Chapter 1: Where are we? (The Technological Tempest: Charting a New Course)


This book arrives in a society completely lost in a sea of technological gadgetry. Furthermore that society is unceasingly buffeted by powerful winds of change that continually destroy and reshape both the social and physical landscape. The book attempts to explain how we arrived at this situation, what forces and visions drove us here. It recalls the warnings of the prudent which were ignored as we discarded the anchor of past moralities and left the safety of the shores for a new adventure that promised wealth and opportunity for all. To some extent it is a story of pirates and brave heroes, but it reads as much like tragedy as it does epic. The book reveals what we left behind and by drawing on small islands of knowledge it attempts to chart a course to take us through calmer, safer waters.

Stated in the most dramatic terms, the accusation can be made that the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and
social relations that make human life worth living.

Neil Postman, Technopoly (1993)

This hit a peak early in the 1800's as many elites evicted villagers and
appropriated the land for their own purposes. A mass of people were thus left homeless and destitute. Not just the villagers, but the craftspeople who depended on them. This mass converged on the cities and the emerging factories seeking work. There was insufficient work for all of them, so many literally starved. There were riots, which were brutally suppressed by army troops who were deployed, as necessary, around England. In fact this is the recurring pattern of our culture and industrial development. Similar techniques were applied to Indigenous nations from the Americas to Australia. The pattern has been repeated continuously now for around 500 years; no signs of change are apparent. It reflects a failure to learn. For the last few decades there has
been talk about the importance of 'Learning Organisations', but we do not have a 'Learning Society'. On the contrary, the evidence is that in some important respects our culture cannot adapt, it cannot change. Thus our culture and society continue to be based on coercion and violence which is more apparent at some times and places than others. By right of might (economic and military) our culture claims ownership of the entire planet. History shows that any alternative culture that western culture encounters is eventually destroyed (Saul, 1992). First by violence, followed by a loss of sovereignty, autonomy and community. The pattern of lawlessness in this regard is clear: from the theft of land from English peasants to the theft of land from American Indians (and
Australian and other Aborigines), despite numerous legal contracts assuring indigenous ownership (Hedges & Sacco 2012). General Custer's famous last stand was a process of stealing land, legally owned by Indians, because they refused to sell it and they stood in the way of resource extraction (Hedges & Sacco 2012). Sitting Bull acidly suggested that the whites should “start selling dirt by the pound”. Faced with the violent destruction of his tribe and the theft of everything they owned, Sitting Bull also posed the question “Do we submit or resist?” (Hedges & Sacco 2012). The disregard of western culture for other cultures and contrary views is apparent. The Occupy movement is a
case in point here. Groups of peaceful people using relatively small patches of public land to present an alternative narrative about our society were met with violent resistance and removal. In nearly all cities, despite often having vast public parks, show grounds, sports arenas, no alternative space could be found and offered to the Occupiers. It is clear that they, or rather their message, could not be tolerated. In relation to this consider a quote from D. H Lawrence who wrote:

Hedges & Sacco (2012) are convinced that as our culture and the planet's systems collapse the cultural violence that has been mostly applied to others will now be turned on its own citizens. The enclosure movement provides past evidence of this as does state violence in response to protests in 1960's and 1970's USA (e.g. see the BBC series ‘The Century of Self’). State responses to the Occupy movement in general suggest that this is just as much a possibility today along with recent violent government responses to protests in Spain and China, and highly militarised police responses to protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, U.S.A.

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