It was anthropologist, Lionel Tiger, who posited the thesis that with the manufacturing process came the “manufacturing of evil” and he wrote a book under that title. If humans perceived that they could “make” things, in their insatiable pursuit of domination of the universe, including God and nature, then, of course the definition of evil could emerge from the same forges that produced those gazillion tonnes of steel and many other things. As opposed to “nature”, a previously held criterion for how we perceived evil, mostly as a measure of how humans are different from the savage world of raw nature, manufacturing was the new “idol” of the culture.
With the western demise of manufacturing, given the seismic shift off shore to many countries, especially China, and the even more monumental rise of digital technology under the umbrella of the corporate profit model, the new definition of evil has become the latest “mis-step” of those caught in the microscopic camera carried by everyone in the developed world.
How ironic, the phrase “developed world” when we actually ponder the regressive shift in civility, manners, and even ethics we are witnessing. With the advent of the micro-imaging accessible to all, and the cheap thrill that accompanies its possession and operation, and the insatiable appetite for the status that comes, unfortunately, with the ‘ownership’ and skill to operate the most advanced “anything”, our collective consciousness “manufactures”, or more contemporaneously, generates new ways to “prove” our worth, through the despicable and ubiquitous process of shaming the other.
Only now that the devices of shame are in the hands of all those who seek power, in a new world almost literally without rules or governance, (legislators and courts take time to catch up with the speed of technological change, if they really ever do) the positive, ethical, and even entrepreneurial advantages of the opportunities emerging in this new world are more than outweighed by the methods and motives of those determined to sabotage whomever they find to victimize.
Power, after all, really doesn’t care whom it pummels! It is interested only in the hunt, the chase and the kill!
And while we may have democratized the access to the 24-7-365 news cycle, we have also made everyone with the appropriate bent of mind into a kind of warlord, for some, and assassin for others.
Some are writing about the dangers of the military-industrial-intelligence conglomerate, from the perspective of the institutional dangers that behemoth poses. Here we are looking from the bottom up.
In a pubescent, or perhaps adolescent culture, dependent on the latest gossip, the most ‘hip’ music group, the most popular movie, the best-selling video game, the rise and fall of ‘stars’ in the sports and entertainment world, (not to mention the shadow this meme casts on the political actors), there is only ‘this’ moment, and ‘this’ text and ‘this’ opportunity to overcompensate for the feelings of powerlessness that shroud everyone during that pre-adult stage of human development. Along with the underpinning support of the nano-second digital crawl of the stock exchanges, and the traditional media’s fixation on profits and ratings (the Siamese twins of the communication monoliths) and the increasingly incestuous dependence of the media on the “establishment” and its views and rationale, especially cognizant of the dips and dives of ratings, now measured by the distance between human breaths, this infantile culture marches straight into a swamp of ignorance.
It neither knows nor cares to know the macro-impacts of the obsessions that seduce its consumers. Parents pander to their children, through the purchase of the latest devices, (thereby eliminating the irritation of actual conversations with their confused and anxious children) and educational institutions, frightened of the most trivial parental complaint, given the volume and spread of the parents’ capacity to shame an individual teacher, and naturally the “board” itself, succumb to the fear of public exposure and shame.
We have embedded our collective heads in the sand of denial of our complicity in the monstrous and sinister power struggle of the most infantile and most vulnerable among us. In human therapeutic studies, it is often noted that the family system or the organization or team is only as good as the weakest link. It is the neurotic who is in control simply by the impact of his/her insecurity.
And when the whole society is caught up in the wave of neuroses that engulfs every generation of adolescents, as if the technology and its new penetrations have provided a new menu of orgasms, we are watching a new potential battlefield on every screen. Shaming, bullying, threatening, and defaming.....these are among the new instruments of war....along with the traditional instruments of deceit, lying, camouflaging, and of course, overpowering dominance.
Now, while the optimists sing hymns of praise for the democratizing of power through the new technology, the motives of that power include not only the improvement of the lot of all humans, the cleansing of the atmosphere, the rehabilitation of our water supply, the reduction of poverty, starvation, disease, war and the spreading of opportunity to all, the new power is and will continually be used to threaten the existence of the other, especially when linked with a zeitgeist of scarcity that includes a paucity of education, a dearth of respect and a famine of hope.
Essentially, and we must start looking less through the rose coloured glass of optimism that can only be the possession of the have’s, and more through the darkened lens of the deprived and the depraved, and getting up onto the table of our “privileged” perception, the shared notion that only by working with those forces we find so heinous, and so despicable and so deprived and so deranged even, will we be able to forge those horizontal social contracts to which Thomas Friedman referred so optimistically in his recent lecture in Ottawa.
Friedman was the first in a series of ‘distinguished lectures’ sponsored and named after the University of Ottawa alumnus, Alex Trebek, perennial host of Jeopardy, the thinking person’s television challenge. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, assigned to cover geopolitics, technology and globalization, posits, as he did yesterday as guest on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, that we are living in a post-colonial, post-authoritarian, and post military world, especially in the Middle East, in which the people will have to forge horizontal, not pyramidal, social contracts to enable themselves to live in some form of political harmony and stability.
What Friedman did not discuss, in his lecture, but possibly will in his forthcoming book, is the penchant for power, embodied in the Pentagon, and replicated in the business and economic models of corporations, and increasingly governments and their acolytes, and more recently in the duplicitous and dangerous activities of the radical Islamic terrorist movement....and their use of the latest technology in their pursuit of ultimate caliphate political power.
The new technology, like the former industrial model, issues from a dominant and dominating culture, the United States, and essentially ‘colonizes’ the world population, whose predictable addiction to its ownership and mastery replicated most other colonial ‘victims’ in history who attempted to emulate the thinking, the practices and the cultures of their masters. Ina literal sense, perhaps, only, are we not living in a post-colonial world.
Certainly not in a technological sense.
And clearly, technology, the instruments of which are developing so quickly and so penetratingly, both serves and sabotages our very existence.
It is its capacity to sabotage that we must pay more attention to, and in a cacophony of corporate drum beats championing the service, we risk a total subordination, and submission to the new idol.