Populist movements don't build themselves ...

... It doesn't matter what the "horse race" outcome of the campaign is, if we fight the campaign. Fighting it, we learn how to fight. Learning how to fight political battles, we become citizens again. Becoming citizens again, we reclaim the Republic that lies dormant beneath the bread and circuses of modern American society.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Parable of the Cherry Muesli Bar (1996)

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Next American Revolution

Crossposted at: Docudharma

A little something to remind people that some of these subjects were being discussed before blogs came into existence ... recycled from the ecol-econ mailing list at Communications for a Sustainable Future (CSF), in Colorado, and, thanks to the wonders of the WWW, with pictures added.


Alan McGowan [Hi, Alan] writes:
... McClellan seems convinced that humans have opened a new chapter of evolution with technology, and he writes of technology as if it were as autopoietic as organic life. In fact all technology is dependent on humans to maintain it, and through humans, on the life support services of ecosystems. Technology is not a new form of postbiological life, it is part of the extended phenotype of human life, just as the beaver dam is part of the extended phenotype of beavers. It is part of biology -- a fragile part, every bit as dependent on the maintenance of biological integrity and healthy ecosystems as we humans are -- because technology is human behavior, human culture, human traits. ...

A computer is not a "technology". The ability to make a computer, and to program it to do something, is "technology". Techno Logos. Technique Words. Knowledge of Techniques. And so our technology is intrinsically social, since human capabilities are intrinsically social.

[Insert favorite wolf-boy story here]

We have to be careful of the difference between technology being under our control and imagining that technology is under our control. If the argument is that in the 18th and 19th centuries, technology was thought to be under human control, and now we can point to evidence that it is not, why assume that 'they' were right in the 18th and 19th centuries?

After all, the illusion that human societies in general -- and technology in particular, which is an important aspect of human society -- are under our control depends upon people's perception that the rules of behavior that they are accustomed to are the "natural" and/or "right" ways of doing things. So, perhaps it is the accelerating pace of technological change that dispels the illusion that we are in control of our societies. If so, this is something we have been on the road to for quite a long while, since technological change has been accelerating for the last 5 millenia at least.

People that imagine that they can stop all of our societies from destroying irreplacable, essential systems in our material environment by being just a little bit smarter, more cooperative, better, wiser (etc., etc., and so forth), are, in one dimension of the problem, entirely right, and in another dimension of the problem, wildly wrong.[1] Our technology is what we know how to do, and so they are right: stopping it is not "out there", but "in here", among us. Right technology is simply one facet of right action. But changing what we know how to do is one of the hardest things there is to do, and it never turns out the way we expect it to, so they are wrong (assuming, of course, that they exist at all[1]).

BTW: the only deep ecology dream I could dream at the spur of the moment was pretty shallow: I walked to the local store, and bought a cherry muesli bar. Cherries, after all, were in season. I went back to work on the university computer, and that's all, there is nothing else. To be specific: there was no garbage can in the office to throw the wrapper "away", no hint of the notion that there is an away to throw thing to, and, therefore no wrapper; therefore no wholesaler; therefore no delivery truck; therefore no big meusli bar factory; therefore no surprise that the person who made them dropped them off on their way to Uni. Etcetera, Etcetera, and so forth.


[1] And it's important to note that AFAIK these people have only
entered the discussion in the third person.

No comments: