Shallow Century, Deep Trouble

John Waters

Ground-level study of public sculpture, Cloud Gate (‘The Bean’),
Millennium Park, Chicago, created by computer technology and
using 168 stainless steel plates, welded together into a multi-
directional bean-shaped mirror. (© Pinterest)

In discussing current technological drifts, it may be vital to remind ourselves that we survey not the fruits of recent breakthroughs but the cashing in of 20th century innovation.

There was a moment close to the beginning when the then emerging ‘millennial’ generation seemed like it might bring a waft of freshness. These early indications suggested the young were beginning to question and spurn the destructive ‘freedom’ ideologies of the 1960s and carve a new path of their own, drawing on the residual wisdoms of the ages and striking out in a new direction.

Alas, it has come to nothing. Anyone who witnessed or saw images from Dublin Castle on May 26th, 2018, as the young people of Ireland celebrated the arrival of legal abortion with raised glasses and cans, hoots of delight and crazed posturing for the selfie cameras, can be in no doubt about that. The present generation of Irish youth is the most educated young generation in the history of Ireland, and at the same time is the most stupid, probably because of undergoing that false but plausible form of education that involves, rather, ideological indoctrination in what is called ‘rational materialism’ or, more commonly, ‘secularism’. Certainly, being ambushed by the most deranged of Sixties refugees, they were not educated to live lives connected to fundamental understandings of reality; indeed they were ‘educated’ to treat such understandings with contempt.

As a result, the generation that ought now be preparing to take upon its shoulders the burdens of leadership, is easily the most spoiled, the most pampered young generation in the history of Ireland — incapable of seeing through the propaganda they have been fed, mouthing the Woke cliches adapted for their consumption from entirely dissimilar times and places, fixated on the trinkets and baubles of tech consumption, feeling empathy for ‘the planet’ but not for its human quotient — yet withal convinced, almost to a (wo)man, that the key takeaway from their formative years is that they have been oppressed by traditionalists and grey-bearded patriarchs, when in truth they have been isolated from all such sources of understanding so as to preserve them in ignorance.

These people, though blessed with youth, don't care about the future of Ireland, they care only for the material quality of their individual lives; they care nothing for the institutions or conventions — the Proclamation, the Constitution, the contracts negotiated in the blood of their forefathers so that their freedoms might be guaranteed — or about the nature and character and loyalties of those who nowadays lead them when their parents have been cowed into silence or are no longer around. They have failed to grasp that the natural order intended that, one day very soon, they would understand that they were required to take over at the wheel; and now, with all almost lost, they stridently lay claim to places at the table of power, knowing almost nothing of what they wish to do except what they recall from their prior indoctrination. Evincing a kneejerk — again, instilled — opposition to the dreaded capitalist ‘system’, they rush, against the tide of recent history, into the arms of Mr Marx, notwithstanding the fact that this now places them alongside the richest, most powerful and most dubious interests in the world, and in reality contributing not merely to the destruction of capitalism but to its replacement by something that, while not being in the least socialist, is infinitely worse than both. The truth is that, while they can go on living according to any whim of imported inspiration, they don't give a toss about Ireland's future, freedoms or government, or indeed those of the wider world. They don’t care how it’s done, what its cost has been — in blood, among other spilled things. Had they done so, they would not have remained silent for the past 20 months — aside from releasing the occasional snort of derision towards those who sought to warn them that something was seriously awry — while their freedoms and futures were shredded before their eyes.

Our cultures, far from becoming more ‘progressive; are in a state of escalating regression, now entering its terminal phase. Sometime in the past two decades, there has been an unnoticed moment of rupture in Western culture which has fragmented everything and turned everything either inside out or upside down, creating the impression that the works and struggles of the past were in the nature of some kind of recreational superfluity, the kinds of things that history is studded with for no good reason. Even those residual rumps of shrewd Irish people — and perhaps of peoples everywhere — have the idea that their country has simply gone crazy. Surveying the wreckage accumulating around us, one could scarcely argue with such a diagnosis.

Far from the open-minded republic of recent mythologising, Ireland is a post-colonial island that has yet to comprehend the nature and meaning of its history, still less to observe how various inherited complexes and pathologies play out in the present. The recently-descended — now almost total — dependence on ideologically motivated multinational operators like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, together with an unfit-for-purpose media, have made Ireland a soft touch for the bootboys of radical agenda-setting, the ‘trophy country’ of Cultural Marxism in its push for global dominance. Ireland’s smallness, economic incoherence, and amenability to manipulation, as well as its historical status as a deeply Christian society, make it the perfect specimen on which the ideologues of the new totalitarianism can test their strategies and demonstrate their prowess. In particular, Ireland’s inspiring historical résumé of Christian thought and evangelism make it an enviable scalp for the gender and multicultural puppet-masters.

Unlike Britain and the US, Ireland has never had a culture of genuine conservatism, underpinned by understandings of optimum social benefit and human limits, and has accordingly had no coherent defences against what has been happening to it. The great titan of Western conservatism, Edmund Burke, is less read in his native country than even his literary cousins, Joyce and Beckett. What has sometimes been mistaken for conservatism is a rigid quasi-religious moralism that developed under circumstances of intense necessity: the idea of God as absolute policeman perched on the horizon, balefully observing everything. When this evaporated in the white heat of post-modernity, it left behind a vacuum. Secularisation in Ireland is more accurately seen as post-Catholic neurosis, now mutated into a kind of ‘Never Catholic’ bravado that expresses itself in a pre-pubescent rebelliousness, knowing no age-barrier. Indeed, the real issue is not so much secularisation, a concept that confuses more than it clarifies, but what I call de-absolutisation, the erosion of the human consciousness of absolute, eternal and infinite self-understandings, and the eradication from culture of elements designed to feed human needs for things other than baubles, analgesics, diversions and sensations. Irish society now feels like an out-of-control party kept in check only by the diminishing fear that the adults are asleep upstairs and might arrive down any moment to call a halt to the madness. But there are no longer any adults because Ireland has arrived at something resembling Alexander Mitscherlich’s dystopian vision of the future generations of half-adults pummelling the chests of their fathers and calling them fascists.

And — of course — the chaos is by no means confined to Ireland — though in Ireland, I would insist, it is more extreme than elsewhere. The point is not to see this chaos as a random, collectivised insanity: there are specific, localised reasons for it, though it has a growing pattern everywhere. Ireland undoubtedly has gone crazy, but as a way of dealing with some deeper incoherence that, being incapable of resolution in present circumstances, lends itself to chaos. This craziness, in short, is not a definition of the problem, but a late symptom of a deeper pathology, which has erupted in full-blown form in the Time of Covid.

Many of the symptoms are to be seen everywhere now. The most ‘educated’ generations ever are perhaps the most ignorant; the more communications we have, the less we are permitted to say. The rush from seriousness has insinuated a layer of irony into everything, infecting public thought and conversation with a deadly lassitude. The fear of silence has accorded equal value to all words, reducing all statements to the same level of meaninglessness. Yet, virtually everyone remains silent about the most important things — silent as their countries are colonised, re-colonised, by stealth; silent as their freedoms are carted away to the breaker’s yard. Somehow, we seem to glean a deranged kind of comfort from the fact that everyone, everywhere, is in the same boat, though of course by any reasonable assessment this ought to terrify us all the more. Throughout the Western world, the situation is more or less the same — youth succumbed to ideology and propaganda, fixated on sex and technology, devoid of transcendent understandings and intent upon tearing down the cultural icons of Western civilisation and other inheritances from the past. And now, strapped into their snotrags, they cast baleful glances at those who decline to believe the lies of the smirking cynics who rule without leading. In this crypto-culture, Western civilisation is being stripped of its coherence and all the belief systems of the past are made to seem delusional. The result has all the outward appearances of a mass cultural suicide. Chaos reigns, but a chaos cunningly contrived and strategically ordered to lead us to the future that has been in preparation for far longer than the length of our lives to date.

Far from representing some great hope for renewal, our young people are lost and — worse — no longer searching — numbed and dumbed, distracted by chipped trinkets, as infected by the falsest ideas of freedom as any flower-power hippie from the 1960s, and yet lacking the redeeming characteristics of idealism that caused the values of that decade to survive despite their intrinsic incoherence. Of course, in retrospect, it was inevitable: victims of utterly inadequate education; brainwashed by popular culture and media; at the mercy of filter bubbles; pampered like no generation before; infatuated by celebrity and a sense of commensurate entitlement; stripped of the capacity to empathise and refitted with faux-compassion designed for virtue signalling and moralistic posturing; preoccupied by personal identity above all else — is this the most misinformed, misfortunate generation of human beings ever? For sure, these are the denizens of Huxley’s Brave New World, where control is exerted by commandeering the passions, appetites and instincts, thus enslaving the human person more effectively than with whips and chains — at first slowly, by hi-jacking his own cravings, and afterwards, the rainbow manacles in place, very rapidly indeed.

At the same time, our cultures shift towards an even greater emphasis on youth-above-all. Where, not long ago, youth was, if anything, undervalued and ignored, now it is feted above everyone, the demands of the young danced to by politicians who treat with contempt — and latterly a terminal contempt — those who have already paid their dues in years of service to the common good. The alleged leaders of society construct policies designed to appeal to the whims and emotions of the young, the dumb following the blind. The political system has discovered the perfect way of ruling: harnessing the stupidity of the young to achieve objectives that wiser heads would seek to restrain. The signalled next move is to lower the age of voting to 16 yrs, in order to dilute further the influence of older voters, who under the curse of remembering may seek to hold up the brakeless juggernaut of progress.

The old are deemed too uncool, too religiose, too indifferent to the demands, desires and needs of the young. The truth is that they — or some of them — are merely continuing to use their heads, seeking to remember why certain things were done in certain ways, to look at things over the long run, to remain human and balanced in their responses. Their long memories and relatively intact human structures prevent them from being manipulated by propaganda: they know the value of the nation and cultural integrity; they understand the centrality of the family and its necessity for protection; they feel the unmatched vulnerability of the unborn child and her hungering for life. They refuse to succumb to euphemisms that turn death into ‘care’ and chaos into ‘equality’, and so have their characters smeared with catchwords and their faint cries for sanity drowned out by slogans.

One of the reasons for all this has to do with a belief that we live in the most enlightened age of all time, and therefore ought not be hidebound by the assumptions of the past. And part of the basis of this is the ubiquity of technologies, which in the hands of young people suggest to them that the ages of human dependency on some higher power, and the self-regarding of integrated cultures, and the insinuated laws and limits of nature, have been banished for ever. The phone in the hand trumps every thought that is more than a few days old, providing the bearer wih the outward appearance of knowledge and capability while in reality already nudging its way into his mind and soul. Meanwhile, much of what they have been told is their inheritance of culture strikes the young as so much superstition and obscurantism. They know not why things are as they have been because they know not how anything is actually constructed or achieved. The quaint ways of their elders strike them as ridiculous. They enter the rainbow-striped Big Top of culture and say, ‘Wow! What an awesome tent! But let’s get rid of that big pole in the middle — whoever thought that would be cool?’ The chainsaw is passed, the engine booted up.

If you look objectively at the state of the young, you would be forced to conclude that, as an entity, they are in a state of rapid retreat from any viable concept of reason, but this impression seems at first sight implausible because the only way of measuring its reliability is by comparison with the advance of technology, which itself appears to be a function of increasing human intelligence. It is easy to overlook that what we observe in the escalation of a technological society is actually a replacement strategy in respect of the human intelligence, and, moreover, — rather than being a collective achievement of the species — represents the fruit of the intelligence of a few men, operating separately but in a kind of communion, each one working on a small part that he understands intimately but not necessarily in its role in the bigger picture. Even those driving these processes are not immune from their more worrying potentialities.

And all this tech talk is in a precise sense misleading. In reality, believe it or not, even while we finally get around to talking publicly about the algorithm, the technological singularity, and the allegedly approaching transhumanist/posthumanist revolution, the world is currently going through a slump in scientific expansion. The visible evidence of our allegedly advanced condition — laptops, smartphones, reproductive technologies, life-expectancy and medications — is largely the outcome of gains made a long time ago. Much of the controlled small talk about artificial intelligence, cloning, stem-cell therapy, avatars, teleporting and so forth, is either ambiguous in terms of its implications or ominously hinting to those with ears to hear that what we are observing is an underdeveloped and mutually incoherent set of ideas that may yet deliver the planet and the human species to unprecedented grief.

In truth, most of the ‘progress’ we now attribute to ourselves was achieved between the end of World War II and the end of the 1960s. This was the period in which the computer was brought from an unwieldy colossus to a pocket-sized conch. Almost all the developments we trade off now, whether in electronics, politics, popular culture or medicine, have been with us for a long time.

In his 2011 book The Great Stagnation— How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, Tyler Cowen describes an America streaking ahead up to the end of the nineteenth century (free land and a host of technological breakthroughs like electricity, motor cars, air travel, railroads, harvesters, fertilisers, phonographs, telephones, household appliances, typewriters, tape-recorders, television and indoor plumbing) and then starting to slow down. ‘Today,’ he declares, ‘apart from the seemingly magical Internet, life in broad material terms isn’t so different from what it was in 1953. We still drive care, use refrigerators and turn on the light switch.’

It’s true. When I was a schoolboy, we would get asked to write essays from time to time with the title, ‘Life in 2000 AD’, in which we would invent fantastic scenarios in which we, or our descendants, would swish around in hovercraft, live on food pills and spend our holidays on Mars. Yet, apart from the strange devices we hold up to our ears, anyone who died around 1960 would not, on returning for a (very!) brief haunting visit, find our modern homes or streetscapes all that puzzling. Our cars may be faster but they still operate on fossil fuels; flying times are pretty much the same as they were in the 1960s; there is no cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s; life expectancy is slightly improved but most of that comes from better lifestyle choices, and anyway merely means that, for most of us, the period of decline towards the end will be extended in a fashion most likely disproportionate to our mobility and capacities. The gains made in recent years have been in adapting technologies invented half a century ago to the purposes of cosseting, distracting or numbing human beings. As Tyler Cowen puts is, ‘You don’t have a jet pack. You won’t live forever or visit a Mars colony. Life is better and we have more stuff, but the pace of change has slowed down compared to what people saw two or three generations ago.’ And, by the way, we can now add as a third-decade-of-the-third-millennium coda: We no longer believe in, or fight for, the freedoms that made all this possible in the first place.

Heart transplants and the 1969 Moon landing provide emblems of the overall situation. The names of the great adventurers, like Neil Armstrong and Christian Bernard, belong to the childhoods of people now approaching old age. But it’s been over four decades since anyone walked on the Moon. Rather than the beginning of a new age, the strolling and bouncing of Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon’s surface (‘conspiracy theories’ aside!) was the culmination of strides taken some time before — a small step for man before he sat himself down for a long rest. From the 1960s onwards, it was as if the West decided to cash in all its previous gains, turning them into tradable commodities and making them available at the level at which they were easiest to convert into profits. In large part, the impression we have that this is the most ‘progressive’ period in human history is because the main context of this conversion process is in communications and information technology, the proprietors and operators of which spend a lot of their energies trying to convince us that what we are seeing is true progress rather than its adaption to the purposes of play. As the American technologist Peter Thiel said, ‘We wanted flying cars, we got 140 characters.’

The effects of this technological ‘revolution’ are nowhere near being understood at a cultural level. Nicholas Carr’s groundbreaking 2010 book The Shallows outlines in stark detail the scale of the catastrophe facing humanity as a result of the uneducated way we have come to use the Internet and the screens we use to access it. Carr’s thesis is that the Internet is changing how we read, and therefore how we think, feel and remember. He takes us through the workings of the human brain and then departs on a tour of the written word in human culture. He outlines how the distraction-ethos of the world wide web may be rendering impossible the process of ‘deep reading’ by which the unfathomable sensibility of man has been nurtured since the invention of the printing press. These tendencies have already started to short-circuit the processes whereby reading from paper has functioned to fill our memory banks with profound understandings and complex connections that once enabled us to empathise with others and understand their experiences as though intuitively. Instead, we are being taught to memorise and think mechanistically, to shift rapidly from one thing to another, to regard the Internet as an external memory bank. This, says Carr, is reducing us to ‘pancake people’, flattened out versions of our ancestors, whom, on account of our apparent technological advancement, we regard with condescension. Unless we begin to understand our new condition and deal with it, he warns, we may yet find that the period in which human understanding was defined and informed by deep, solitary and uninterrupted book-reading will have been an aberration of human culture.

Simultaneously, the resources of the world are increasingly converging in the hands of a tiny elite of ‘entrepreneurs’ who, because of the nature of the sectors they control, are well on the way to total domination of the choices, thoughts, hearts and minds of the human species. Moreover, these elites, aside from being philosophically and culturally illiterate, are in large part technological and scientific philistines: What care they for human progress when wealth can more easily be generated by playing the roulette tables of the world’s financial markets? Instead of building a new world, they lust to control the one that is passing under the attrition of their plundering. Inbuilt obsolescence rather than ceaseless innovation is the principle that guarantees an expanding profit margin. Growth is the chief arbiter of public good, and our cultures appear oblivious to the critical difference between true progress and market-driven expansion in a world where ‘markets’ ae not what they were.

It isn’t just that half of the world’s wealth is in the hands of one per cent of its human inhabitants, but that the engine of this process is driven by an anti-ethic comprising, in equal measure, indifference, insensitivity and self interest. By placing our faith and trust in the corporate sector to build on the success of the past, we have handed the ladder of progress over to people who are intent on pulling it up after themselves. Worse, when they offered us the baubles of a ‘free at the point of access’ global communications tool, we gave them a free pass to build it and use it as they pleased, until one day we opened our bleary eyes to find the walls closing in around us.

Political correctness is another factor in the destruction of freedom properly understood. Universities used to be hotbeds of dissent and rebellion, but today’s youth is more interested in the policing of language and stifling all forms of debate that challenge its instilled orthodoxies. Fifty years ago a burgeoning counter-cultural media made dissent its hallmark, now social media serves to censor and punish those who dissent, enforcing a climate in which only groupthink and virtue-signalling can flourish.

This moment might be described in something like the following way. Two parallel lines, one human, the other the technological projections of human intelligence, have for millennia been advancing more or less in step. In the aftermath of the 1960s freedom-weaving, however, whereas the trajectory of technological roll-out into the public realm had started to speed up, that of human evolution has not merely slowed down but shows every sign of having gone into reverse. By uploading more and more of our skills to the technological fruits of the ingenuity of our grandparents’ most brilliant contemporaries, we have reduced ourselves to husks of the potential they bequeathed us. By allowing these technologies to distract and hypnotise us, we have contrived to fall under a spell cast and controlled by an invisible elite.

There are increasing signs that the human race as a whole is becoming more stupid, and at a speed that is little short of shocking. According to a cover story, ‘Brain Drain: Are we evolving stupidity?’, in the New Scientist in August 2014, reports that the gains measured in the growth of human intelligence between the 1930s and the millennium —attributed to better nutrition, universal education and improved living conditions — showed noticeable signs of waning. Research in the UK, Denmark and Australia has indicated that the average intelligence may have reduced by close to ten per cent since the mid-Noughties. In a 2013 study, Jan te Nijenhuis, a psychology professor at the University of Amsterdam, asserted that Westerners had lost an average of 14 IQ points since the Victorian era, which he believes is due to intelligent females having fewer children than the other kind, which means that more and more children are being raised in conditions conducive to stupidity.

There is a school of thought that the present dip is merely the continuation of a long-term decline. In November 2012, Gerald Crabtree of the Stanford University School of Medicine published two papers in the journal Trends in Genetics in which he outlined evidence based on genetics that humanity's intelligence actually peaked between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago. Estimating that between 2,000 and 5,000 genes control human intelligence, he calculated that, sometime in the past 3,000 years, humanity experienced two major mutations which have adversely affected human intelligence, and predicted that further mutations will continue the downward trend. Crabtree pointed out that intelligence is no longer as important to human survival as it was in the era of hunter-gathering.

Richard Lynn, a psychologist at the University of Ulster, has calculated the decline in humans’ genetic potential, a different measure to average intelligence. He applied data on average IQs around the world in 1950 and 2000 to discover that the collective intelligence of the species had dropped by one IQ point. He predicted also that, if the trend continues, we stand to lose another 1.3 IQ points by the middle of this century. Related to these trends is a slowing up in physical reaction speeds, which reflects on genetic potential: Our bodies are becoming less alert at much the same pace as our brains.

Another study carried out in 2009 on the results of tests conducted between 1980 and 2008 showed that the average 14-year-old Briton was two IQ points lower in 2008. The decrease was most pronounced in teenagers in the upper half of the intelligence scale, having dropped six percentage points on their counterparts in 1980. The team leader, Professor James Flynn, opined that the result could be due to the pervasiveness of a less intelligent youth culture. 'Other studies have shown how pervasive teenage youth culture is, and what we see is parents' influence on IQ slowly diminishing with age,' he told the Daily Telegraph. ‘What we know is that youth culture is now more visually orientated around computer games than in terms of reading and holding conversations.'

Other theories on the growth of the new idiocracy include the dumbing down of education, the omnipresence of junk food and the prevalence of neurotoxins in the food chain, rivers and water table. Other scholars claim that the nature of intelligence is simply changing, that what is needed to be smart today is not the same as it was 50 years ago. A factor which nobody appears willing to contemplate, or even raise with a cleared throat, is the effects of television and the Internet, the rise of which provide a mirror image of the decline in IQs.

There is also the largely undocumented effects of the decline of physical, muscle-bound working with the hands in manipulating the three-dimensional nature of the world. Half a century ago, a person confronted with a problem or puzzle would tend to think experientially, based on analogic acquaintance with reality, whereas now we think abstractly, ideologically or politically. Our grandfathers, asked to discourse on the connection between rain and forests might have talked about sheltering under a tree until the rain passed; now most people under a certain age, so prompted, are likely to discourse about the imminent disappearance of rainforests. In an absurd echo of this thinking, vegans campaign at the same time for abortion and the preservation of endangered animal species, and perceive no irony or incoherence. And this may indeed be part of the problem: that our intelligence has shifted from the real to the theoretical and virtual, with a corresponding loss of connection to the actually existing world around us.

The fact that tests on reaction times bear out the findings of IQ tests indicates that human beings may be, in several senses, losing their grip on, or grasp of, the world. The evidence seems to be telling us that, as our world becomes more technologised, human beings have less reason to make use of our wits, which as a consequence are deserting us. It is these trends, perhaps, that are dictating the increasingly unhinged and directionless behaviour of the young.

The nub of this potential problem is brilliantly outlined by Matthew Crawford in his book Shop Class as Soulcraft, published under that title in America in 2009, and subsequently on the other side of the Atlantic as The Case for Working With Your Hands, Or Why Office Work is Bad for You and Fixing Things Feels Good. Crawford, a philosopher and mechanic, describes the human condition as optimised in terms of reason and freedom in what he calls a ‘situated self’: a human being in control of his own skills and cognition processes. This, he argues, demands full human realisation to occur in interaction with the world, with the specificity of objects and contexts, through the medium of skills such as mechanics, carpentry, sculpting, dressmaking, etc. Something fundamental, indispensable and non-supplantable, he says, has been lost by virtue of the decline of skilled working with the hands. A more recent book of his is called The World Beyond Your Head, which places these ideas in the context of the dissociation of post-Enlightenment thought, positing that the loss of reason in our times is rooted precisely in the detachment from reality of the greater part of human work, a disconnection from the senses, particularly that of touch. The point is something like: By discontinuing the process of physical, tactile engagement with reality, man becomes more and more alienated, yes, but — even worse — disconnected in his thinking from real, concrete things, his thoughts thus rendered abstract, built not on solid ground, but on other thoughts, none of them his own, themselves formulated in the same abstract way and spread by contagion and societal consensus rather than grounded processes of sensually-apprehended praxis passed on from father to son.

The precise problem may be that a human person today ceases, much earlier than hitherto, to pursue the path, begun in babyhood, of exploring the world through his senses, taking on board, much too early, the received, unverifiable understandings formulated by others — secondhand understandings of how the world works. This creates in the contemporary child — with considerable accompanying ironies — a quasi-religious sense of the world as something operating to a logic that must be learned by rote rather than understood as a sequential engagement of logical processes. Crawford says: ‘[T]he degradation of work is ultimately a cognitive matter, rooted in the separation of thinking from doing.’ He believes that the questions surrounding the relations between the human senses and reason — on one hand — and manual work, morality and truth (on the other), are at the heart of much modern confusion and confused thinking. While the ‘technologisation’ of life may have made life more comfortable, it has also impoverished us in terms of knowledge, relationship, morality and openness to the meanings of things. Without a strong and deep daily experience of the tactile, a man struggles to ‘belong’ to the world and to the rest of his species. Work today makes the human operate without true knowledge, to become a cubicle-dwelling button-pusher, and therefore no higher than a component of the machine, and the resulting demise of knowledge and moral orientation pushes us to emotionality, unreason and impulsiveness, which is when we begin to fall apart from one another and away from reality.

And there may be, in the interim analysis of all these multifarious factors, a more urgent and immediate problem: that, facing perhaps the most crucial shift in human history, itself the legacy of the discoveries of past generations, the accumulation of all these drifts may have placed us in the worst possible position to protect ourselves. The transhumanist moment, the posthumanist instant, the promised nanosecond of technological singularity — all part of the bequest of a bygone age of innovation — may now arise — all of them, all at once — at a moment when humankind is less well adapted than for a long time — perhaps since the very beginning — to deal with the possible consequences and implications. Not only have prosperity, peace, central heating and television appeared to render the race more stupid, but the mindless embrace of scientism, the escalating specialisation of disciplines, the cult of mindless expertise, the constructed decline of the humanities, the wall-to-wall distractions in the leisure society, the endless loop of insatiable desire for stuff, the complacency of the overly comfortable, the knotweed of Woke ideology, the hypnoidal spell of screens, the collapse of the private spaces, the tyranny of social media identity, the ‘rational’ but unreasonable terror of inevitable death — and many other ‘modern’ factors — may be painting us into the corner we have blundered into so that we may never emerge as actual living, breathing, unencumbered humans with desires and destinies that, not being of this world, might serve to propel us through it. Worse, these precise factors may have lulled, conditioned or hypnotised us into leaving the most fundamental management of our futures to the not-so-tender care of interests which have regard only for money and power. And now, these same interests have contrived a situation where the maturing of the crop of scientific ingenuity planted halfway through the last century will be harvested by them or on their behalf, with the vast majority of the human race either too ill-informed or too distracted to have an opinion on how the world is to be remade, and therefore rendered as spectators of the obsequies of the human species as such. For not only is the machine — allegedly, ostensibly — poised to take over dominion of the planet, but the planet’s human quotient may become obliged, on pain of outright exclusion, to become a subservient part of that machine — his humanity suppressed, her conscience surgically removed, his creativity rendered fragmented and compromised, her intuition and empathy modified by probing pliers — all so that the deficiencies of the machine-driven new ascendancy may pass unremarked, and the unseen engineers and pilots may slide into their permanent thrones of absolute power over whatever we are henceforth to call ourselves, the once all too human beings who kicked and cried as we were carted to the chapel to be christened, but rarely afterwards thought to (seriously) ask: Why?

Source: John Waters Unchained (Substack). AWIP:


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