As I reflect on the impotence of our elephantine technocracy to face the threats its sheer scale helped spawn, I recall two illustrations: the first, from Taoism, states that “power weakens as it grows”; the second, from biology, shows how organisms grow only as large in form as their functions demand, crippling or extinction the result when a part or the whole grows beyond its carrying capacity.
Look at history since the Enlightenment, and you find, in place of a conception of man as a soulful organic being rooted in a sustaining earth, a conception of ourselves as though we were mechanisms, extensions of the ones we devised, to be studied deterministically after the manner of atoms, engineered socially by the State. In America, a doctrine of every man for himself took root early, with nature as a storehouse to be plundered relentlessly for maximum short-term gain.
The treadmill of industrialism so unfolded spawned not just technical advance and undreamed wealth – but a division of labor rendering us dependent upon armies of “experts”; vast and impersonal corporate and government bureaucracies locked hand in hand; and, not least, a mass alienation from nature in all its complex finite ecology — nature, like all forces repressed, always returns with a vengeance: we became a nation of rubber-burning, pill-popping, push-button gas-guzzling speed freaks amusing ourselves to death, on an earth with a finite carrying capacity, every aspect of our lives desacralized by the pagan idols of marketing, our fears that our place at the head of the world’s banquet will be taken away at once assuaged and stoked by perpetual war for perpetual peace.
To a nation both of whose political parties have colluded with us in eroding our community-centred self-reliance, a political solution – rooted in force — is beyond my stomach and competence. Social change is best enacted nonviolently and at the capillary level, through accumulations within the moral ecology in which we each live. We can take more responsibility for our health, education and welfare out of the hands of self-anointed “experts”. We can learn how our food is grown, and vote with our dollars when that proves, as it should, unsettling — and start growing our own however modestly, restoring our kids to their eternal roots in the cycles of organic life outside the joystick jungle. We can seek examples from across the growing counterculture for whom the command on a highway sign I once saw — “YOU SLOW DOWN” — is of the essence of harmonic life, for whom Bigger and Faster and More Complex is a highway to hell no one is duty-bound to travel for longer than she can find the off-ramps.
If you still need inspiration, when you are next confronted by an agent of the technocracy offering you yet another “convenience” in exchange for the tiniest wafer of your soul, you might recall the Quaker who, confronted aboard ship by a pirate, replied, “Friend, thee has no business here” — and calmly and stoutly tossed him to the sharks.
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