Technology And The Coming Global Totalitarianism
Richard B. Wilcox
1.2 The Dragon
Eating Its Tail
1.3 Pandora's Box
Perspectives On Science And Technology
Scientific Mission: Order And Power
2.2 The Market
2.3 Loss Of
Knowledge And Nature: Return To
3. The Expanding
Technosphere: Uses And Abuses
3.1 Power And
3.2 The World
3.6 The Weapons
Industry And The Science Of Killing
For Cultural And Biological Diversity
4.1 Where Are We
4.3 Where Are We
This paper investigates
some aspects of the coming global technological
totalitarianism and the expanding
I argue that this is both a conscious and coincidental
agenda of powerful individuals and institutions carried out
through the process of reification of ideological beliefs
which are transformed into institutions, facilities,
technologies policies and ultimately, culture. I believe
that by ignoring the costs of new technologies, what we lose
in the bargain is immeasurable and potentially catastrophic.
History was not or is not entirely inevitable, but it is
also a question of human values in relation to natural
changes. While there have often been positive effects for
large numbers of people from technological development, in
fact, the creation and use of technology has largely been
abused to further ruling class interests.
People are so
transfixed by the scientific marvels that parade before
them, that they are frozen in the act of spectating.
-- Michael Hoffman
(2001, p. 11)
People are becoming
more and more like their machines. -- Edward T. Hall (1976,
First I can give you
cancer, then I can profit from your cure. -- sign on giant
mad-scientist Glaxo/Bayer puppet in anti-biotechnology
investigates some aspects of the coming global technological
totalitarianism and the expanding
I argue that this is both a conscious and coincidental
agenda of powerful individuals and institutions carried out
through the process of reification of ideological beliefs
which are transformed into institutions, facilities,
technologies policies and ultimately culture. I suggest
readers consider these open-ended questions while reading
1. Is science and
technology inherently destructive, or can it be harnessed to
do good depending on whose interests are involved?
2. Historically, who has
benefited most often from the exploitation of science and
technology, elites or the general public (and non-human
3. Are advanced forms of
technology (so-called “high technology”) including
computers, cellular phones, videos and televisions etc.,
helpful or harmful toward creating an ecologically
sustainable society? Can we distinguish between one form of
technology and another in order to determine whether it is
“good” or “bad”?
4. What, for example, are
the potential human health/environmental dangers of
increased amounts of electro-magnetic radiation that exceed
amounts humans were exposed to during most of natural
history? What may be the possible benefits or harms caused
by new technologies such as high-speed computer and internet
transmission, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology or
As an environmental
social scientist, I believe that by ignoring the costs of
new technologies, what we lose in the bargain: culturally,
socially, politically, ecologically, and as a species, is
immeasurable and potentially catastrophic. History was not
or is not entirely inevitable (i.e., determinism), it is
also a question of human values in relation to natural
changes (i.e., dialectical materialism; the reification of
ruling class imperatives into cultural norms). While there
have often been positive effects for large numbers of people
from technological development (e.g., extended life spans
through improved public sanitation and medical treatments),
in fact, the creation and use of technology has largely been
abused to further ruling class interests (Fotopoulis, 1998;
Noble, 2001; Jensen & Draffan, 2004).
In order to maintain
their power, the wealthier among us depend on robbing people
of their lands, waters, dreams and aspirations. To the
extent that we have wealth or status within the economic
system, we all share some blame. Nevertheless, control
through technology is one means whereby the ruling classes
The ruling class is
crucial to the maintenance and development of technological
totalitarianism. It consists of the United States at the hub
of military and economic power. The G8 nations are the first
tier countries supported by the lesser rich OECD countries
at the second tier. Ruling class mechanisms include: the
Bretton Woods institutions including the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade
Organization; the Trilateral Commission; the Business
Roundtable; and the World Economic Forum. In order to serve
their broader economic agenda, foundations such as the Ford
Foundation and financial speculators such as George Soros
fund social programs around the world (Cottin, 2003; Roelofs,
2003). Elite lobbying groups, both domestic and foreign,
play a powerful role in influencing the U.S. congress while
the average citizen who is over-worked, confused by media
misinformation, disaffected from the political process,
absorbed by lifestyle consumerism, or for other cultural
reasons, has largely vanquished her/his role as a
participant in the political process. The array of
mega-corporations, whose assets tower over the collected
wealth of most of the world’s countries, have designated
themselves as the prime architects of U.S. (and increasingly
global) laws and policies. Some observers have noted that
this "global monetocracy" persists in its merciless path
toward planetary destruction due to the complex nature of
our economic system (Madron & Jopling, 2003).
This is a happy
convenience for a system which benefits from increased
social and environmental disruption (e.g., increased health
problems benefit the pharmaceutical and medical industries;
increased pollution benefits the pollution abatement
industry, etc.). The standard economic measurement of gross
domestic product that the United States and other industrial
countries use does not make qualitative judgments about
economic activity (e.g., concerning human and environmental
welfare), it only measures growth (i.e., accumulation of
monetary wealth) for its own sake. In line with the theories
of neo-classical, free-market and neo-liberal economics, the
operates by externalizing costs and accumulating profits.
Today, corporations have evolved to the point where they are
virtually exempt from social and environmental
responsibility (Korten, 1995; Keen, 2001; Madron & Jopling,
1.2 The Dragon
Eating Its Tail
In such a system, the
destruction of the environment is measured as a “good” since
new technologies will be needed to clean up the messes
caused by growth (e.g., urban sprawl, "natural" disasters,
oil spills, air and water pollution) in the form of
pollution abatement equipment, water purifiers, air filters
and hybrid automobiles. Therefore, the same business
interests that create environmental turmoil profit a second
time in their half-hearted efforts to abate the original
problems. Furthermore, one observer noted that the
commodification of drinking water in the form of bottled
water has led to misleading practices whereby corporations
profit billions of dollars even when many bottled waters are
shown to be no safer than the public water supply (Landau,
2005, August 27).
from disasters, whether real or imagined, accidental or
manufactured, is a driving force behind industry and
progress. Brain Waves newsletter reports that
[f]ive of the top
ten leading causes of disability worldwide are caused by
problems with the brain and nervous system....The good
news is that new
treatments for those suffering from illnesses such as
Alzheimer's disease, depression and chronic pain are
quickly. Building on
the success of the Human Genome Project and decades of brain
research, neurotech now holds
for major discoveries, commercial success and real
[emphasis added] (Brain Waves, 2005, March 24).
Pollution dumped into
the biosphere by the chemical companies during the 20th
century led one researcher to note that “there is a mass of
historic evidence that suggests that [polio] is not caused
by a virus but by industrial and agricultural pollution”
(Roberts, 2004, May, p. 35). One can imagine the huge
profits that pharmaceutical giants have made from the
vaccination business alone. As the anthropologist Dubos
(1965) concluded in his study of human evolution and
disease, the war on disease that took place in the 1950s in
the United States by spraying pesticides across the country
failed to consider the complexities of targeting particular
microorganisms. "[A] given pathogen [carrier of disease] is
generally highly destructive in a given population when the
pathogen and population first come into contact, and the
severity of the infectious process tends to decrease...over
several generations." Thus, the chemical industry's
one-size-fits-all approach to disease-control was
economically profitable but ignored less concrete
historical, socio-economic and ecological considerations.
Ever since public
electricity systems began use in 1882, increasing stress on
the human immune system has occurred. Technology researchers
Ashton and Laura (1999) report:
effects of electricity depend on the magnetic field,
electric field and frequency effects produced in the
frequency of the magnetic fields in our homes produced by
domestic wiring, or in the vicinity of powerlines,
corresponds to the
power generation frequency which is usually 50 or 60 hertz.
A fluctuating magnetic field can induce a current in a
whereas a non-fluctuating or constant magnetic field cannot.
This is highly significant when considering the
impact of magnetic fields, as different frequencies may
produce different biological effects (40 - 41).
Ashton and Laura note
that a number of other everyday modern appliances and
practices are threatening human health. These include mobile
phones, UHF TV microwaves, microwave ovens, computer VDUs
and television screens, processed food, food additives such
as aluminium in food, food irradiation, cadmium toxicity in
the food chain, pesticide residues in food, chlorine and
flouride in public water supplies, as well as the health
effects from air conditioning, artificial lighting and noise
pollution. However, these technological applications are now
accepted by people in industrial society as normal.
The techology that
probably best defines the 20th century is the automobile:
Who has not
experienced the thrill of acceleration at the wheel of a
car? A slight movement of the ball of the foot suffices to
those of the driver many times over. This incongruity
between gentle effort and powerful effect, typical of modem
rise to the exhilarating feelings of power and freedom which
accompany the triumphant forward march of
technology. Be it
car or plane, telephone or computer, the specific power of
modern technology lies in its ability to remove limitations
imposed on us by our
bodies, by space and by time (Sachs, 1992).
mobility and luxury to many, and great profits to the oil,
tire and rubber and automotive industries, the social
re-organization and disruption caused by car culture and the
environmental destruction caused by the construction of cars
and roads has been immeasurable. According to the World
Carfree Network, a "car causes more pollution before it's
ever driven than in its entire lifetime of driving."
Furthermore, "[e]stimates of road fatalities worldwide vary
massively: anywhere from 500,000 to 880,000 or even 1.17
million people die on the roads every year — 10 million are
estimated to be injured" ("Some statistics," 2005, June 2).
Ironically, while the
technology of mobility and the internal combustion engine is
often blamed for “global warming,” Finch (2002) has
clarified that one of the oldest forms of technology is also
to blame, that being fire, and has renamed global warming to
the more precise term “global burning” as the world’s
forests and vegetation are put to flames to clear land for
1.4 Pandora's Box
Considering the array
of Pandora’s Boxes that have been opened by technological
development, the possibility of human extinction cannot be
omitted. Leslie (1996), a philosopher of science, describes
disasters from genetic engineering, nanotechnology or
computers as potential causes of human extinction. Although
it may sound far-fetched, high energy laboratory experiments
might create a new “Big Bang” or “an all-destroying phase
transition,” whereby, if “the jolt of a high-energy
experiment produced a bubble of ‘true vacuum’, this would
then expand at nearly the speed of light, destroying
everything...” (p.8). When it comes to military research,
nothing can be considered too bizarre or coldly calculating.
Snow reports that the U.S. military is involved in weather
Adherents of weather
warfare prefer to call it 'environmental modification' – or
ENMOD. The corporate media has reported almost
nothing about these
aerospace and defense programs, or the technologies
involved....World renowned scientist Dr. Rosalie Bertell
today confirms that
“US military scientists...are working on weather systems as
a potential weapon. The methods include the
enhancing of storms
and the diverting of vapor-rivers in the Earth’s atmosphere
to produce targeted droughts or floods"
(Snow, 2003, March).
The rash of recent
wars waged by the United States and its allies such as
Britain are accompanied with vague talk about a “war on
terrorism” against “Islamic extremists” who were trained and
funded by the CIA (Blum, 2000). Meanwhile, policing
personnel, surveillance equipment and other tools of the
being expanded and procured. The erosion of civil liberties
is justified as serving the public when in fact the main
benefits accrue to the web of interests in weaponry, prison,
mass media and related industries. Buisnesses that profit
from government contracts from the building and maintenance
of the system have no desire to slow its growth. An
illustrative case is "Halliburton, the Houston, Texas-based
oil services conglomerate, which has made billions from the
war [in Iraq] even in the face of charges of massive
overbilling, shoddy work, official bribery and political
influence-peddling" (St. Clair, 2005, July 14). Given these
trends, concern over the uses and abuses of technology and
the coming global totalitarianism is long overdue.
Perspectives On Science And Technology
Historically, who has
benefited most often from the exploitation of science and
technology, elites or the general public (and non-human
species)? By looking at some of the foundational truths of
Western science and the subsequent transformation of culture
and nature, we can gain greater insight into this question.
Scientific Mission: Order And Power
In her classic
critique of the origins of Western science at the time of
the enlightenment, Merchant (1980) identified main
tendencies of the "scientific revolution."
achievement of mechanism as a world view [in the 16th
century] was its reordering of reality around two
human experience--order and power. Order was attained
through an emphasis on the motion of indivisible parts
mathematical laws and the rejection of unpredictable
animistic sources of change. Power was achieved through
in a secularized world. The Baconian method [derived from
the “Father of Science,” Francis Bacon] advocated
power over nature
through manual manipulation, technology, and experiment (p.
The birth of the
scientific method whereby reality could be understood in
terms of verifiable facts coincided with the consolidation
of power in the hands of a secularized technocracy. This led
to what Aronowitz, a philosopher of science, has described
as the modern scientific paradigm and the concomitant loss
of spiritual or non-quantifiable meaning:
Science is founded
on the idea that the results of its methods—which are very
specific mathematical and experimental methods—are
equivalent to what
we mean by truth. The mythology holds that science describes
physical reality, that science is truth. And if science
is truth, instead of
merely one form of truth, then all other forms of truth-all
philosophical truth, all ethical truth, all emotional,
relational, experiential truths-are devalued (Jensen and
Draffan, 2004, October).
As all "experiential
truths are devalued," the logical inconsistencies of science
are quietly swept under the rug. Categorizing academic
knowledge into "departments," "schools" or "fields" is
understandable given the need to focus attention and energy,
yet also allows gate-keepers to dismiss holistic or
cross-disciplinary thinking as unwieldy or irrelevant.
Speaking of the “blind reverence to science” that its
proponents adhere to, Collins (2005, February) notes that
“biases and presuppositions pervade the very fabric of the
elite's epistemic autocracy. Academia itself has become the
official church for this cult of epistemological
selectivity.” The Christian philosopher, Zacharias, in an
informal meeting with scientists discovered “prejudicial
hurdles of scientism.”
1. Zacharias: "If the Big
Bang were indeed where it all began, may I ask what preceded
the Big Bang?" The scientist's answer was that "the universe
was shrunk down to a singularity." Zacharias responded,
"[b]ut isn't it correct that a singularity as defined by
science is a point at which all the laws of physics break
down?" One scientist responded, "[t]hat is correct," which
led Zacharias to conclude that "technically," the
scientist's "starting point is not scientific either." The
scientist could not disagree.
2. Zacharias asked if the
scientists "agreed that when a mechanistic view of the
universe had held sway, thinkers like Hume had chided
philosophers for taking the principle of causality and
applying it to a philosophical argument for the existence of
God. Causality, he warned, could not be extrapolated from
science to philosophy." Zacharias points out the
contradiction. "[W]hen quantum theory holds sway, randomness
in the subatomic world is made a basis for randomness in
life." Aren't scientists "making the very same
extrapolation" that they "warned us against?" One scientist
replied that "[w]e scientists do seem to retain selective
sovereignty over what we allow to be transferred to
philosophy and what we don't," making a slight admission of
the illogic of science (Collins, 2005, February).
Another rupture in
scientific logic is shown by the philosopher of ecology,
Goldsmith (1998), who asserts that the "progress" associated
with science and technology is actually "anti-evolutionary"
since it is destructive to natural processes.
In terms of the
world-view of modernism and of the associated paradigm of
science--the changes brought to the ecosphere in the
name of progress by
modern man, with the aid of science, technology and
industry--are part and parcel of the evolutionary process.
No distinction is
made between the process which leads to the development of
the world of living things, or the ecosphere, and that
which leads instead
to the development of the technosphere....On the contrary,
these two obviously very different and indeed
processes are seen as one and the same. If they differ at
all, it is only insofar as one type of evolution is seen as
that it involves the modification of organs and behavior;
while the other, referred to as technical or “exosomatic”
largely by the making of new “organs” outside of the
organism (p. 418).
and technological innovation, even if it calls for replacing
humans with robots (or turning humans into machines with new
"organs") and replacing nature with artificial surroundings
is seen as scientific progress. On a sociological level, the
environmental writers Jensen & Draffan (2004) elaborate on
the idea of science as a tool of domination. Science leads
to monotony, loss of individual freedom, loss of innate
spontaneity and curiosity with the ultimate goal of
replacing nature and humans with an automated "society."
What does science
do? It calls for everything to be measured. It calls for
everything that cannot be measured to be ignored or
everything that can be measured to be analyzed (according to
the rules of science)....What is science for? To analyze.
Why? To predict.
Why? To reduce risk for those doing calculations (and their
masters) and to control those about whom these
made. Why do they do this? So those performing these
analyses and predictions can rule over everything they can
analyze (and destroy
everything they cannot)....Under this rubric, what is power?
It is the ability to control outcomes. What then, is a
bureaucracy? It is
administration of rules, efficiency and quantification. It
is the administration of control. What, then is a culture
administered by a
bureaucracy? It is a machine (p. 73.)
2.2 The Market
Though the former
Soviet Union, under communisim, used a centralized economic
system which relied on the scientific paradigm, the market
system has exploited technology with more intensity. The
political philosopher Fotopoulis (1998) provides a critical
Technology has never
been ‘neutral’ with respect to the logic of the dynamics of
the market economy. Still, not only socialist statists
environmentalists as well, explicitly, or usually
implicitly, assume that technology is socially neutral...In
embodies concrete relations of production, its hierarchical
organization and, of course, its primary aim...[is] the
economic growth and efficiency for profit purposes (p. 60).
prescribed by the so-called market economy are leading to
technology dependence and an erosion of humanism,
spirituality and cultural safe-guards against greed. While
most products are made today by lowly paid laborers in the
Third World, we can witness a trend where many goods or
services that used to be
by humans are now
by computers and robots. This "primary aim" for "economic
growth" does not necessarily serve the best interests of
humanity. Sachs (1992, June), a sociologist and
environmental thinker states the problem from a cultural
There are two
entirely different principles which can shape a society’s
image of itself. Either a person-to-person or a
predominates. In the first case, events are examined in the
light of their significance with regard to neighbours or
or gods; whereas, in the second, all circumstances in the
life of society are judged according to what they
contribute to the
acquisition and ownership of things. The modem epoch, whose
thoughts and aspirations revolve mainly around
and distribution, devotes itself to the cult of things; the
use of technology is thus its beatifying ritual.
those aspects of life which involve pleasure, convenience
and security. Once established cultural systems are eroded
and religious restrictions removed, with the aid of the
market mechanism, the group is fragmented and individuals
must fend for themselves. The message of modern society is
that life affirming norms are to be dispensed and
unrestrained individualism encouraged in spite of the costs
incurred by society. Thus, advertisers target children who
are the most vulnerable and open to suggestion and most
likely to become consumer predators.
Fear of emptiness
and discomfort lead to greed. Greed leads to an obsession
with getting what you want, which leads to putting
production above everything else. Frustrated greed leads to
aggresssion, and the willingness to ignore others’
you maximize production? Through making everyone efficient,
that is, through getting rid of barriers to production.
One barrier to
production is diversity. People, resources, machine parts
must be interchangeable. High technology is a tool of
production. Neither more nor less. Bureaucracy is the
administration of production and efficiency. It is nothing
this, but it is
more. Bureaucracy is the administrative means to eliminate
feelings, ambivalence, and anything else that might
production. A lack of bureaucracy leads to a lack of
efficiency. A lack of efficiency leads to production not
production not maximized, the (neurotic) need to avoid
discomfort through control is foiled. Fear returns.
(Jensen & Draffan,
2004, p. 78).
The old adage goes:
salesmanship is the practice of selling something for more
than it's worth to someone who does not need it. But as
culture loses its human and natural bases, people are more
inclined to buy snake
oil to soothe
the discomfort and fear that accompanies modern life.
2.3 Loss Of
Knowledge And Nature: Return To
Most urbanized humans
are so dependent on technology that they would be helpless
within a few hours without electricity and running water.
Apartment buildings themselves are machines, granting every
amenity in order for their inhabitants to survive. And
machines need energy. Critic of science, Keith, notes that
since energy fuels the scientific paradigm, the public must
be kept ignorant of its jargon, internal logic and workings.
Energy is recognized
as the key to all activity on earth. Natural science is the
study of the sources and control of natural energy, and
theoretically expressed as economics, is the study of the
sources and control of social energy. Both are bookkeeping
is the primary energy science. And the bookkeeper can be
king if the public can be kept ignorant of the
methodology of the
bookkeeping. All science is merely a means to an end. The
means is knowledge. The end is control
The world's immensely
wealthy oil-oligarchy is an example of the way energy is
used to impose a unified energy regime on society while
ignoring the environmental dangers of a fossil fuel energy
policy. For example, it has often been argued that oil
companies manipulate oil prices for their own financial gain
regardless of the suffering this inflicts on many sectors of
the population (Chen, 2005, August 22). Since people are
kept uneducated to the complex matters of oil geology and
economics and alternative energy sources, they easily fall
prey to the monolithic system.
One means of
controlling the public is through the mystification of
knowledge in order to discourage people from attempting to
understand the world. If understanding is beyond reach, then
action to change injustices is futile. As another familiar
saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the
same. But the reason they stay so is because the power
structure that determines public policy has remained in
place for so long. Thus, some modern schools do not
emphasize critical or heterodox approaches to thinking and
problem solving but mainly teach social skills to children
and act as a holding-tank and job-sorter for teens (McVeigh,
2002). Without the intellectual capacity to penetrate the
complex power structure upon which society is built, people
easily accept modern forms of mysticism (as promoted through
the mass media).
As Jensen and Draffan
(2004, October) note, “[O]ur culture today is not secular,
but just as religious (in the pejorative sense of
superstitious, unconscious, assumed) as ever. Only today,
science is the religion, experts are the priests,
bureaucrats are the gatekeepers, and research and
development institutions are the cathedrals.” Rich (1994)
notes in his authoritative study of the World Bank's
disastrous policies on the Third World that bureaucratic
systems take on a life and logic which deny their own
bureaucratic decision may appear with hindsight erroneous,
harmful, pernicious, and irrational in terms of
and goals, not to speak of reasonable ethical norms. But
once a sequence of actions is launched, the formal
rationality of the
organization takes over, and each intermediate decision
appears eminently rational in terms of the situation that
it. With each incremental action, the original decision is
ratified (p. 235).
What applies to
bureaucracies can also apply to human applications of
technology. As indigenous or "folk" knowledge is usurped by
corporate advertising, critical thinking among citizens is
weakened and dependency on industrialized products is
vision as championed by the World Bank and other financial
institutions (i.e., the global monetocracy) has led to the
replacement of natural life forms with artificial ones and
what Goldsmith (1998) and his colleagues at
magazine have documented in detail for over thirty five
years, namely, massive environmental disruption. Humanity
has appropriated approximately half of the biosphere’s
(i.e., the living layer of the planet) “terrestrial net
primary production” capacity for its own purposes. This has
affected the basic climatological, hydrological and
terrestrial life support functions of the planet. Goldsmith
accuses the scientific community of “almost total
indifference” to the environmental crises they have helped
create through the reworking of the biosphere toward the
goals of furthering the scientific paradigm.
Many of our fears
today are rooted in our placelessness, loss of sense of
values, and the desacralization and devalorization of
natural experience. Unraveling the myth of value-free
science, the historian of science, Proctor (1991), traces
the transition in Western society from the religious
foundation and order of things as they had previously been
understood from Aristotle to Aquinas, up to the age of the
enlightenment. The changes in perspective brought about by
the discoveries of Galileo, such as that the Earth was not
the center of the universe, threatened the social structure
(e.g., the Church) and its values:
revolution is a revolution in our views of value, not just
our views of nature. Value in the modern world is a human
product of human arts and labors. The natural order is no
longer a moral one; the cosmos is indifferent to the plight
humans. Things may
be good or bad, but only in relation to humans or their
actions. Something is good if it pleases us or may be put
to use. Value is no
longer etched in the nature of things; “Being,” in the
expression of Koyre, has been “devalorized" (p. 41).
In a devalorized world
we are discouraged to find a sense of belonging in nature
while the mass media encourages images of rape and murder as
normal events. Technology critic, Roszak (2000), notes that
psychological level, rape stems from a distinct state of
mind that is the same whether the victim is a woman or a
Rape begins by
denying the victim her dignity, autonomy and feeling.
Psychologists now call this “objectifying” the victim. When
another human being
who is being so objectified, everybody (except perhaps the
rapist) can clearly see the act as a crime. But when
we objectify the
natural world [with “nature” clearly being metaphor for
“woman,” according to Roszak], turning it into a dead or
stupid thing, we
have another word for that. Science (p. 97).
interpretation relates to Easlea's feminist perspective
(1983), a former nuclear physicist who turned to a critical
investigation of the nuclear arms race.
[M]odern science is
predominantly a 'masculine philosophy' that has a concealed
if mutilated 'feminine' aspect. Just as masculine men
attempt to conceal
and continue to repress the feminine within themselves, so
masculine practitioners of science eliminate the 'soft'
content of what they
practise and analyse (p. 174).
Francis Bacon's 16th
century masculine science also fed into the social and
political sciences which sought justification for the
tendency of humans to colonize lands and peoples. Writing
about events in the Middle East, the journalist and
historian Shamir (2005) illustrates this in his essay
Sumud and Flux,
noting that "[t]he Palestinians call their adherence to
soil, to the particular and unique piece of land they choose
to live in, by word Sumud” (p. 77). However, “Flux is the
most general form of free movement, whether by liberal
economic measures as in the Open Society of Popper and von
Hayek, or by brutal force as in Zionism, or by revolutionary
measures of Trotskyism, or by American military intervention
as by Neo-Cons...” (p. 79). According to Shamir's
reaffirming world view, we have traveled too far down the
road of technological and financial empowerment (flux) and
need to return to our human roots planted in the land,
family, community, and spirituality (sumud).
The world is better
presented not as the Manicaean battlefield of good and evil,
but as the Taoist arena of eternal struggle of opposing
forces, of Energy
and Entropy, of Diversity and Uniformity, or of Sumud and
Flux. Both are needed, but total victory of one of the
forces should be
prevented, if mankind is to survive.
thousands of tribes, cultural traditions, languages, beliefs
is the Paradise Lost of mankind. It is the spiritual
of oil supply, as
well, for Diversity is the source of energy. When Diversity,
the huge battery full of energy, is being discharged, Energy
is released and
Uniformity, or Entropy increase as ‘the fee’ for the Energy
released. Multi-culturalism is false Diversity, just a brief
Uniformity, and death.
‘the battery’ of Diversity. In a balanced state, the
released energy should create Art and Faith, but it could be
utilitarian usefulness. Mammon, this personification of
greed worship, competes with God (Art and Faith) for the
release energy; or,
as the Gospel puts it, ‘One can’t serve God and Mammon’. (p.
Mankind had a
very long run of Flux. It gave us more personal freedom than
we could have otherwise. But it was not a free lunch.
We lost much of
precious Diversity. When it will run out, we shall be
spiritually dead. In order to survive, we should turn to
For Shamir, when
multi-culturalism is used in its politically correct usage
it is a code for Western cultural and political hegemony,
which results in homogenization and ultimate destruction.
Just as sustainable forms of technology should not empower
any group or individual over one another, or over-burden the
Earth's ecology, true multi-culturalism
the cultural and biological diversity that was destroyed by
colonialism and imperialism, and respects and reaffirms the
autonomy and sovereignty of diverse peoples.
3. The Expanding
Technosphere: Uses And Abuses
While the awesome
power to do good through the rational use of technology is
constantly trumpeted by technophiles and leaders of
industry, many observers of science and technology have
warned that the pace of change has outstripped the human
ability to use technology wisely, efficiently and safely.
3.1 Power And
Sachs' study (1992,
June) of the effects of technology on Third World countries
found that the North (i.e., the "rich" world), led by the
United States, imposed a straight jacket solution to
"poverty" in the South (i.e., the "poor" world) that
involved the foisting of an inappropriate industrial
infrastructure on cultures with different histories,
geographies and environments.
Take the example of
an electric mixer. Whirring and slightly vibrating, it makes
juice from solid fruit in next to no time. A wonderful
tool! So it seems.
But a quick look at cord and wall-socket reveals that what
we have before us is rather the domestic terminal of a
worldwide, system: the electricity arrives via a network of
cables and overhead utility lines which are fed by power
stations that depend
on water pressures, pipelines or tanker consignments, which
in turn require dams, offshore platforms or derricks
in distant deserts.
The whole chain only guarantees an adequate and prompt
delivery if every one of its parts is overseen by armies of
and financial experts, who themselves can fall back on
administrations, universities, indeed entire industries (and
sometimes even the
Therein lies the trap
of technology: while individual items of technology are
marketed for reasons of luxury, convenience and necessity,
acceptance of even one appliance can indebt one to the
system. Technological advancement entails having a job,
renting or buying a dwellling, owning a car, using a credit
card and so on. Sachs points out that “[a]s with a car, a
pill, a computer or a television,” there are
“interconnected systems of organization and production.”
[T]he use of simple
techniques and that of modem equipment lies the
reorganization of a whole society....[I]t is probably no
exaggeration to say
that the deep structures of perception are changing with the
massive invasion of technology....[N]ature is viewed
in mechanical terms,
space is seen as geometrically homogeneous and time as
linear....[H]uman beings are not the same as they used
to be - and they
feel increasingly unable to treat technologies like tools by
laying them down.
3.2 The World
One way that we are
encouraged to adopt new tools is evident in the World
Exposition system which began in the mid 19th century during
the peak of the industrial revolution ("World' Fair," 2005,
August 27). The most recent World Expo was hosted by Japan
with the theme ''Nature's Wisdom'' and the “intention of
promoting economic development in harmony with nature”
(Kakuchi, 2005, March 24). It was reported that the "event's
theme was chosen to emphasise sustainable development over
the current global trend of mass consumption that is blamed
for destroying the environment and causing global warming
and desertification." However, the examples organizers
choose to illustrate how "sustainable development" might
stop current trends of "mass consumption" revealed more
about a concern for promoting technology than environmental
sustainability. For example,
pavilion represent[s] harmony between nature and urban areas
achieved through technology. The site includes a video
lotus-shaped seats where visitors can watch a circular
plasma screen displaying traditional calligraphy and
features a life-size model of a leisure spaceship.
Japan's pavilion even
featured robots that would be able to replace human workers:
attractions of the Japanese exhibit are 63 prototype robots,
including live-looking and life-size humanoid robots that
one day play the
role of caregivers for children or the elderly -- the latter
being a rapidly growing proportion of the country's
2005, March 24).
Organizers did not
comment on the irony of replacing able bodied human workers
with robots in a country where homelessness (presumably due
to unemployment in most cases) is a noticable problem.
Indeed, as one neighborhood organizer told me about the
Toshima ward of Tokyo where we both live, the Japanese
government is presently closing down its community centers
because of "lack of budget" even as they heavily invest in
military technology (Wilcox, p. 72, 2005, April).
Nevertheless, Japanese organizers of the Expo stated that
rather than being a
showcase for advanced Japanese technology, the Expo in Aichi
serves as a platform to emphasise the country's
commitment to the
global environment....Aichi is a landmark for Japan because
it carries the message that we can play the role of
being the centre in
solving the world's environmental problems (Kakuchi, 2005,
This promise was
contradicted in part by the content of the exhibits which
emphasized robotics versus fulfillment found through human
endevour, video learning versus human interactions with one
another, and space-ships over basic human and environmental
needs. The construction of the Expo site infringed upon
native forests and "the already endangered nesting goshawk,
a bird species native to the local ecosystem.” No mention
is made by Expo organizers of Japan's record of destruction
to global forests, wildlife and fisheries and how technology
could be used, if at all, to repair damage caused by
unlimited economic growth and rampant consumerism (Wilcox,
2001; 2000; 1999). While some pavillions from Third World
countries attempted to use the event in a counterhegemonic
way by promoting the environmentally friendly technologies
of peasants and indigenous peoples (Kakuchi, 2005, March
24), this was secondary to the emphasis on an ever-expanding
Biotechnology is one
of the most controversial technologies in use today. Many
critics charge that corporately managed biotech science aims
to control or own life forms thereby denying access to lands
and natural resources to the world's people. Most well known
are the battles over genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
namely foods (i.e., GM foods), where consumers from around
the world have opposed plans to introduce GM foods from the
United States in their countries. Monsanto corporation has
been one the biggest producers and promoters of such biotech
products (Cohen, 2001).
Biotechnology covers a
wide range of ethical, legal, economic, political,
ecological and human health issues. For example, Rifkin
(2005, March 27), a noted critic of biotech pointed out that
the latest applications could have disturbing results:
Some researchers are
speculating about human-chimpanzee chimeras?– creating a
humanzee. A humanzee would be the ideal
animal because chimpanzees are so closely related to human
beings. Fusing a human and chimpanzee
embryo could produce
a creature so human that questions regarding its moral and
legal status would throw 4,000 years of
ethics into utter
chaos. If the purpose of creating this hybrid is to perform
medical experiments, could those experiments possibly
It seems there are no
boundries remaining to protect the sacredness of life, as
humans evolve from ape to human and then back again, the
circle nearly complete! Other key aspects of biotechnology
include the corporate patenting and ownership of seeds (and
other organisms) thereby attempting to monopolize the
world's food supply; the misapplication of GMOs to increase
nutrition and food intake in the Third World; potential as
well as documented dangers to human health, wildlife and the
environment from GM crops; ethical concerns about eugenics,
designer babies, cloning, xenotransplantation (i.e., using
animal parts in humans), and political profiling through
genetic stereotyping based on false science; as well as the
misapplication of biotechnology to solve diseases. In
addition, throughout the Third World, indigenous peoples and
biodiversity are intruded upon as their genes are "mined" by
pharmaceutical and biotech companies
(Tokar, Ed., 2001). In
the case of biological pollution from GMOs, Tokar ( March
25, 2005), a long-time anti-GMO writer and activist found
The problem of
transgenic contamination of organic and other non-engineered
crops has become increasingly widespread. In
Canada, farmers have
detected varieties of canola that are simultaneously
resistant to three different chemical herbicides, as a
result of cross-
pollination of different varieties genetically manipulated
to be herbicide tolerant. These have come to be viewed as
"superweeds,"requiring increasingly virulent weed killers to
small amounts of genetically engineered feed corn imported
from the U.S. have been planted experimentally by
leading to the widespread contamination of indigenous corn
varieties with transgenic DNA in nine Mexican states. A
2004 study by the
Union of Concerned Scientists showed detectable genetic
contamination of several popular varieties of corn and
soybeans sold as
non-GMO seed for commercial planting.
And in Britain, the
Independent newspaper reports that
[o]fficial policy is
portrayed as being neutral and based simply on scientific
advice....Yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of
the GM food
industry...when the final trial of a four-year series of
experiments found, once more, that genetically modified
crops can be
wildlife....They showed the ultra-powerful weedkillers that
the crops are engineered to tolerate would bring about
damage to a
countryside already devastated by intensive farming.The
fourth and final mass experiment involving GM crops has
that they caused
significant harm to wild flowers, butterflies, bees and
probably songbirds. Results of the farm-scale trial of
oilseed rape raised
further doubts about whether GM crops can ever be grown in
Britain without causing further damage to the nation's
In the United States
and Canada the biotech industry appears to have greater
political power due to their long lasting relationship with
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This has led to the
absurd situation where a farmer in Canada, Percy Schmeiser,
who did not want to use genetically modified seeds, was sued
by Monsanto corporation because his crops were contaminated
by GM seeds which had accidentally fallen into his field and
grew up as GM crops. Monsanto claimed he stole their
patented product and sued him in court. Schmeiser concluded
that “[i]ntellectual property rights (the new patent laws)
now have precedence over private property law, the interests
of the biotechnology companies now have precedence over
those of the natural environment, and profits have
precedence over food production, food quality and public
health” ("Percy Schmeiser," 2004, May). Luckily for
Schmeiser--a rare case where a farmer with the money,
patience, courage and worldwide support to stand up to the
corporate bullies--did not lose his farm to Monsanto. His
website recently stated that
[t]he Supreme Court
issued their decision in May 2004 and one can view the
decision as a draw. The Court determined that
Monsanto's patent is
valid, but Schmeiser is not forced to pay Monsanto anything
as he did not profit from the presence of Roundup
Ready canola in his
fields ("Monsanto vs Schmeiser," 2005, September 9).
Despite the odds
against Schmeiser, his efforts show that the biotech food
industry continues to run into opposition from concerned
farmers, consumers and citizens. However, biotech research
continues apace in corporate laboratories as genetics,
nanotechnology and robotics (GNR) merge into a new
technology that critics warn could result in large-scale
accidents or be used for intentionally destructive purposes
("The revolution," 2003, August). The Action Group on
Erosion, Technology and Concentration reports a lack of
government oversight in industrialized countries.
Nanotechnologists are literally altering life at the atomic
level. This will change the way we live and what we consume
in order to survive. As the ETC Group reports:
Over the next two
decades, the impacts of nano-scale convergence on farmers
and food will exceed that of farm mechanisation or of
Revolution. No government has developed a regulatory regime
that addresses the nano-scale or the societal impacts of the
invisibly small. A
handful of food and nutrition products containing invisible
and unregulated nano-scale additives are already
available. Likewise, a number of pesticides formulated at
the nano-scale are on the market and have been released in
("Down on the farm," 2004, November 23).
Whether or not the
nano-tech and food companies will be able to fulfill their
grandiose claims of a nano-particle super-food, thereby
delivering plentiful and nutritious food to consumers more
efficiently than standard farming methods, they are
presently investing billions of dollars toward that aim. The
proof is in the nano-pudding. Undoubtedly, given an option
most people would prefer not to eat such techno-gunk.
However, with the increasing corporate monopolization of the
food supply consumers may no longer have a choice ("Food
sovereignty," 2002, June 14). Most processed and "fast"
foods (i.e., "junk food" as opposed to "whole food") are
already full of unhealthy ingredients even as the U.S.
government fails to hold food manufacturers accountable
("MSG," 2005, September 12).
There is a sinister
aspect to the information technology (IT) boom that most
users of its hardware are only dimly aware of. Africa has
long supplied the rest of the world with precious
commodities. Over the centuries these have included human
slaves, elephant ivory, oil, timber, animal parts, cash
crops and valuable minerals such as diamonds. Today, the
newest hot-commodity is coltan which is used mainly in cell
phones and in other high tech products. As reported in the
political journal, The Handstand ("Congo," 2005, May):
Coltan is made of
the minerals columbium and tantalite, or Coltan for short.
Tantalite is a rare, hard and dense metal, very resistant to
corrosion and high
temperatures and is an excellent electricity and heat
conductor. It is used in the microchips of cell phone
to prolong duration
of the charge, making this business flourish.
producer of Coltan on a world level...is in Africa where 80%
of the world reserves are to be found. Within this
Republic of Congo concentrates over 80% of the deposits,
where 10,000 miners toil daily in the province of Kivu
(eastern Congo), a
territory that has been occupied since 1998 by the armies of
Rwanda and Uganda.
Unbeknownst to most
cell phone users, "cell phones and children's video games
are tainted with the blood of 3.2 million deaths since 1998"
while "other mega-technologies contribute to forest
depredation and spoliation of the rich natural resources of
paradoxically impoverished peoples." High mortality is
brought on by warring factions and the contamination of
civilian miners and their families at mining sites. Several
companies "associated to large transnational capital, local
governments and military forces (both state and
'guerrilla')" have colonized the region and grapple for the
mining rights to extract coltan and other minerals. African
journalist Kofi Akosah-Sarpong states that "[c]oltan in
general terms is not helping the local people....In fact, it
is the curse of the Congo."
There is an additional
health crisis occurring at the user-end of the cell phone.
Worthington (2005, February) reports that “[s]ome people
appear to have an almost pathological emotional attachment
to their cell phones.” In major cities around the world
people regularly talk, read, play games and send text
messages while using cell phones, often oblivious to their
surroundings as they walk incognizant of the crowds of
people and traffic that surrounds them. Most users are
unaware that a
cell phone is a
microwave transmitter....Microwave energy oscillates at
millions to billions of cycles per second. The Journal of
that these frequencies cause cancer and other diseases by
interfering with cellular DNA and its repair
Cell phones promote
cell shrinkage, "rapid cell aging" and cancerous cells to
"grow aggressively.” In addition, “[c]ordless phones...emit
the same dangerous microwave radiation as cell phones.”
Worthington reports that medical researcher Dr. Henry Lai
found that "brain cells are clearly damaged by microwave
levels far below the U.S. government's" safety guidelines
which critics believe do not adequately protect users and
others within range of the phones and microwave transmitter
towers. Worthington cites additional research that claims
that "government agencies and cell phone manufacturers KNEW
YEARS AGO that cell phone radiation at present exposure
levels is dangerous to human health" [emphasis in original].
Yet, according to Lai's findings,
even tiny doses of
radio frequency can cumulate over time and lead to harmful
effects...cell phones can also leak huge amounts of
radiation from the
keypad and mouthpiece. This radiation deeply penetrates
brain, ear and eye tissues, which are especially susceptible
to microwave damage
(Worthington, 2005, February).
Ashton & Laura's
research (1999) on the carcinogenic effects of
electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure found that "[f]ifteen
centimeters from common household electrical appliances such
as can-openers, electrical shavers and hair dryers, the
50-60 hertz magnetic field can be" equivalent to "2 million
times" the levels of EMF that occur in nature (pp. 42-43).
This research supports the idea that holding a cell phone--a
miniature microwave oven--close to your head for any length
of time is unnatural and possibly dangerous.
that the pineal gland is sensitive to electromagnetic field
exposure. Human and avian circadian rhythms or daily
are lengthened in shielded environments that exclude natural
and artificial electronic fields. Electric fields of 60
hertz have been
observed to depress pineal melatonin levels in animals, and
pineal melatonin depression has been associated with
cancer growth. Other
hormone effects manipulated by electric fields have also
been observed and experiments have shown that at
60 hertz electric fields may suppress T-lymphocyte
cytotoxicity which is part of the body’s natural defense
cancer (p. 45).
February) reports that recent studies
confirm that cell
and cordless phone microwaves can: Damage nerves in the
scalp; Cause blood cells to leak hemoglobin; Cause
memory loss and
mental confusion; Cause headaches and induce extreme
fatigue; Create joint pain, muscle spasms and tremors;
sensation and rash on the skin; Alter the brain's electrical
activity during sleep; Induce ringing ! in the ears, impair
sense of smell;
Precipitate cataracts, retina damage and eye cancer; Open
the blood-brain barrier to viruses and toxins; Reduce the
efficiency of white blood cells; Stimulate asthma by
producing histamine in mast cells; Cause digestive problems
cholesterol levels; Stress the endocrine system, especially
pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, testes.
Nevertheless, the US
government's Food and Drug Administration claims that
"[t]here is no reason to conclude that there are health
risks posed by cell phones to consumers" even as the cell
phone industry plans to market more powerful phones. Because
of the huge profits involved and lack of governmental
regulation, corporations are marketing cell phones to
children despite findings that “[m]icrowave to the head is
extremely hazardous to children." Additionally, "cell phones
can alter electrical activity of a child's brain for hours,
causing drastic mood changes and possible behavior and
of childhood is a crucial issue because once children are
addicted to habits, substances, or forms of technology, the
impact on behavior can be lasting. After carrying out
sociological studies on the commercialization on children,
Ruskin and Schor (January, 2005) noted that
[f]or a time,
institutions of childhood were relatively uncommercialized,
as adults subscribed to the notion of childhood innocence,
the need to keep
children from the “profane” commercial world. But what was
once a trickle of advertising to children has become a
spent about $15 billion marketing to children in the United
States each year, and by the mid-1990s, the average
child was exposed to
40,000 TV ads annually.
The intended effect is
to pacify the audience and instill addiction to pleasurable
delights. Hoffman (2001) believes that such
commercialization is having a dehumanizing effect on the
If we consider the
hours in a day most Americans spend in front of a TV and add
to that the hours children spend immersed in the
digital world of
video games and add to that their forthcoming immersion in
computer-simulated worlds of supposed 'history' and
'travel' in their
schools, and we see the gradual creation of a population of
dwellors-in-perpetual-illusion (p. 94).
People become more
like their machines as they find relationships with machines
more fruitful and predictable than those with humans,
animals or the outside world. One veteran political activist
concluded that new forms of technology can lead to
alienation from neighbors and impede the ability of people
to organize around important social and political issues:
I see the flood and
the created demand for hi-tech toys [in San Francisco] that
now targets virtually every age group as another
form of social
control, getting the younger generation and their kids
addicted to cell phones, iPods, mP3 players, Blackberrys, as
they were to the
Walkman and CD players. There are kids in schools today that
cannot function without music in their ears, who
can't stand silence
and have lost the ability to think. Cafes used to be where
people went to talk, not it's where people bring their
lap tops and the
only talking they do is on their cell phones (J. Blankfort,
personal communication, August 28, 2005).
Despite the large
amount of money people spend on electronic gadgetry, the
computerization of thought processes may not actually
improve the ability to think. As one news report found,
[t]he less pupils
use computers at school and at home, the better they do in
international tests of literacy and maths...being able to
use a computer at
work - one of the justifications for devoting so much
teaching time to ICT (information and communications
technology) - had no
greater impact on employability or wage levels than being
able to use a telephone or a pencil....Pupils tended to
do worse in schools
generously equipped with computers, apparently because
computerized instruction replaced more effective forms
of teaching (Clare,
2005, March 3).
This would tend to
support Schor's findings (2004) that commercial culture is
harmful to children's well being. Her research presented
irrefutable statistical results, some of which are
involvement is a significant cause of depression, anxiety,
low self-esteem, and psychosomatic complaints.
healthy children will be made worse off if they become
enmeshed in the culture of getting and spending. Children
will be helped if they disengage from the worlds that
corporations are constructing for them. The effects operate
both directions and
are symmetric. That is, less involvement in consumer culture
leads to healthier kids, and more involvement leads
psychological well-being to deteriorate (p. 167).
As children become
more vulnerable, technological gadgets offer an escape from
immediate problems and may exacerbate existing ones. Schor
reports that in order to sell expensive products to
children, corporations are aggressively seeking shrewd
marketing techniques. A behavioral pathology that already
affects many people is an addiction to shopping, but
corporations are trying to exploit this. “Some researchers
have been explicit” about their goal “to combine scientific
discoveries about the brain with computerized technologies,
to craft ever more effective and irresistable messages" (p.
109). Marketing is rapidly moving into the area of
involves using brain science to determine how to sell to
consumers. The BrightHouse Institute for Thought Sciences
Atlanta is paying
people to have MRI brain scans done while they look at
pictures of different products. Harvard Business School
Zaltman pioneered this technique in the late 1990s...and has
patented another method called ZMET, which is
influential in the field [of marketing], and has been used
with teens and children. Which companies are involved?
Kovel is tight-lipped: “We can’t actually talk about the
specific names of the companies, but they are global
companies" (p. 110).
Jensen and Draffan (2005,
October 9) note that some researchers are taking this
approach even further:
Recent research has
been aimed at co-opting the rats’ will. Scientists put an
electrode near a pleasure center in the rat’s brain, and
others to stimulate
whiskers on each side of the rat’s nose. The scientists then
trigger, for example, implants near the left whiskers,
and follow that by
triggering the pleasure center. This convinces the rat to
move left. After only ten days of this, rats can be trained
climb trees, walk,
and stand in the open, or do many other things rats don’t
normally like to do, controlled by technicians issuing
commands from laptop
computers up to 550 yards away.
One might speculate
that these types of projects are aiming to turn people into
submissive consumer automatons with the added side-benefit
of weakening their intuitive resistance to political
tyranny. Once again, this kind of experimentation evokes the
moral question raised by Rifkin as to the making of
"manzees," the half humans, half apes: power through control
of existing organisms and altering or creating new organisms
when more control is needed as a means to an end.
According to the logic
of technological advancement, more is better, and more power
to control others reduces risks to those who have power and
want to hold it. Thus, empires rarely give up their foreign
bases but tend to expand. The same tendency applies
domestically: as policing powers increase, society becomes
dependent on "crime" and policing and prisons as an economic
and cultural fix. Yet, the farther we move toward
convenience, security and efficiency, the farther we move
away from the spontaneity and joy of life.
The human nervous
network is a complex of billions of neurons and synapses
washed in biochemicals sending subtle multileveled
communities consist in part of millions of these nervous
networks interacting. More-than-human communities
consist in part of
millions of species interacting in verbal and non-verbal
ways. We can’t fathom the world, much less control it,
much less redesign
it after our ambitions’ impoverished goals. By trying to
monitor everyone’s behavior and thinking, and by trying
to compel everyone
to follow rules, we reveal our ignorance of the complexity
and subtlety of human cultures and the natural
world (Jensen &
Draffan, 2004, October 9).
Take the example of
Japan, a society with a long history which was operated
within a hierarchical structure and an increasingly
fraudulent political system (Chan, 2005, September 15).
Japan's leaders have brilliantly adapted the country to the
modern technosphere for practical purposes (and under
pressure from imperial masters such as the United States),
but also for wealth enhancement and as a tool of social
control. McVeigh (2002) describes the innumerable
totalitarian social tendencies that already exist in Japan,
some of them amenable to technological tampering:
Japan, as a
technologically advanced, late capitalist society, offers us
a good example of the politics of visuality, a place where
are numerous sites
in which one is watched: neighborhoods policed by kouban
(“police boxes”); public spaces scanned by cameras;
offices filled with
desks over-seen by managers; assembly lines monitored by
supervisors; classrooms and school ceremonies
teachers; reception areas watched; guard houses staffed by
sentries; guarantors required whenever a substantial
is made; and educational and occupational examinations and
interviews conducted by prospective instructors
and employers. The
ubiquitous gazes generated by these sites normalize, judge,
include, exclude, praise, and denounce. The official
imagined lines of socialization that produce normalized
subjectivities, connecting observers with observed....In
the gaze is
internalized and authority is positioned in the self
[emphasis added] (pp. 77-78).
RFID (radio frequency
identification) computer chips are now being introduced into
many facets of business and commerce in Japan and other
countries, as well as for political uses as with RFID chip
passports ("METI selects," 2004, June 25; "RFID passports,"
2005, June 3). With the usual pretexts of "efficiency" and
"wave of the future," this trend threatens civil liberties
and privacy (Hand-Boniakowski, 2004, August) while
reinforcing a totalitarian social mentality that has often
characterized the Japanese political system. Hencke (2005,
June 7) reports that In Britain there is a trend to
electronically monitor workers:
warehouses across Britain are being "electronically tagged"
by being asked to wear small computers to cut costs and
efficient delivery of goods and food to supermarkets....New
US satellite- and radio-based computer technology is
workplaces into "battery farms" and creating conditions
similar to "prison surveillance", according to a report from
professor of geography at Durham University. The technology,
introduced six months ago, is spreading rapidly,
the system could
make Britain the most surveyed society in the world. The
country already has the largest number of street
Professor Blakemore warns
about electronically tagged workers and worries that
computers are "taking over the human rather than humans
using computers." As workers are compelled to work more
faster the possibility for injuries due to repetitive
motions increases. This new kind of work regime is also part
of a growing trend of
devices...being developed in the US, including ones that can
check on the productivity of secretaries by measuring
the number of key
strokes on their word processors; satellite technology is
also being developed to monitor productivity in
(Hencke, 2005, June 7).
Shortly before he died
the mathematical genius Norbert Weiner “saw the danger in
his brainchild, the computer, and warned against letting it
play too prominent a role in human affairs” (Hall, 1976, p.
39). Another Pandora's Box opened. Robots are now being
developed to mimic human "thinking" such as "self awareness"
and experience physical "senses" such as "touch" ("Robot
report," 2005, September). So while robots are becoming more
human-like, the opposite trend may be occurring as well.
While computers and information technology offer many
advantages to people who consume various products, these
technologies also allow corporations to track people's
behavior by monitoring credit cards, cellular phone numbers
and email addresses. Once again, we see the trade-offs that
occur when new technologies are introduced with little
democratic debate over whether they will benefit society or
3.6 The Weapons
Industry And The Science Of Killing
Weaponry, with the
priniciple aim to intimidate or kill an enemy, can range
from ancient forms of knife, club or spear, to a handgun or
rifle, to the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, a nuclear
missile. Albright and O'Neill's research on science and
military issues (1999) revealed that
highly enriched uranium (HEU), commonly called "fissile
materials," are the key ingredients of nuclear weapons,
making them two of
the most dangerous materials in existence. There are more
than 3,000 tonnes (metric tons) of these materials in
the world, enough
for more than 230,000 nuclear weapons (p. 1).
While the quantities
and types of conventional, nuclear and other sorts of
innovative weaponry are proliferating--with the United
States far in the lead as producer and seller of arms
(Wilcox, 2005)--the question arises as to how normally calm,
kind and peace-loving persons can be involved as scientists
or military bureaucrats in their role to proliferate ever
more sinister forms of weaponry?
A retired military
colonel offers this succinct summary of the reasons for war:
“[m]en are greedy, men are vicious, men are cruel. As long
as you have human beings on earth, you are going to have
wars. History bears this out. And as long as you have wars,
you are going to have armies and soldiers and weapons. How
can you deny it?” (Prokosh, 1995, p. 5). While one could
argue over the colonel's cynical view of human nature, it
would be hard to deny that wars have become more prevelant
and often more savage than they were in the ancient past.
Although methods have changed, the willingness to kill
remains with us. Prokosh's (1995) study of "the technology
of killing" noted of the colonel's remarks:
The colonel’s vision
is of a battlefield where his forces can enjoy the
advantages of technology without limit. Yet the logical
advances in killing power is ever more devastation, ever
worse injury to soldiers, ever more destruction to civilian
life. War is a
supremely irrational and destructive enterprise....Yet the
conduct and preparation for warfare are highly organized;
weapons used are
based on the best national technologies; and the people
engaged in each component of this vast operation are
surrounded by an
ethos which values their contribution, and a jargon which
allows them to communicate comfortably without
focusing on the
dreadful effects of their work (p. 5).
In other words, modern
warfare and the political system that upholds it have
normalized the process of killing. "Killing" as an efficient
industrial function, much like canning beans or brewing
cappacino to perfection. For example, [i]n the United
States, [The Princeton Group of scientists] established
during [WWII]...[used] new experimental techniques, they
documented the wounding process with unprecedented
thoroughness and precision" (p. 19). This was carried out
with precision to document the most destructive effects of
munitions on the human body. The effects of high velocity
projectiles were studied to learn about “the damage
inflicted on various body parts.” Data was gathered on the
degree of damage that can be caused to muscle fibers,
ruptures to capillaries, nerves that can be “pushed aside,”
shattered bones and ruptured intestines. The ideal target of
the human head being viewed simply as a “’liquid medium’
(the brain)” where “a high velocity missile creates a
temporary cavity with the substance being violently pushed
outwards” (p. 20). “The mathematics of wounding” is the
grotesque scientific attempt "to place wound ballastics on a
sound quantitative basis" (p. 22).
Not only do
projectiles kill by moving through space, landmines wait for
their victims for as long as they remain operable. Even
after significant efforts of peace activists, the United
States announced that it "may soon resume production of
antipersonnel land mines" and renege on the 1997 Mine Ban
Treaty (Baker, 2005, August 3). Though
Human Rights Watch
(HRW) notes these weapons that kill and maim an estimated
500 people, mostly civilians, each week....With very
nearly every nation has endorsed the goal of a global ban on
all antipersonnel mines at some point in the future....Such
acts (by the U.S.)
would clearly be against the trend of the emerging
international consensus against any possession or use of
The Pentagon recently
"requested 1.3 billion dollars for [a new] mine system, as
well as for another mine called the Intelligent Munitions
System." The Pentagon did not indicate in what way these
landmines were meant to be "intelligent," the name implying
that they might be able to differentiate between enemy
combatants and civilians in the way that a "smart missile"
can supposedly pinpoint a target and reduce "collateral
damage" (i.e., civilian casualties). In addition to new
forms of conventional weapons, Jensen & Draffan (2004,
October 9) note that
at MIT and elsewhere are working hard to fabricate
technologies that will...allow soldiers to leap buildings,
bullets, and even
become invisible. Shoes containing power packs will store
energy when soldiers—or state police, or corporate security
guards, insofar as
there’s a difference—walk, then release this energy in
bursts to allow them to jump over walls. Soldiers-cops,
be given exoskeletons, like insects, to deflect bullets.
Thus, the rate of
innovation of weaponry is rapid. Jensen and Draffan cite
weapons enthusiasts who applaud the day when there will be
“...really effective substitutes for chemical and biological
weapons: deadly bio-machines of finite life that could be
released by sub-munitions, showering opponents in millions
of nanobots...that could literally eat humans alive" (2004,
October 9). Already a "robo-soldier" is in use in the Iraq
war in order to search for enemy insurgents while protecting
the lives of American soldiers. Robo-soldier is described by
its makers as "[a] reconnaissance robot used for military
purposes which can detect enemies and fire at enemies
without detection" (Regan, 2005, January 27).
In addition to the
retired colonel's reason for war, because "men are greedy,
vicious and cruel," the ideological reason given during the
Cold War era was that it was the price "we" had to pay to
fight communism. But with the Cold War long over this does
not explain the current pace of militarism. The oft cited
need for "national security" and a "strong military" is
counterproductive to creating sustained security for the
world's peoples. According to Johnson's (2004) study of the
U.S. military empire, in the current climate of "preventive"
war, military "solutions" implemented by the Pentagon are
strongly preferred over diplomatic solutions offered by the
explanation for modern militarism is the huge profits
garnered by the arms trade. In the 20th century lucrative
military contracts are funded by global taxpayers, namely
Americans. In the wake of World War II, the revisionist
scholar Harry Elmer Barnes writes in the classic work,
Perpetual Peace for Perpetual War
(1953), "[t]here was no income tax before 1913, and that
levied in the early days after the amendment was adopted was
little more than nominal. All kinds of taxes were relatively
low. We had only a token national debt of around a billion
dollars" which could have been easily paid off in a year's
time (p. 3). Yet with each consecutive World War, the U.S.
national debt rose dramatically to about 260 billion dollars
in 1951 with 60 percent of each tax dollar paying for
"military service" (Barnes, Ed., 1953, book jacket). As the
National Priorities Project documents, after 2 and a half
years the cost of the Iraq war alone is approaching 200
billion dollars and increases at the rate of 2 thousand
dollars per second ("Cost of war," 2005, September 6).
At the same time, the
U.S. national debt is listed at over 7.9 trillion dollars
("U.S. National," 2005, September 6). Astonishingly, one
economist has estimated that from 1973 to 2002, aid to
Israel and losses in revenue to the U.S. government due to
the political practices of lobbying groups such as the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has cost
U.S. taxpayers "about 1.6 trillion" dollars (Francis, 2002,
December 9). This alone is a significant slice of the
overall debt and represents a dramatic change since the
pre-World War I era when Americans paid hardly any taxes.
According to the War
Resisters League, current U.S. military spending claims 30
percent of every tax dollar while veterans payments and
interest paid on past military spending claims 18 percent of
each tax dollar ("Where your," 2005). Starck reports that
"[w]orld military spending rose for a sixth year running in
2004, growing by 5 percent to $1.04 trillion....With
expenditure of $455 billion, the United States accounted for
almost half the global figure, more than the combined total
of the 32 next most powerful nations "(2005, June 7).
Despite the fact that some people earn their living from the
military or related industries, overwhelmingly "war" is a
system of institutionalized theft on a gigantic scale,
shifting substantial portions of individuals' earned income
into the pockets of the wealthy operators of the military
industrial system. As U.S. Marine Corp General Smedley
Butler once famously stated: war is a racket.
For Cultural And Biological Diversity
Whether or not technology
makes life easier, more pleasant, or longer-lived for large
numbers of people, these are secondary questions to the
reality of rapidly eroding human cultures and the continued
ecological basis for their existence.
4.1 Where Are We
considered to be a tool since it is properly considered part
of the body, one "tool" that has enabled humans to thrive
has been the human tongue. Oral traditions have been
indispensable for human survival and provided the basis for
people to carry on their traditions and accumulate
knowledge. For example, Harris (1986) notes the
anthropological importance of language in human evolution,
cultural take-off is also linguistic take-off. A rapid and
cumulative rate of change in traditions implies a
breakthrough in the
information socially acquired, stored, retrieved, and
shared. It is impossible to celebrate the one without
other (p. 66).
Yet, in an United
Nations study tracking trends among the world's indigenous
peoples, the cultural anthropologist Posey (1999) notes:
diversity is threatened on an unprecedented scale. Linguists
estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 languages are
spoken today on five
continents. Languages are considered one of the major
indicators of cultural diversity. Yet an estimated half of
languages--the codification’s, intellectual heritages, and
frameworks for each society’s unique understanding of
disappear within a
century. Nearly 2,500 languages are in immediate danger of
extinction; and an even higher number are losing the
contexts’ that keep them as vibrant languages (p. 3).
The celebration of
culture seems to be coming to a depressing end as robots
take over for "unreliable humans" and their "innefficient"
traditions in order to make way for homogenization of
culture and nature. Whether or not one accepts the arguments
set forth by ideologues of the global monetocracy, the
randomness and brutality of "progress" is destroying the
planet's cultural and biological heritage (Madron & Jopling,
2003; Korten, 1995). How did this dire situation come to
Writing 49 years after
Christopher Columbus and the Europeans arrived at the island
they named Hispaniola (modern Haiti and the Dominican
Republic) in 1492, the Spanish priest De Las Casas (1992)
recounts the unspeakable atrocities that took place at the
hands of the Spaniards. In Hispaniola, they murdered and
enslaved the native peoples in order to plunder the island’s
food, gold and resources. Those who did not submit were
murdered or severely tortured while those who did were
forced to dig gold from the mines until they died of
exhaustion. There was no escape from the first holocaust
carried out against the native peoples (p. 27). The main
island and surrounding islands were described by De Las
Casas as being “densely populated with native peoples” who
were “devoid of wickedness and duplicity” as well as being
“humble, patient and peacable.” In that idylic setting of
tranquility and primeval beauty, on the other hand, the
in no other way during the past forty years, down to the
present time, for they are still actiing like ravenous
terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the
native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most
methods of cruelty,
never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that
this Island of Hispaniola (having a population that I
estimated to be more
than three millions), has now a population of barely two
hundred persons (p. 28).
Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to
carry out massacres....They attacked the towns and spared
neither the children
nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not
only stabbing them and dismembering them but
cutting them to
pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. They
laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could
split a man in two
or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a
single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their
snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst
against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw
them into the
rivers, roaring with laugher (pp. 33 - 34).
The Spanish carried
out massacres and plunder all the way from Florida to the
Kingdom of the Yucatan to Guatamala to Peru. As other
Europeans colonized the world over the following centuries a
more refined ideology gradually replaced overt barbarism.
Bodley (1990) explains that in the field of anthropology
indigenous cultures were studied by Europeans in order to
“reconcile the natives” to the “inevitable” loss of their
“maladaptive cultures” (p. 2). By contrast, the modern
“culture of consumption” which has justified the
acculturation of indigenous peoples through “technological
ethnocentrism” claims that “the materialistic values of
industrial civilization are cultural universals [and that]
industrial goods are always superior to handcrafted goods.”
This claim is supported by the false notion that “tribal
cultures are unable to satisfy the material needs of their
people” (p. 6).
After World War II,
Sachs (1992) describes how technology was used as a "Trojan
horse" to bring the Third World under a more elaborate
system of domination. Since there were many movements from
colonial independence after the war, the U.S. and its allies
needed a pretext to allow land and labor to be exploited
while convincing Third World leaders of their benevolent
intentions. As Sachs puts it, "[i]t was not until after the
Second World War, precisely in the age of ‘development’,
that the Third World countries moved into focus" and the
industrial world imposed its "material-centred viewpoint."
Technocrats from "aid" agencies visited the non-industrial
world and "lo and behold, discovered an appalling lack of
useful objects wherever they looked." This was a boon for
American, European and Japanese manufacturers of
industrially advanced products.
However, what was of
primary importance in many villages and communities - the
tissue of relationships with neighbours, ancestors
and gods - more or
less melted into thin air under their gaze....John F Kennedy
called upon Congress in March 1961 to finance the
Progress’. ‘Throughout Latin America,’ he said, ‘millions of
people are struggling to free themselves from the bands of
poverty, hunger and
ignorance’. In the wake of such an exposition, in material-centred
terms, of the aspirations of people throughout
Latin America from
traders on the Gulf of Mexico to cattle farmers of the pampa
the strategic conclusion was self-evident. ‘To the
North and the East,’
Kennedy continued, ‘they see the abundance which modern
science can bring. They know the tools of progress
are within their
reach’ (Sachs, 1992).
This ideology continues
to hold sway despite the frequent shocks, crises and popular
resistance movements that have historically characterized
capitalist development. For example, the Project for a New
American Century, the think-tank which was widely credited
for helping to initiate the Iraq War in 2003 blandly states
at its website that "American leadership is good both for
America and for the world" ("Project for," 2005, September
9). The millions of victims of the wars and illegal
interventions throughout the world carried out by "American
leadership" might disagree (Blum, 1995).
Therefore, even with
President "Truman’s pledge to provide scientific and
technical aid" the deck was stacked against most Third World
countries to develop their manufacturing bases (Sachs,
1992). If this had happened, it would only have led to
competition with the imperial alliance countries and an
actual free-market, not the rigged poker-game that was set
up for them by their former colonial rulers (Chomsky, 1993).
Still, the command that Third World countries should
"develop" their economies fit well, for, "if ever there was
a single doctrine uniting North and South it was this: more
technology is always better than less." Sachs' (1992) offers
a compelling interpretation of this doctrine:
The popularity of
this doctrine derives from the tragic fallacy that modem
technologies possess the innocence of tools....Throughout
nationalities and religions the consensus was for ‘more
technology’ because technology was viewed as powerful but
entirely at the
service of the user. In reality...a model of civilization
follows hot on the heels of modern technology. Like the
the Trojan horse in
the ancient myth, the introduction of technology in the
Third World paved the way for a conquest of society from
within. In almost
any developing country you can find unused equipment,
rusting machinery and factories working at half their
capacity. For the
‘technical development’ of a country demands putting into
effect that multitude of requirements which have to be
fulfilled to set the
interconnected systems whirring. And this generally amounts
to taking apart traditional society step by step in order
to reassemble it
according to functional requirements. No society can stay
the same; there can be no [industrial infrastructure]
the whole....Through transfer of technology, generations of
development strategists have worked hard to get
moving. Economically they have had mixed results, yet
culturally - entirely unintended - they have had
The flood of machines which has poured into many regions may
or may not have been beneficial, but it has
away traditional aspirations and ideals. Their place has
been taken by aspirations and ideals ordered on the co-
technological civilization - not only for the limited number
who benefit from it, but also for the far larger number who
watch its fireworks
from the sidelines.
The Indian ecologist
Shiva (1997) identifies "the technological and economic push
to replace diversity with homogeneity in forestry,
agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry” as the main
factors which are transmogrifying nature through the
(p. 65). Shiva cites two
forces that are in conflict: culture in harmony with life
versus corporate ownership of life.
knowledge and resource systems recognize creativity in
nature...biodiversity carries the intelligence of three and
half billion years
of experimentation by life forms...Intellectual Property
Rights regimes [for example, claims of ownership of
modified seeds], in
contrast, are based on the denial of creativity in nature.
Yet they usurp the creativity of emerging indigenous
knowledge and the
intellectual commons (p. 67).
In a separate study,
Shiva (1995) concluded that the conversion of species
diverse forests and crops to monocultures occurs due to the
corporate imperative of "economic efficiency" (i.e., rate of
‘yield’, ‘productivity’, and ‘improvement’ which have
emerged from the corporate viewpoint have been treated as
tree-planting programmes financed by international
institutions in recent years...have spread eucalyptus
across Asia, Africa
and Latin America (p. 48).
Despite the facts that
eucalyptus trees use much water and degrade biodiversity,
because they are fast-growing and are deemed to be
economically efficient they are favored by timber
industries. On the other hand, although the economy would
not exist without the natural world, biodiversity impedes
economic efficiency when it blocks valuable resources from
Given that the
industrial sector does not benefit from the diversity of
species and uses of trees, forest programmes deliberately
for increasing yields of industrial raw material...naturally
diverse tropical forests are considered ‘unproductive’.
Referring to the
diversity and large biomass [the plants, animals, insects
etc.] of tropical forests, a forestry expert has stated
from a standpoint of
industrial material supply, this is relatively unimportant.
The important question is how much...of preferred
profitably marketed today. By current utilisation standards,
most of the trees in these tropical forests are, from an
standpoint, clearly 'weeds’ (pp. 48 - 49).
Indeed, after a 23
year study in a Ugandan rainforest, one biologist concluded
that for rain forests to be logged sustainably, "harvesting
must mimic natural treefalls - consisting of no more than
one large tree per hectare per century, done by hand to
minimize forest disruption" ("Rainforest permanently," 1999,
August 24). This is in stark contrast to industrial logging
which is to cut, plough and bulldoze every standing tree and
shrub in sight in the shortest possible time.
4.3 Where Are We
The trees are felled
in the rainforest and shipped to major cities to build the
dwellings that Koestler's "urban barbarians" inhabit,
drifting from day to day in the smog, the semi-willing
participants of the post-industrial service economy. A
trenchant social philosopher, Arthur Koestler concludes:
He [sic] utililzes
the products of science and technology in a purely
possessive, exploitive manner without comprehension or
His relationship to
the objects of his daily use...is impersonal and
possessive....Modern man [sic] lives isolated in his
because the artificial is evil as such, but because of his
lack of comprehension of the forces which make it work--of
the principles which
relate to his gadgets to the forces of nature, to the
universal order. It is not central heating which makes his
“unnatural,” but his refusal to take an interest in the
principles behind it. By being entirely dependent on
closing his mind to
it, he leads the life of an urban barbarian (Winner, 1992,
technology, Winner (1992) elaborates on the idea that far
from improving life, overall, technology has dumbed-us-down
and outstripped our ability to adapt to the rapid changes
imposed by the elite technocracy.
[M]embers of the
technological society actually know less and less about the
fundamental structures and processes sustaining
them. The gap
between the realities of the world and the pictures
individuals have of that world grows ever greater. For this
the possibility of
directing technological systems toward clearly perceived,
consciously chosen, widely shared aims becomes an
matter. Most persons are caught between the narrowness of
their everyday concerns and a bedazzlement at the
civilization. Beyond a certain point they simply do not know
or care about things happening in their surroundings. With
information so monumental, possibilities once crucial to
citizenship are neutralized (p. 326).
To offer a banal
illustration, my son's newly built elementary school has
many "environmentally friendly" features such as a small
wind-power generator and a solar-panel. But when I asked
various people at the school how much electricity was
produced by the generators no one was quite sure. We
eventually found a pamphlet (that no one had read) that the
generators were to be used only in case of an electrical
black-out. Surely, this is a small step in the right
direction. Though some of the upper grade students receive
lessons about how the generators work, most school time is
devoted to traditional curriculum and socialization
activities. In the meantime, the city of Tokyo, even while
being one of the most economically developed and convenient
cities in the world, is itself a massive consumer of natural
resources, not to mention a relentless cacaphony of
screeching machines, rumbling automobiles, thundering
building and highway construction noises and pervasive smog.
Loud speakers pervade urban Tokyo, whether at the train
stations or mounted on trucks that roam the city, they
endlessly blast annoying "information" and advertising in
order to capture the weary. These activities are jarring to
the mind and force people to withdraw behind their
psychological barricades. But Japan is not the only victim.
As Hoffman (2001)
With the onset of
machine technology known by the interesting sobriquet,
“Virtual Reality,” the immersion of mankind into the
computer-generated cryptosphere, intensifies, and the march
of induced hallucination, digital money, junk from Wal-Mart
and miracles by
priests in lab coats, accelerates, commensurate with the
spiritual and mental deaths of the animated corpses of the
masses of the
walking dead of America (p. 6)
Couple this with
the increasing very rapid destruction of wild nature and our
ability to access it, and modern humanity becomes
cut-off from the voice of God, emerging as enslaved
drone-bees: wired, processed, helmeted and
murders rage, the
invasion tides swell, the blood is polluted, the control is
tightening, the asphalt is pouring, the landmarks and the
vanishing, the heritage is dying and memory itself is
dwindling. Inside, in the Videodrome, the scantily-clad
shaking, the music
beat is pounding, the lights are flashing...(p. 94).
pessimistic conclusions presented above, if there is a
chance to save our world we had better act soon. A practical
step is for people to nurture their historical roots with
the countryside. With so many people now living in urban
areas this would ease some stress from overcrowding and
offer models for sustainable living. The environmental
writer Sale (1996) believes that a sustainable society must
understand the geography, climate and biology of the various
regions that it inhabits. Rearranging the scale of our
communities, from large to small, and rejecting the paradigm
adopting the paradigm of
are key to this vision.
The values of
such a society include the appreciation of community,
conservation, stability, self-sufficiency, cooperation,
decentralization, diversity, symbiosis and evolution. More
concretely, knowing and loving the land, learning its lore
and history and realizing the potential of natural resources
are integral to the success of an ecologically sensitive and
thriving community (471 - 484).
Winner (1992) wisely
recommends that “technologies be given a scale and structure
of the sort that would be immediately intelligible to
nonexperts” (p. 326). Building thoughtful communities which
employ modest and liberating forms of technology rather than
chaotic mega-cities while simultaneously opposing the
technological and political totalitarianism that is being
imposed from the ruling class will be required if there is
to be a sustainable and meaningful future.
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