obfuscation from the people who have power, and nothing like a clear, consistent line of action, and we keep on piling up environmental problems that our grandchildren will have to live with. Attempts to resolve the environmental issue consist of struggles and compromises between different factions, some of which are ascendant at one moment, others at another moment. The line of struggle changes with the shifting currents of public opinion. This is not a rational process, nor is it one that is likely to lead to a timely and successful solution to the problem. Major social problems, if they get “solved” at all, are rarely or never solved through any rational, comprehensive plan. They just work themselves out through a process in which various competing groups pursuing their own (usually short-term) self-interest [23] arrive (mainly by luck) at some more or less stable modus vivendi. In fact, the principles we formulated in paragraphs 100-106 make it seem doubtful that rational, long-term social planning can ever be successful.

138.
Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured by propaganda and fancy talk.

139.
And note this important difference: It is conceivable that our environmental problems (for example) may some day be settled through a rational, comprehensive plan, but if this happens it will be only because it is in the long-term interest of the system to solve these problems. But it is not in the interest of the system to preserve freedom or small-group autonomy. On the contrary, it is in the interest of the system to bring human behavior under control to the greatest possible extent. [24] Thus, while practical considerations may eventually force the system to take a rational, prudent approach to environmental problems, equally practical considerations will force the system to regulate human behavior ever more closely (preferably by indirect means that will disguise the encroachment on freedom.) This isn’t just our opinion. Eminent social scientists (e.g. James Q. Wilson) have stressed the importance of “socializing” people more effectively.

Revolution is easier than reform

140.
We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be reformed in such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.

141.
People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social problem. A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this reason it would be much easier to overthrow the whole technological system than to put effective, permanent restraints on the development or application of any one segment of technology, such as genetic engineering, for example. Not many people will devote themselves with single-minded passion to imposing and maintaining restraints on genetic engineering, but under suitable conditions large numbers of people may devote themselves passionately to a revolution against the industrial-technological system. As we noted in paragraph 132, reformers seeking to limit certain aspects of technology would be working to avoid a negative outcome. But revolutionaries work to gain a powerful reward—fulfillment of their revolutionary vision—and therefore work harder and more persistently than reformers do.

142.
Reform is always restrained by the fear of painful consequences if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for the sake of their revolution. This was clearly shown in the French and Russian Revolutions. It may be that in such cases only a minority of the population is really committed to the revolution, but this minority is sufficiently large and active so that it becomes the dominant force in society. We will have more to say about revolution in paragraphs 180-205.

Control of human behavior

143.
Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put pressures on human beings for the sake of the functioning of the social organism. The kinds of pressures vary greatly from one society to another. Some of the pressures are physical (poor diet, excessive labor, environmental pollution), some are psychological (noise, crowding, forcing humans behavior into the mold that society requires). In the past, human nature has been approximately constant, or at any rate has varied only within certain bounds. Consequently, societies have been able to push people only up to certain limits. When the limit of human endurance has been passed, things start going wrong: rebellion, or crime, or corruption, or evasion of work, or depression and other mental problems, or an elevated death rate, or a declining birth rate or something else, so that either the society breaks down, or its functioning becomes too inefficient and it is (quickly or gradually, through conquest, attrition or evolution) replaced by some more efficient form of society.[25]

144.
Thus human nature has in the past put certain limits on the development of societies. People could be pushed only so far and no farther. But today this may be changing, because modern technology is developing ways of modifying human beings.

145.
Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening to some extent in our own society. It is well known that the rate of clinical depression had been greatly increasing in recent decades. We believe that this is due to disruption of the power process, as explained in paragraphs 59-76. But even if we are wrong, the increasing rate of depression is certainly the result of some conditions that exist in today’s society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable. (Yes, we know that depression is often of purely genetic origin. We are referring here to those cases in which environment plays the predominant role.)

146.
Drugs that affect the mind are only one example of the methods of controlling human behavior that modern society is developing. Let us look at some of the other methods.

147.
To start with, there are the techniques of surveillance. Hidden video cameras are now used in most stores and in many other places, and computers are used to collect and process vast amounts of information about individuals. Information so obtained greatly increases the effectiveness of physical coercion (i.e., law enforcement).[26] Then there are the methods of propaganda, for which the mass communication media provide effective vehicles. Efficient techniques have been developed for winning elections, selling products, influencing public opinion. The entertainment industry serves as an important psychological tool of the system, possibly even when it is dishing out large amounts of sex and violence. Entertainment provides modern man with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television, videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction. Many primitive peoples, when they don’t have work to do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all, because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most modern people must be constantly occupied or entertained, otherwise they get “bored,” i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

148.
Other techniques strike deeper than the foregoing. Education is no longer a simple affair of paddling a kid’s behind when he doesn’t know his lessons and patting him on the head when he does know them. It is becoming a scientific technique for controlling the child’s development. Sylvan Learning Centers, for example, have had great success in motivating children to study, and psychological techniques are also used with more or less success in many conventional schools. “Parenting” techniques that are taught to parents are designed to make children accept fundamental values of the system and behave in ways that the system finds desirable. “Mental health” programs, “intervention” techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires. (There is no contradiction here; an individual whose attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat. His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.) Child abuse in its gross and obvious forms is disapproved in most if not all cultures. Tormenting a child for a trivial reason or no reason at all is something that appalls almost everyone. But many psychologists interpret the concept of abuse much more broadly. Is spanking, when used as part of a rational and consistent system of discipline, a form of abuse? The question will ultimately be decided by whether or not spanking tends to produce behavior that makes a person fit in well with the existing system of society. In practice, the word “abuse” tends to be interpreted to include any method of child-rearing that produces behavior inconvenient for the system. Thus, when they go beyond the prevention of obvious, senseless cruelty, programs for preventing “child abuse” are directed toward the control of human behavior of the system.

149.
Presumably, research will continue to increase the effectiveness of psychological techniques for controlling human behavior. But we think it is unlikely that psychological techniques alone will be sufficient to adjust human beings to the kind of society that technology is creating. Biological methods probably will have to be used. We have already mentioned the use of drugs in this connection. Neurology may provide other avenues of modifying the human mind. Genetic engineering of human beings is already beginning to occur in the form of “gene therapy,” and there is no reason to assume the such methods will not eventually be used to modify those aspects of the body that affect mental functioning.

150.
As we mentioned in paragraph 134, industrial society seems likely to be entering a period of severe stress, due in part to problems of human behavior and in part to economic and environmental problems. And a considerable proportion of the system’s economic and environmental problems result from the way human beings behave. Alienation, low self-esteem, depression, hostility, rebellion; children who won’t study, youth gangs, illegal drug use, rape, child abuse, other crimes, unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, population growth, political corruption, race hatred, ethnic rivalry, bitter ideological conflict (e.g., pro-choice vs. pro-life), political extremism, terrorism, sabotage, anti-government groups, hate groups. All these threaten the very survival of the system. The system will be forced to use every practical means of controlling human behavior.

151.
The social disruption that we see today is certainly not the result of mere chance. It can only be a result of the conditions of life that the system imposes on people. (We have argued that the most important of these conditions is disruption of the power process.) If the system succeeds in imposing sufficient control over human behavior to assure its own survival, a new watershed in human history will have passed. Whereas formerly the limits of human endurance have imposed limits on the development of societies (as we explained in paragraphs 143, 144), industrial-technological society will be able to pass those limits by modifying human beings, whether by psychological methods or biological methods or both. In the future, social systems will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human beings will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system.[27]

152.
Generally speaking, technological control over human behavior will probably not be introduced with a totalitarian intention or even through a conscious desire to restrict human freedom.[28] Each new step in the assertion of control over the human mind will be taken as a rational response to a problem that faces society, such as curing alcoholism, reducing the crime rate or inducing young people to study science and engineering. In many cases, there will be humanitarian justification. For example, when a psychiatrist prescribes an anti-depressant for a depressed patient, he is clearly doing that individual a favor. It would be inhumane to withhold the drug from someone who needs it. When parents send their children to Sylvan Learning Centers to have them manipulated into becoming enthusiastic about their studies, they do so from concern for their children’s welfare. It may be that some of these parents wish that one didn’t have to have specialized training to get a job and that their kid didn’t have to be brainwashed into becoming a computer nerd. But what can they do? They can’t change society, and their child may be unemployable if he doesn’t have certain skills. So they send him to Sylvan.

153.
Thus control over human behavior will be introduced not by a calculated decision of the authorities but through a process of social evolution (rapid evolution, however). The process will be impossible to resist, because each advance, considered by itself, will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance will seem to be less than that which would result from not making it (see paragraph 127). Propaganda for example is used for many good purposes, such as discouraging child abuse or race hatred. Sex education is obviously useful, yet the effect of sex education (to the extent that it is successful) is to take the shaping of sexual attitudes away from the family and put it into the hands of the state as represented by the public school system.

154.
Suppose a biological trait is discovered that increases the likelihood that a child will grow up to be a criminal and suppose some sort of gene therapy can remove this trait.[29] Of course most parents whose children possess the trait will have them undergo the therapy. It would be inhumane to do otherwise, since the child would probably have a miserable life if he grew up to be a criminal. But many or most primitive societies have a low crime rate in comparison with that of our society, even though they have neither high-tech methods of child-rearing nor harsh systems of punishment. Since there is no reason to suppose that more modern men than primitive men have innate predatory tendencies, the high crime rate of our society must be due to the pressures that modern conditions put on people, to which many cannot or will not adjust. Thus a treatment designed to remove potential criminal tendencies is at least in part a way of re-engineering people so that they suit the requirements of the system.

155.
Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

156.
In paragraph 127 we pointed out that if the use of a new item of technology is initially optional, it does not necessarily remain optional, because the new technology tends to change society in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to function without using that technology. This applies also to the technology of human behavior. In a world in which most children are put through a program to make them enthusiastic about studying, a parent will almost be forced to put his kid through such a program, because if he does not, then the kid will grow up to be, comparatively speaking, an ignoramus and therefore unemployable. Or suppose a biological treatment is discovered that, without undesirable side-effects, will greatly reduce the psychological stress from which so many people suffer in our society. If large numbers of people choose to undergo the treatment, then the general level of stress in society will be reduced, so that it will be possible for the system to increase the stress-producing pressures. In fact, something like this seems to have happened already with one of our society’s most important psychological tools for enabling people to reduce (or at least temporarily escape from) stress, namely, mass entertainment (see paragraph 147). Our use of mass entertainment is “optional”: No law requires us to watch television, listen to the radio, read magazines. Yet mass entertainment is a means of escape and stress-reduction on which most of us have become dependent. Everyone complains about the trashiness of television, but almost everyone watches it. A few have kicked the TV habit, but it would be a rare person who could get along today without using any form of mass entertainment. (Yet until quite recently in human history most people got along very nicely with no other entertainment than that which each local community created for itself.) Without the entertainment industry the system probably would not have been able to get away with putting as much stress-producing pressure on us as it does.

157.
Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful than the biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

158.
It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons, hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

159.
Will public resistance prevent the introduction of technological control of human behavior? It certainly would if an attempt were made to introduce such control all at once. But since technological control will be introduced through a long sequence of small advances, there will be no rational and effective public resistance. (See paragraphs 127,132, 153.)

160.
To those who think that all this sounds like science fiction, we point out that yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. The Industrial Revolution has radically altered man’s environment and way of life, and it is only to be expected that as technology is increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.

Human race at a crossroads

161.
But we have gotten ahead of our story. It is one thing to develop in the laboratory a series of psychological or biological techniques for manipulating human behavior and quite another to integrate these techniques into a functioning social system. The latter problem is the more difficult of the two. For example, while the techniques of educational psychology doubtless work quite well in the “lab schools” where they are developed, it is not necessarily easy to apply them effectively throughout our educational system. We all know what many of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system: welfare leaches, youth gangs, cultists, nazis, satanists, radical environmentalists, militiaman, etc..

162.
The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the problems of human behavior are the most important. If the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down. We think the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several decades, say 40 to 100 years.

163.
Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that their behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis large organizations armed with super technology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings, besides instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these probably will have only very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly narrow limits.

164.
Don’t imagine that the systems will stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing. Survival is not the principal motive for extending control. As we explained in paragraphs 87-90, technicians and scientists carry on their work largely as a surrogate activity; that is, they satisfy their need for power by solving technical problems. They will continue to do this with unabated enthusiasm, and among the most interesting and challenging problems for them to solve will be those of understanding the human body and mind and intervening in their development. For the “good of humanity,” of course.

165.
But suppose on the other hand that the stresses of the coming decades prove to be too much for the system. If the system breaks down there may be a period of chaos, a “time of troubles” such as those that history has recorded at various epochs in the past. It is impossible to predict what would emerge from such a time of troubles, but at any rate the human race would be given a new chance. The greatest danger is that industrial society may begin to reconstitute itself within the first few years after the breakdown. Certainly there will be many people (power-hungry types especially) who will be anxious to get the factories running again.

166.
Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.

Human suffering

167.
The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of revolutionary action. It will not be vulnerable to revolutionary attack unless its own internal problems of development lead it into very serious difficulties. So if the system breaks down it will do so either spontaneously, or through a process that is in part spontaneous but helped along by revolutionaries. If the breakdown is sudden, many people will die, since the world’s population has become so overblown that it cannot even feed itself any longer without advanced technology. Even if the breakdown is gradual enough so that reduction of the population can occur more through lowering of the birth rate than through elevation of the death rate, the process of de-industrialization probably will be very chaotic and involve much suffering. It is naive to think it likely that technology can be phased out in a smoothly managed orderly way, especially since the technophiles will fight stubbornly at every step. Is it therefore cruel to work for the breakdown of the system? Maybe, but maybe not. In the first place, revolutionaries will not be able to break the system down unless it is already in deep trouble so that there would be a good chance of its eventually breaking down by itself anyway; and the bigger the system grows, the more disastrous the consequences of its breakdown will be; so it may be that revolutionaries, by hastening the onset of the breakdown will be reducing the extent of the disaster.

168.
In the second place, one has to balance the struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical pain. Besides, we all have to die some time, and it may be better to die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but empty and purposeless life.

169.
In the third place, it is not all certain that the survival of the system will lead to less suffering than the breakdown of the system would. The system has already caused, and is continuing to cause, immense suffering all over the world. Ancient cultures, that for hundreds of years gave people a satisfactory relationship with each other and their environment, have been shattered by contact with industrial society, and the result has been a whole catalogue of economic, environmental, social and psychological problems. One of the effects of the intrusion of industrial society has been that over much of the world traditional controls on population have been thrown out of balance. Hence the population explosion, with all that it implies. Then there is the psychological suffering that is widespread throughout the supposedly fortunate countries of the West (see paragraphs 44, 45). No one knows what will happen as a result of ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems that cannot yet be foreseen. And, as nuclear proliferation has shown, new technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and irresponsible Third World nations. Would you like to speculate about what Iraq or North Korea will do with genetic engineering?

170.
“Oh!” say the technophiles, “Science is going to fix all that! We will conquer famine, eliminate psychological suffering, make everybody healthy and happy!” Yeah, sure. That’s what they said 200 years ago. The Industrial Revolution was supposed to eliminate poverty, make everybody happy, etc. The actual result has been quite different. The technophiles are hopelessly naive (or self-deceiving) in their understanding of social problems. They are unaware of (or choose to ignore) the fact that when large changes, even seemingly beneficial ones, are introduced into a society, they lead to a long sequence of other changes, most of which are impossible to predict (paragraph 103). The result is disruption of the society. So it is very probable that in their attempt to end poverty and disease, engineer docile, happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create social systems that are terribly troubled, even more so than the present one. For example, the scientists boast that they will end famine by creating new, genetically engineered food plants. But this will allow the human population to keep expanding indefinitely, and it is well known that crowding leads to increased stress and aggression. This is merely one example of the predictable problems that will arise. We emphasize that, as past experience has shown, technical progress will lead to other new problems for society far more rapidly that it has been solving old ones. Thus it will take a long difficult period of trial and error for the technophiles to work the bugs out of their Brave New World (if they ever do). In the meantime there will be great suffering. So it is not all clear that the survival of industrial society would involve less suffering than the breakdown of that society would. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.

The future

171.
But suppose now that industrial society does survive the next several decades and that the bugs do eventually get worked out of the system, so that it functions smoothly. What kind of system will it be? We will consider several possibilities.

172.
First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

173.
If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better result than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

174.
On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite—just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consist of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or to make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they most certainly will not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.

175.
But suppose now that the computer scientists do not succeed in developing artificial intelligence, so that human work remains necessary. Even so, machines will take care of more and more of the simpler tasks so that there will be an increasing surplus of human workers at the lower levels of ability. (We see this happening already. There are many people who find it difficult or impossible to get work, because for intellectual or psychological reasons they cannot acquire the level of training necessary to make themselves useful in the present system.) On those who are employed, ever-increasing demands will be placed; They will need more and more training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly specialized so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The system will have to use any means that it can, whether psychological or biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of directing competitiveness into channels that serve that needs of the system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power. But no more than a very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is (see end of paragraph 163). Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his needs for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of their opportunity for power.

176.
One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people will spend their time shining each others shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt to such a way of life.

177.
Needless to say, the scenarios outlined above do not exhaust all the possibilities. They only indicate the kinds of outcomes that seem to us most likely. But we can envision no plausible scenarios that are any more palatable than the ones we’ve just described. It is overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial-technological system survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the “bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run, and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” than ever and their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly to a very great extent) will be those that are engineered into them rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild). In the long run (say a few centuries from now) it is likely that neither the human race nor any other important organisms will exist as we know them today, because once you start modifying organisms through genetic engineering there is no reason to stop at any particular point, so that the modifications will probably continue until man and other organisms have been utterly transformed.

178.
Whatever else may be the case, it is certain that technology is creating for human beings a new physical and social environment radically different from the spectrum of environments to which natural selection has adapted the human race physically and psychologically. If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection. The former is far more likely than the latter.

179.
It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences.

Strategy

180.
The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we (FC) don’t think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.

181.
As we stated in paragraph 166, the two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible. The pattern would be similar to that of the French and Russian Revolutions. French society and Russian society, for several decades prior to their respective revolutions, showed increasing signs of stress and weakness. Meanwhile, ideologies were being developed that offered a new world view that was quite different from the old one. In the Russian case, revolutionaries were actively working to undermine the old order. Then, when the old system was put under sufficient additional stress (by financial crisis in France, by military defeat in Russia) it was swept away by revolution. What we propose is something along the same lines.

182.
It will be objected that the French and Russian Revolutions were failures. But most revolutions have two goals. One is to destroy an old form of society and the other is to set up the new form of society envisioned by the revolutionaries. The French and Russian revolutionaries failed (fortunately!) to create the new kind of society of which they dreamed, but they were quite successful in destroying the existing form of society.

183.
But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one; it must be for something as well as against something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, wild nature; those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society but are products of chance, or free will, or God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions).

184.
Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful; certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical environmentalists already hold an ideology that exalts nature and opposes technology.[30] It is not necessary for the sake of nature to set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society. Granted, this will not solve all problems. Industrial society has already done tremendous damage to nature and it will take a very long time for the scars to heal. Besides, even pre-industrial societies can do significant damage to nature. Nevertheless, getting rid of industrial society will accomplish a great deal. It will relieve the worst of the pressure on nature so that the scars can begin to heal. It will remove the capacity of organized society to keep increasing its control over nature (including human nature). Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people can live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunters, etc.. And, generally speaking, local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities.

185.
As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society—well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.

186.
Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: this is all good and that is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels.

187.
On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

188.
On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms. But even on this second level the ideology should not be expressed in language that is so cheap, intemperate or irrational that it alienates people of the thoughtful and rational type. Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view goes under.

189.
Prior to that final struggle, the revolutionaries should not expect to have a majority of people on their side. History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. Until the time comes for the final push toward revolution[31], the task of revolutionaries will be less to win the shallow support of the majority than to build a small core of deeply committed people. As for the majority, it will be enough to make them aware of the existence of the new ideology and remind them of it frequently; though of course it will be desirable to get majority support to the extent that this can be done without weakening the core of seriously committed people.

190.
Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc..). It should not be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. For example, it would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public.

191.
One should think twice before encouraging any other social conflict than that between the power-holding elite (which wields technology) and the general public (over which technology exerts its power). For one thing, other conflicts tend to distract attention from the important conflicts (between power-elite and ordinary people, between technology and nature); for another thing, other conflicts may actually tend to encourage technologization, because each side in such a conflict wants to use technological power to gain advantages over its adversary. This is clearly seen in rivalries between nations. It also appears in ethnic conflicts within nations. For example, in America many black leaders are anxious to gain power for African Americans by placing black individuals in the technological power-elite. They want there to be many black government officials, scientists, corporation executives and so forth. In this way they are helping to absorb the African American subculture into the technological system. Generally speaking, one should encourage only those social conflicts that can be fitted into the framework of the conflicts of power-elite vs. ordinary people, technology vs nature.

192.
But the way to discourage ethnic conflict is not through militant advocacy of minority rights (see paragraphs 21, 29). Instead, the revolutionaries should emphasize that although minorities do suffer more or less disadvantage, this disadvantage is of peripheral significance. Our real enemy is the industrial-technological system, and in the struggle against the system, ethnic distinctions are of no importance.

193.
The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a political revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics.[32]

194.
Probably the revolutionaries should even avoid assuming political power, whether by legal or illegal means, until the industrial system is stressed to the danger point and has proved itself to be a failure in the eyes of most people. Suppose for example that some “green” party should win control of the United States Congress in an election. In order to avoid betraying or watering down their own ideology they would have to take vigorous measures to turn economic growth into economic shrinkage. To the average man the results would appear disastrous: There would be massive unemployment, shortages of commodities, etc. Even if the grosser ill effects could be avoided through superhumanly skillful management, still people would have to begin giving up the luxuries to which they have become addicted. Dissatisfaction would grow, the “green” party would be voted out of office and the revolutionaries would have suffered a severe setback. For this reason the revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above.

195.
The revolution must be international and worldwide. It cannot be carried out on a nation-by-nation basis. Whenever it is suggested that the United States, for example, should cut back on technological progress or economic growth, people get hysterical and start screaming that if we fall behind in technology the Japanese will get ahead of us. Holy robots! The world will fly off its orbit if the Japanese ever sell more cars than we do! (Nationalism is a great promoter of technology.) More reasonably, it is argued that if the relatively democratic nations of the world fall behind in technology while nasty, dictatorial nations like China, Vietnam and North Korea continue to progress, eventually the dictators may come to dominate the world. That is why the industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one.[33] It might even be argued that an industrial system controlled by dictators would be preferable, because dictator-controlled systems usually have proved inefficient, hence they are presumably more likely to break down. Look at Cuba.

196.
Revolutionaries might consider favoring measures that tend to bind the world economy into a unified whole. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT are probably harmful to the environment in the short run, but in the long run they may perhaps be advantageous because they foster economic interdependence between nations. It will be easier to destroy the industrial system on a worldwide basis if the world economy is so unified that its breakdown in any one major nation will lead to its breakdown in all industrialized nations.

197.
Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on the part of the human race. At best these people are expressing themselves unclearly, because they fail to distinguish between power for large organizations and power for individuals and small groups. It is a mistake to argue for powerlessness and passivity, because people need power. Modern man as a collective entity—that is, the industrial system—has immense power over nature, and we (FC) regard this as evil. But modern individuals and small groups of individuals have far less power than primitive man ever did. Generally speaking, the vast power of “modern man” over nature is exercised not by individuals or small groups but by large organizations. To the extent that the average modern individual can wield the power of technology, he is permitted to do so only within narrow limits and only under the supervision and control of the system. (You need a license for everything and with the license come rules and regulations). The individual has only those technological powers with which the system chooses to provide him. His personal power over nature is slight.

198.
Primitive individuals and small groups actually had considerable power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power within nature. When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare edible roots, how to track game and take it with homemade weapons. He knew how to protect himself from heat, cold, rain, dangerous animals, etc. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because the collective power of primitive society was negligible compared to the collective power of industrial society.

199.
Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should argue that the power of the industrial system should be broken, and that this will greatly increase the power and freedom of individuals and small groups.

200.
Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ only goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain some technology, one finds oneself obliged to retain most technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only token amounts of technology.

201.
Suppose for example that the revolutionaries took “social justice” as a goal. Human nature being what it is, social justice would not come about spontaneously; it would have to be enforced. In order to enforce it the revolutionaries would have to retain central organization and control. For that they would need rapid long-distance transportation and communication, and therefore all the technology needed to support the transportation and communication systems. To feed and clothe poor people they would have to use agricultural and manufacturing technology. And so forth. So that the attempt to insure social justice would force them to retain most parts of the technological system. Not that we have anything against social justice, but it must not be allowed to interfere with the effort to get rid of the technological system.

202.
It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using some modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message. But they should use modern technology for only one purpose: to attack the technological system.

203.
Imagine an alcoholic sitting with a barrel of wine in front of him. Suppose he starts saying to himself, “Wine isn’t bad for you if used in moderation. Why, they say small amounts of wine are even good for you! It won’t do me any harm if I take just one little drink…” Well you know what is going to happen. Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.

204.
Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited. No one suggests that a social attitude is a direct outcome of a person’s genetic constitution, but it appears that personality traits tend, within the context of our society, to make a person more likely to hold this or that social attitude. Objections to these findings have been raised, but objections are feeble and seem to be ideologically motivated. In any event, no one denies that children tend on the average to hold social attitudes similar to those of their parents. From our point of view it doesn’t matter all that much whether the attitudes are passed on genetically or through childhood training. In either case they are passed on.

205.
The trouble is that many of the people who are inclined to rebel against the industrial system are also concerned about the population problems, hence they are apt to have few or no children. In this way they may be handing the world over to the sort of people who support or at least accept the industrial system. To insure the strength of the next generation of revolutionaries the present generation must reproduce itself abundantly. In doing so they will be worsening the population problem only slightly. And the most important problem is to get rid of the industrial system, because once the industrial system is gone the world’s population necessarily will decrease (see paragraph 167); whereas, if the industrial system survives, it will continue developing new techniques of food production that may enable the world’s population to keep increasing almost indefinitely.

206.
With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one. For the rest, revolutionaries should take an empirical approach. If experience indicates that some of the recommendations made in the foregoing paragraphs are not going to give good results, then those recommendations should be discarded.

Two kinds of technology

207.
An argument likely to be raised against our proposed revolution is that it is bound to fail, because (it is claimed) throughout history technology has always progressed, never regressed, hence technological regression is impossible. But this claim is false.

208.
We distinguish between two kinds of technology, which we will call small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology. Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization. We are aware of no significant cases of regression in small-scale technology. But organization-dependent technology does regress when the social organization on which it depends breaks down. Example: When the Roman Empire fell apart the Romans’ small-scale technology survived because any clever village craftsman could build, for instance, a water wheel, any skilled smith could make steel by Roman methods, and so forth. But the Romans’ organization-dependent technology did regress. Their aqueducts fell into disrepair and were never rebuilt. Their techniques of road construction were lost. The Roman system of urban sanitation was forgotten, so that only until rather recent times did the sanitation of European cities equal that of Ancient Rome.

209.
The reason why technology has seemed always to progress is that, until perhaps a century or two before the Industrial Revolution, most technology was small-scale technology. But most of the technology developed since the Industrial Revolution is organization-dependent technology. Take the refrigerator for example. Without factory-made parts or the facilities of a post-industrial machine shop it would be virtually impossible for a handful of local craftsmen to build a refrigerator. If by some miracle they did succeed in building one it would be useless to them without a reliable source of electric power. So they would have to dam a stream and build a generator. Generators require large amounts of copper wire. Imagine trying to make that wire without modern machinery. And where would they get a gas suitable for refrigeration? It would be much easier to build an ice house or preserve food by drying or pickling, as was done before the invention of the refrigerator.

210.
So it is clear that if the industrial system were once thoroughly broken down, refrigeration technology would quickly be lost. The same is true of other organization-dependent technology. And once this technology had been lost for a generation or so it would take centuries to rebuild it, just as it took centuries to build it the first time around. Surviving technical books would be few and scattered. An industrial society, if built from scratch without outside help, can only be built in a series of stages: You need tools to make tools to make tools to make tools … . A long process of economic development and progress in social organization is required. And, even in the absence of an ideology opposed to technology, there is no reason to believe that anyone would be interested in rebuilding industrial society. The enthusiasm for “progress” is a phenomenon particular to the modern form of society, and it seems not to have existed prior to the 17th century or thereabouts.

211.
In the late Middle Ages there were four main civilizations that were about equally “advanced”: Europe, the Islamic world, India, and the Far East (China, Japan, Korea). Three of those civilizations remained more or less stable, and only Europe became dynamic. No one knows why Europe became dynamic at that time; historians have their theories but these are only speculation. At any rate, it is clear that rapid development toward a technological form of society occurs only under special conditions. So there is no reason to assume that long-lasting technological regression cannot be brought about.

212.
Would society eventually develop again toward an industrial-technological form? Maybe, but there is no use in worrying about it, since we can’t predict or control events 500 or 1,000 years in the future. Those problems must be dealt with by the people who will live at that time.

The danger of leftism

213.
Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type are often attracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the movement.

214.
To avoid this, a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without the necessary technological base. Above all, leftism is driven by the need for power, and the leftist seeks power on a collective basis, through identification with a mass movement or an organization. Leftism is unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is too valuable a source of collective power.

215.
The anarchist[34] too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.

216.
Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police, they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth; but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had existed under the Tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least as much as the Tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in those universities where leftists have become dominant, they have shown themselves ready to take away from everyone else’s academic freedom. (This is “political correctness.”) The same will happen with leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control.

217.
In earlier revolutions, leftists of the most power-hungry type, repeatedly, have first cooperated with non-leftist revolutionaries, as well as with leftists of a more libertarian inclination, and later have double-crossed them to seize power for themselves. Robespierre did this in the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks did it in the Russian Revolution, the communists did it in Spain in 1938 and Castro and his followers did it in Cuba. Given the past history of leftism, it would be utterly foolish for non-leftist revolutionaries today to collaborate with leftists.

218.
Various thinkers have pointed out that leftism is a kind of religion. Leftism is not a religion in the strict sense because leftist doctrine does not postulate the existence of any supernatural being. But for the leftist, leftism plays a psychological role much like that which religion plays for some people. The leftist needs to believe in leftism; it plays a vital role in his psychological economy. His beliefs are not easily modified by logic or facts. He has a deep conviction that leftism is morally Right with a capital R, and that he has not only a right but a duty to impose leftist morality on everyone. (However, many of the people we are referring to as “leftists” do not think of themselves as leftists and would not describe their system of beliefs as leftism. We use the term “leftism” because we don’t know of any better words to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movements have a strong affinity with the old left. See paragraphs 227-230.)

219.
Leftism is totalitarian force. Wherever leftism is in a position of power it tends to invade every private corner and force every thought into a leftist mold. In part this is because of the quasi-religious character of leftism; everything contrary to leftists beliefs represents Sin. More importantly, leftism is a totalitarian force because of the leftists’ drive for power. The leftist seeks to satisfy his need for power through identification with a social movement and he tries to go through the power process by helping to pursue and attain the goals of the movement (see paragraph 83). But no matter how far the movement has gone in attaining its goals the leftist is never satisfied, because his activism is a surrogate activity (see paragraph 41). That is, the leftist’s real motive is not to attain the ostensible goals of leftism; in reality he is motivated by the sense of power he gets from struggling for and then reaching a social goal.[35] Consequently the leftist is never satisfied with the goals he has already attained; his need for the power process leads him always to pursue some new goal. The leftist wants equal opportunities for minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educate him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned. The activists will never be satisfied until tobacco is outlawed, and after that it will be alcohol then junk food, etc. Activists have fought gross child abuse, which is reasonable. But now they want to stop all spanking. When they have done that they will want to ban something else they consider unwholesome, then another thing and then another. They will never be satisfied until they have complete control over all child rearing practices. And then they will move on to another cause.

220.
Suppose you asked leftists to make a list of all the things that were wrong with society, and then suppose you instituted every social change that they demanded. It is safe to say that within a couple of years the majority of leftists would find something new to complain about, some new social “evil” to correct because, once again, the leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on society.

221.
Because of the restrictions placed on their thoughts and behavior by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the over-socialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone.

222.
Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, are True Believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book, “The True Believer.” But not all True Believers are of the same psychological type as leftists. Presumably a true believing Nazi, for instance, is very different psychologically from a true believing leftist. Because of their capacity for single-minded devotion to a cause, True Believers are a useful, perhaps a necessary, ingredient of any revolutionary movement. This presents a problem with which we must admit we don’t know how to deal. We aren’t sure how to harness the energies of the True Believer to a revolution against technology. At present all we can say is that no True Believer will make a safe recruit to the revolution unless his commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. If he is committed also to another ideal, he may want to use technology as a tool for pursuing that other ideal (see paragraphs 220, 221).

223.
Some readers may say, “This stuff about leftism is a lot of crap. I know John and Jane who are leftish types and they don’t have all these totalitarian tendencies.” It’s quite true that many leftists, possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely believe in tolerating others’ values (up to a point) and wouldn’t want to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks about leftism are not meant to apply to every individual leftist but to describe the general character of leftism as a movement. And the general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in the movement.

224.
The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements tend to be leftists of the most power-hungry type because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They need their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, some leftists do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken care to build themselves a strong power base.

225.
These phenomena appeared clearly in Russia and other countries that were taken over by leftists. Similarly, before the breakdown of communism in the USSR, leftish types in the West would seldom criticize that country. If prodded they would admit that the USSR did many wrong things, but then they would try to find excuses for the communists and begin talking about the faults of the West. They always opposed Western military resistance to communist aggression. Leftish types all over the world vigorously protested the U.S. military action in Vietnam, but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan they did nothing. Not that they approved of the Soviet actions; but because of their leftist faith, they just couldn’t bear to put themselves in opposition to communism. Today, in those of our universities where “political correctness” has become dominant, there are probably many leftish types who privately disapprove of the suppression of academic freedom, but they go along with it anyway.

226.
Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole form having a totalitarian tendency.

227.
Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far from clear what we mean by the word “leftist.” There doesn’t seem to be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are leftist, and some activist movements (e.g., radical environmentalism) seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in deciding who is a leftist.

228.
But it will be helpful to list some criteria for diagnosing leftism. These criteria cannot be applied in a cut and dried manner. Some individuals may meet some of the criteria without being leftists, some leftists may not meet any of the criteria. Again, you just have to use your judgment.

229.
The leftist is oriented toward large scale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to be for gun control, for sex education and other psychologically “enlightened” educational methods, for planning, for affirmative action, for multiculturalism. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of using the common catch-phrases of the left like “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism,” “genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social responsibility.” Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with all of these movements is almost certainly a leftist.[36]

230.
The more dangerous leftists, that is, those who are most power-hungry, are often characterized by arrogance or by a dogmatic approach to ideology. However, the most dangerous leftists of all may be certain oversocialized types who avoid irritating displays of aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values, “enlightened” psychological techniques for socializing children, dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth. These crypto-leftists (as we may call them) approximate certain bourgeois types as far as practical action is concerned, but differ from them in psychology, ideology and motivation. The ordinary bourgeois tries to bring people under control of the system in order to protect his way of life, or he does so simply because his attitudes are conventional. The crypto-leftist tries to bring people under control of the system because he is a True Believer in a collectivist ideology. The crypto-leftist is differentiated from the average leftist of the oversocialized type by the fact that his rebellious impulse is weaker and he is more securely socialized. He is differentiated from the ordinary well-socialized bourgeois by the fact that there is some deep lack within him that makes it necessary for him to devote himself to a cause and immerse himself in a collectivity. And maybe his (well-sublimated) drive for power is stronger than that of the average bourgeois.

Final note

231.
Throughout this article we’ve made imprecise statements and statements that ought to have had all sorts of qualifications and reservations attached to them; and some of our statements may be flatly false. Lack of sufficient information and the need for brevity made it impossible for us to formulate our assertions more precisely or add all the necessary qualifications. And of course in a discussion of this kind one must rely heavily on intuitive judgment, and that can sometimes be wrong. So we don’t claim that this article expresses more than a crude approximation to the truth.

232.
All the same we are reasonably confident that the general outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct. We have portrayed leftism in its modern form as a phenomenon peculiar to our time and as a symptom of the disruption of the power process. But we might possibly be wrong about this. Oversocialized types who try to satisfy their drive for power by imposing their morality on everyone have certainly been around for a long time. But we think that the decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. Identification with victims by people not themselves victims can be seen to some extent in 19th century leftism and early Christianity but as far as we can make out, symptoms of low self-esteem, etc., were not nearly so evident in these movements, or in any other movements, as they are in modern leftism. But we are not in a position to assert confidently that no such movements have existed prior to modern leftism. This is a significant question to which historians ought to give their attention.

Notes

1. We are not asserting that all, or even most, bullies and ruthless competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.

2. During the Victorian period many oversocialized people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression.

3. Not necessarily including specialists in engineering “hard” sciences.

4. There are many individuals of the middle and upper classes who resist some of these values, but usually their resistance is more or less covert. Such resistance appears in the mass media only to a very limited extent. The main thrust of propaganda in our society is in favor of the stated values.

The main reasons why these values have become, so to speak, the official values of our society is that they are useful to the industrial system. Violence is discouraged because it disrupts the functioning of the system. Racism is discouraged because ethnic conflicts also disrupt the system, and discrimination wastes the talent of minority-group members who could be useful to the system. Poverty must be “cured” because the underclass causes problems for the system and contact with the underclass lowers the morale of the other classes. Women are encouraged to have careers because their talents are useful to the system and, more importantly, because by having regular jobs women become better integrated into the system and tied directly to it rather than to their families. This helps to weaken family solidarity. (The leaders of the system say they want to strengthen the family, but they really mean is that they want the family to serve as an effective tool for socializing children in accord with the needs of the system. We argue in paragraphs 51,52 that the system cannot afford to let the family or other small-scale social groups be strong or autonomous.)

5. It may be argued that the majority of people don’t want to make their own decisions but want leaders to do their thinking for them. There is an element of truth in this. People like to make their own decisions in small matters, but making decisions on difficult, fundamental questions requires facing up to psychological conflict, and most people hate psychological conflict. Hence they tend to lean on others in making difficult decisions. The majority of people are natural followers, not leaders, but they like to have direct personal access to their leaders and participate to some extent in making difficult decisions. At least to that degree they need autonomy.

6. Some of the symptoms listed are similar to those shown by caged animals. To explain how these symptoms arise from deprivation with respect to the power process: Common-sense understanding of human nature tells one that lack of goals whose attainment requires effort leads to boredom and that boredom, long continued, often leads eventually to depression. Failure to obtain goals leads to frustration and lowering of self-esteem. Frustration leads to anger, anger to aggression, often in the form of spouse or child abuse. It has been shown that long-continued frustration commonly leads to depression and that depression tends to cause guilt, sleep disorders, eating disorders and bad feelings about oneself. Those who are tending toward depression seek pleasure as an antidote; hence insatiable hedonism and excessive sex, with perversions as a means of getting new kicks. Boredom too tends to cause excessive pleasure-seeking since, lacking other goals, people often use pleasure as a goal. See accompanying diagram. The foregoing is a simplification. Reality is more complex, and of course deprivation with respect to the power process is not the only cause of the symptoms described. By the way, when we mention depression we do not necessarily mean depression that is severe enough to be treated by a psychiatrist. Often only mild forms of depression are involved. And when we speak of goals we do not necessarily mean long-term, thought out goals. For many or most people through much of human history, the goals of a hand-to-mouth existence (merely providing oneself and one’s family with food from day to day) have been quite sufficient.

7. A partial exception may be made for a few passive, inward looking groups, such as the Amish, which have little effect on the wider society. Apart from these, some genuine small-scale communities do exist in America today. For instance, youth gangs and “cults.” Everyone regards them as dangerous, and so they are, because the members of these groups are loyal primarily to one another rather than to the system, hence the system cannot control them. Or take the gypsies. The gypsies commonly get away with theft and fraud because their loyalties are such that they can always get other gypsies to give testimony that “proves” their innocence. Obviously the system would be in serious trouble if too many people belonged to such groups. Some of the early-20th century Chinese thinkers who were concerned with modernizing China recognized the necessity of breaking down small-scale social groups such as the family: “(According to Sun Yat-sen) The Chinese people needed a new surge of patriotism, which would lead to a transfer of loyalty from the family to the state. . .(According to Li Huang) traditional attachments, particularly to the family had to be abandoned if nationalism were to develop to China.” (Chester C. Tan, Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,” page 125, page 297.)

8. Yes, we know that 19th century America had its problems, and serious ones, but for the sake of brevity we have to express ourselves in simplified terms.

9. We leave aside the underclass. We are speaking of the mainstream.

10. Some social scientists, educators, “mental health” professionals and the like are doing their best to push the social drives into group 1 by trying to see to it that everyone has a satisfactory social life.

11. Is the drive for endless material acquisition really an artificial creation of the advertising and marketing industry? Certainly there is no innate human drive for material acquisition. There have been many cultures in which people have desired little material wealth beyond what was necessary to satisfy their basic physical needs (Australian aborigines, traditional Mexican peasant culture, some African cultures). On the other hand there have also been many pre-industrial cultures in which material acquisition has played an important role. So we can’t claim that today’s acquisition-oriented culture is exclusively a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. But it is clear that the advertising and marketing industry has had an important part in creating that culture. The big corporations that spend millions on advertising wouldn’t be spending that kind of money without solid proof that they were getting it back in increased sales. One member of FC met a sales manager a couple of years ago who was frank enough to tell him, “Our job is to make people buy things they don’t want and don’t need.” He then described how an untrained novice could present people with the facts about a product, and make no sales at all, while a trained and experienced professional salesman would make lots of sales to the same people. This shows that people are manipulated into buying things they don’t really want.

12. The problem of purposelessness seems to have become less serious during the last 15 years or so, because people now feel less secure physically and economically than they did earlier, and the need for security provides them with a goal. But purposelessness has been replaced by frustration over the difficulty of attaining security. We emphasize the problem of purposelessness because the liberals and leftists would wish to solve our social problems by having society guarantee everyone’s security; but if that could be done it would only bring back the problem of purposelessness. The real issue is not whether society provides well or poorly for people’s security; the trouble is that people are dependent on the system for their security rather than having it in their own hands. This, by the way, is part of the reason why some people get worked up about the right to bear arms; possession of a gun puts that aspect of their security in their own hands.

13. Conservatives’ efforts to decrease the amount of government regulation are of little benefit to the average man. For one thing, only a fraction of the regulations can be eliminated because most regulations are necessary. For another thing, most of the deregulation affects business rather than the average individual, so that its main effect is to take power from the government and give it to private corporations. What this means for the average man is that government interference in his life is replaced by interference from big corporations, which may be permitted, for example, to dump more chemicals that get into his water supply and give him cancer. The conservatives are just taking the average man for a sucker, exploiting his resentment of Big Government to promote the power of Big Business.

14. When someone approves of the purpose for which propaganda is being used in a given case, he generally calls it “education” or applies to it some similar euphemism. But propaganda is propaganda regardless of the purpose for which it is used.

15. We are not expressing approval or disapproval of the Panama invasion. We only use it to illustrate a point.

16. When the American colonies were under British rule there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in this country. We quote from Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, pages 476-478:

“The progressive heightening of standards of property, and with it the increasing reliance on official law enforcement (in 19th century America). . .were common to the whole society. . .[T]he change in social behavior is so long term and so widespread as to suggest a connection with the most fundamental of contemporary social processes; that of industrial urbanization itself. . .

“Massachusetts in 1835 had a population of some 660,940, 81 percent rural, overwhelmingly preindustrial and native born. Its citizens were used to considerable personal freedom. Whether teamsters, farmers or artisans, they were all accustomed to setting their own schedules, and the nature of their work made them physically dependent on each other. . .Individual problems, sins or even crimes, were not generally cause for wider social concern. . .

“But the impact of the twin movements to the city and to the factory, both just gathering force in 1835, had a progressive effect on personal behavior throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. The factory demanded regularity of behavior, a life governed by obedience to the rhythms of clock and calendar, the demands of foreman and supervisor. In the city or town, the needs of living in closely packed neighborhoods inhibited many actions previously unobjectionable. Both blue- and white-collar employees in larger establishments were mutually dependent on their fellows. As one man’s work fit into another’s, so one man’s business was no longer his own.

“The results of the new organization of life and work were apparent by 1900, when some 76 percent of the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were classified as urbanites. Much violent or irregular behavior which had been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer acceptable in the more formalized, cooperative atmosphere of the later period. . .The move to the cities had, in short, produced a more tractable, more socialized, more ‘civilized’ generation than its predecessors.”

—Roger Lane, Violence in America

[If copyright problems make it impossible for this long quotation to be printed, then please change Note 16 to read as follows:

16. When the American colonies were under British rule there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in this country. In “Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives,” edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, it is explained how in pre-industrial America the average person had greater independence and autonomy than he does today, and how the process of industrialization necessarily led to the restriction of personal freedom.]

17. Apologists for the system are fond of citing cases in which elections have been decided by one or two votes, but such cases are rare.

18.

“Today, in technologically advanced lands, men live very similar lives in spite of geographical, religious and political differences. The daily lives of a Christian bank clerk in Chicago, a Buddhist bank clerk in Tokyo, a Communist bank clerk in Moscow are far more alike than the life any one of them is like that of any single man who lived a thousand years ago. These similarities are the result of a common technology. . .”

—L. Sprague de Camp, The Ancient Engineers, Ballentine edition, page 17.

The lives of the three bank clerks are not identical. Ideology does have some effect. But all technological societies, in order to survive, must evolve along approximately the same trajectory.

19. Just think—an irresponsible genetic engineer might create a lot of terrorists.

20. For a further example of undesirable consequences of medical progress, suppose a reliable cure for cancer is discovered. Even if the treatment is too expensive to be available to any but the elite, it will greatly reduce their incentive to stop the escape of carcinogens into the environment.

21. Since many people may find paradoxical the notion that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we will illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B. Mr. C, a Grand Master, is looking over Mr. A’s shoulder. Mr. A of course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C tells Mr. A how to make all of his moves. In each particular instance he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making all of his moves for him he spoils the game, since there is no point in Mr. A’s playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves.

The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system makes an individual’s life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate.

22. Here we are considering only the conflict of values within the mainstream. For the sake of simplicity we leave out of the picture “outsider” values like the idea that wild nature is more important than human economic welfare.

23. Self-interest is not necessarily material self-interest. It can consist in fulfillment of some psychological need, for example, by promoting one’s own ideology or religion.

24. A qualification: It is in the interest of the system to permit a certain prescribed degree of freedom in some areas. For example, economic freedom (with suitable limitations and restraints) has proved effective in promoting economic growth. But only planned, circumscribed, limited freedom is in the interest of the system. The individual must always be kept on a leash, even if the leash is sometimes long (see paragraphs 94, 97).

25. We don’t mean to suggest that the efficiency or the potential for survival of a society has always been inversely proportional to the amount of pressure or discomfort to which the society subjects people. That is certainly not the case. There is good reason to believe that many primitive societies subjected people to less pressure than the European society did, but European society proved far more efficient than any primitive society and always won out in conflicts with such societies because of the advantages conferred by technology.

26. If you think that more effective law enforcement is unequivocally good because it suppresses crime, then remember that crime as defined by the system is not necessarily what you would call crime. Today, smoking marijuana is a “crime,” and in some places in the U.S., possession of any firearm, registered or not, may be made a crime; the same thing may happen with disapproved methods of child-rearing, such as spanking. In some countries, expression of dissident political opinions is a crime, and there is no certainty that this will never happen in the U.S., since no constitution or political system lasts forever. If a society needs a large, powerful law enforcement establishment, then there is something gravely wrong with that society; it must be subjecting people to severe pressures if so many refuse to follow the rules, or follow them only because forced. Many societies in the past have gotten by with little or no formal law-enforcement.

27. To be sure, past societies have had means of influencing behavior, but these have been primitive and of low effectiveness compared with the technological means that are now being developed.

28. However, some psychologists have publicly expressed opinions indicating their contempt for human freedom. And the mathematician Claude Shannon was quoted in Omni (August 1987) as saying, “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.”

29. This is no science fiction! After writing paragraph 154 we came across an article in Scientific American according to which scientists are actively developing techniques for identifying possible future criminals and for treating them by a combination of biological and psychological means. Some scientists advocate compulsory application of the treatment, which may be available in the near future. (See “Seeking the Criminal Element”, by W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American, March 1995.) Maybe you think this is OK because the treatment would be applied to those who might become drunk drivers (they endanger human life too), then perhaps to people who spank their children, then to environmentalists who sabotage logging equipment, eventually to anyone whose behavior is inconvenient for the system.

30. A further advantage of nature as a counter-ideal to technology is that, in many people, nature inspires the kind of reverence that is associated with religion, so that nature could perhaps be idealized on a religious basis. It is true that in many societies religion has served as a support and justification for the established order, but it is also true that religion has often provided a basis for rebellion. Thus it may be useful to introduce a religious element into the rebellion against technology, the more so because Western society today has no strong religious foundation.

Religion nowadays either is used as cheap and transparent support for narrow, short-sighted selfishness (some conservatives use it this way), or even is cynically exploited to make easy money (by many evangelists), or has degenerated into crude irrationalism (fundamentalist Protestant sects, “cults”), or is simply stagnant (Catholicism, main-line Protestantism). The nearest thing to a strong, widespread, dynamic religion that the West has seen in recent times has been the quasi-religion of leftism, but leftism today is fragmented and has no clear, unified inspiring goal.

Thus there is a religious vacuum in our society that could perhaps be filled by a religion focused on nature in opposition to technology. But it would be a mistake to try to concoct artificially a religion to fill this role. Such an invented religion would probably be a failure. Take the “Gaia” religion for example. Do its adherents really believe in it or are they just play-acting? If they are just play-acting their religion will be a flop in the end.

It is probably best not to try to introduce religion into the conflict of nature vs. technology unless you really believe in that religion yourself and find that it arouses a deep, strong, genuine response in many other people.

31. Assuming that such a final push occurs. Conceivably the industrial system might be eliminated in a somewhat gradual or piecemeal fashion (see paragraphs 4, 167 and Note 4).

32. It is even conceivable (remotely) that the revolution might consist only of a massive change of attitudes toward technology resulting in a relatively gradual and painless disintegration of the industrial system. But if this happens we’ll be very lucky. It’s far more probably that the transition to a nontechnological society will be very difficult and full of conflicts and disasters.

33. The economic and technological structure of a society are far more important than its political structure in determining the way the average man lives (see paragraphs 95, 119 and Notes 16, 18).

34. This statement refers to our particular brand of anarchism. A wide variety of social attitudes have been called “anarchist,” and it may be that many who consider themselves anarchists would not accept our statement of paragraph 215. It should be noted, by the way, that there is a nonviolent anarchist movement whose members probably would not accept FC as anarchist and certainly would not approve of FC’s violent methods.

35. Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but the hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for power.

36. It is important to understand that we mean someone who sympathizes with these movements as they exist today in our society. One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have equal rights is not necessarily a leftist. The feminist, gay rights, etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it exists today.

Provincial lament

When you go to school and vow to yourself and to your school mates what you’re going to do with your life, it’s in the context of the world you know. It’s the same within families, neighborhoods or home towns. Metropolitan center of the world

I’m feeling the pull of my father’s homeland, where life changes little and what you’re doing is charted against the traditional long standing roles. What does it matter to have accomplishments outside of that world? In the New World, lives are expended to naught, memories fade, families move on, lives spent are ephemeral. In the Old World, stone is laid upon stone. Stories can be told about those who moved away, but the relationships that matter are among those who stayed.

It seems to us natural that at each new stage of development a person sets new goals and ambitions, abandoning the previous. Yet we admire the person who sticks to their childhood dreams.

I remember thinking when I first started college that I’d like to come back to my alumni reunion with an exotic car and a nineteen year old blonde on each arm. I wasn’t thinking at the time they’d be daughters. How completely maturity can overtake us. But every so often I think about that goal. If I don’t make that return, to whom will my life have been accountable?

I have yet to go to any of my reunions and I am living a moderately successful life in an altogether other world. I live in the America’s New World, the world Out West. We have our natives here, as anywhere, and I sense that my roots, while earnest and yielding many friends, will take only to dust. Ultimately I will have been nomadic. I feel I’m offering only that to my children as well.

Is it possible to grow up in a world that you don’t outgrow? Can you raise a child within a world at large, such that their aspirations take in the world community right from the beginning? I’m thinking of a place with performing arts, literary circles, musicians, artists, schools, galleries, museums, social leaders, business innovators and global decision makers. Everything the provinces have not.

Otherwise I’m not certain that a life rooted in the Old World is any more valuable than that of a nomad, except for a more permanent headstone. But if you aspire to heights somewhere above materialism but below selfless transience, it’s looking to me like the provinces are nowhere to get a firm start.

Jarts

JartsDo you remember the good ol’ days when we were reckless and free? Unencumbered by good sense and family responsibilities? When we were able to get together with friends on a sunny day, have some hot wings and cold beer, and play a dangerous little game called Jarts? Yard darts, lawn darts, whatever you recall, were steel-tipped weighted mega-darts that one hurled gleefully into the air toward a yellow plastic circle across the yard. It was truly a “team” sport because everyone at the party had to pay close attention to the action to avoid being impaled in the temple. The wayward dart was most likely tossed by the belle de jour in a polka dot sundress (oh! how we laughed!)…the “new girl” once again brought by Ashton Chase, our friend with connections to Chase-Manhattan. Dammit, Ashton. Stop it. Think about us for a change.

We were the only people with a kid at the time…a preschool-aged boy. I know for a fact that one of his fondest childhood memories (oddly, he remembers this in slo-mo) is of 6 adults dropping full beers in unison and racing across the yard to body check him into a fence to save his life. Kind of a boozed up backyard version of Swan Lake. Without the tutus. Well, except for Ashton.

Sadly, they have made the game of Jarts ILLEGAL. I don’t know who “they” are. Whose job is it to troll back alleys, looking for young people having fun, and then steal our toys and jump up and down on them in black Gestapo boots while we hold our blankies and our beers and sob aloud at the spectacle? Yes, them. They took our darts and our plastic rings and left us with no way to amuse ourselves.

That’s when we starting smoking pot. Dang it! They’ve got us here too. Not only have they made our harmless little substance illegal, they’ve made pretty little glass sculptures with rubber hoses and small pieces of very thin paper off limits as well. What a bunch of fuddy duddies. Puh-lease. Let us have our fuuuuunnnnnn! We are functioning members of society, doctors and lawyers and brokers and developers and financial analysts, all of us. Now we can’t smoke pot and play jarts in the privacy of our own yards? Well, then we quit. We are all going to go on welfare and stop paying our mortgages and and mowing our useless lawns and wasting our time volunteering with the PTA.

Actually, I have a better idea. I was on eBay this morning trying to buy a set of illegal lawn darts and I noticed that, instead of the $14.99 I remember, a used (vintage) set of crappy darts is going for more than $200 (and are to be used for nostalgic display purposes only). And, pot. Well, we all know what a nice sticky bud of Wowie Maui is going for these days (okay, I’ve dated myself and revealed that I don’t actually smoke pot but I still like it conceptually). Perhaps we should walk away from the rat race and make our fortunes selling reasonably harmless illegal things! Yes! We could each play a role in the family business. I, the CPA, could count the beans and file the tax returns (oh, wait, tax free! ha!). Tad, the broker, could invest the profits and set up retirement accounts for each of us. Ashton, the banker, could fund our start up costs. Betsy, the attorney, could get us out of trouble and Dave and Tim, the doctors, could act as money launderers. Chris, the developer, could find us a place to grow our inventory. The only thing we need is a horticulturalist to help us with the hydroponics. Horticulturalists? Any takers? Why don’t we know any horticulturalists? Dang.

Come to think of it, I think we’ll start manufacturing and selling yard darts as well. At $200 a pop, it won’t take long until we we’re ready to retire en masse and move to gentler climes. Sipping mai tais, swimming with dolphins, playing limbo. Just like the good ol’ days.

I hope they outlaw beer pong as well. Bora Bora, here we come.

A condemnation of Yellow Journalism

Everybody recognizes Hearst CastleDoing some wiki research I learned not enough about yellow journalism.
 
You and I know about yellow journalism, the subject rose through the cracks of our otherwise expurgated American history texts. Yellow Journalism. Jingoist press rousing the rabble to war. Leading example, REMEMBER THE MAIN! rallying us to fight Spain and liberate her colonial possessions, Cuba and the Philippines. Chief villainous yellow barron, William Randolph Hearst.
 
We all know about Hearst and his newspaper empire. We know of Marion Davies, Xanadu -I mean San Simeon Castle, Fallen heiress Patty Hearst. We believe Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was about Hearst, and thus we have a vague notion that Hearst suffered a tragic fall. But did he?

What I was hoping to learn about yellow journalism wasn’t there. History records nothing about a reprimand. Hearst may have lost his childhood Rosebud, but not his media empire and blood-soaked gains. In fact the other chief Yellow miscreant was Joseph Pulitzer. His name is lionized because of the newspaper award that bears his name. A Pulitzer represent integrity in reporting. Isn’t that ironic? It’s akin to Alfred Nobel the father of modern explosives being remembered for peace. Nothing unusual really. Rockefeller and Carnegie are remembered for philanthropy.

Unfortunately we’ve got similarly omniscient barrons today who are blazing new onslaughts with their brazen yellow banners. Rupert Murdock and the xenophobes at Disney have taken Hearst and P.T. Barnum several adages further. Leave no sucker alone.

I’d like to propose that Congress at long last address the villainy of Yellow Journalism. Let our lawmakers consider a proclamation, nay condemnation, a posthumous censure of William Hearst for his unpatriotic, bilious fearmongering with the intent to provoke war.

Let’s propose that should anyone BE TRYING it again, let them face fines and civil liability the likes of which will bankrupt their empires. Let State Reservists sue them for lost resources, let class action suits represent survivors and victims.

War profiteers must be made to turn over their ill-gotten billions to the victims of their yellow-baited wars. The military-industrial complex is guilty, but so too is its mouthpiece the MSM.

Our city’s unlikely Republican roots

To quote the late Herbert Sommers, who wrote about his childhood in turn of the century Colorado Springs, about Teddy Roosevelt’s visit to the city on August 10, 1901. Roosevelt was then Vice President of the country and within less than a month would succeed William McKinley after his assassination.

Theodore Roosevelt’s visit was an enormous bally-hoo and preceded his famous hunt in which he spared what became his namesake teddy bear.

In the 1900 election the Republican party was not popular in Colorado Spings, but Sommers wrote about the aftermath of Rooselvelt’s momentous visit:

If you do not think that this event gave life and character to every boy in Colorado Springs, then you do not know boys. Every boy became a Republican and all became active readers of our daily paper, the Colorado Springs Gazette. The Evening Telegraph was also a Republican paper at that time and it, too, had an increase in reader support.