Something is wrong with the world, and that something is us. It’s not the birds, the bees, or the trees – it is us. But we refuse to acknowledge this, and keep insisting it is something else – this, that, or the other thing. This is understandable, because what has happened to us is something we would not have wished on our worst enemies. And it happened, strangely enough, with the best of intentions.
It is not hard to understand, once you get over the horror of it all - because what happened was indeed horrible. We ended up not being human, but something else we have no word for, and no understanding of. But only the desperate defense “What ever you are talking about, it never, never happened. We are basically the same as we always have been. The world may be in desperate condition, but that is not our fault.”
The denial is even more basic than that: we cannot see any Big Problem. But only isolated problems here and there, and no overall pattern. Whatever happened to us, it has destroyed our ability to understand our world as a whole. Instead we sing, as a massive chorus, “Nothing really bad has happened! Things are better than ever!”
And our intellectuals are no better, they are not swimming against this current – probably for the same reason: they are scared to death – as indeed everyone is. The one overwhelming emotion of this time is a fear so intense it cannot be overcome. We now have a society where only complete conformity is acceptable. Some discussion of this or that is permitted, but not the Big Problem. We cannot even say that it does not exist – because that would involve some tentative admission that it might.
However, I will continue my reasoning, whether I have an audience or not. This requires an historical review – a review of what happened in the Modern world. Others far more qualified than I have written about this – but not that many. The most important event in the history of mankind is a complete mystery to most because our educational system has omitted this study – but has concentrated on making us comply with what has happened instead. It did not make us better thinkers, but better conformists instead.
The key process in the Modern world was Mass Production, which began with the Printing Press. Once set up, it could produce unlimited copies of any document. This was not an innocent, isolated incident – it set a pattern that everything would follow. Soon we would be mass-producing everything imaginable – including copies of ourselves.
But I need to discuss something else: the explosive growth of technology – of which the Printing Press was a part. The first dominant technology of the age was the sailing ship – which was developed to a peak of perfection that even amazes us today. These could sail around the world, and literally expanded man’s horizons. The New World was discovered – even thought it had been discovered by pre-historic man long before.
Whole industries sprang up to build and service these ships – and even more amazingly, a huge population to furnish the manpower to operate them. We have always flocked (like chickens) to wherever the jobs were, and this was our second population boom (the first was in response to agriculture).
The era of mass man had arrived – and this would have a profound effect – but also, and this was also typical, we would ignore this most important development. The education system, which was designed to educate only the best and the brightest (but also, if truth be known anyone who had the money) could not begin to cope with the vast increase in the population, but instead concentrated on making them part of the System. I must now describe what this System came to be.
The System was caused by the next major development – the Industrial Revolution. This, in turn, was make possible by Science – which in turn made new, modern technologies possible. As I have already said, the first of these, the Printing Press, was also a technology but hardly a science. In the same way succeeding technologies were only indirectly related to Science – but were nevertheless dependent on it.
The next big event was the Steam Engine – but also, even more importantly, the use of fossil fuels – which started us on an energy high, and an energy addiction, which still defines, largely, who we are. To put it bluntly, we are energy hogs – and we have no intention of breaking this habit. However, let me return to my historical review.
The Steam Engine made manufacturing possible. Instead of using human power (and animal power for transportation) and the simple loom to produce cloth – the Steam engine could provide vast amounts of power – and with the complicated machinery being rapidly developed, could produce vast amounts of cheap cloth. This immediately reduced the people involved, who had been independent farmers and craftsmen, to poverty. There were dark, satanic mills instead of England’s green and pleasant lands. But we were just beginning.
The Steam Engine also made the railroads possible. (I am skipping the development of the canals, because in the end they were not so important.) The railroads also provided employment for the growing population – but in inhuman working conditions.
People had become nothing more than machines to be used for industrial purposes. And Industry had made a few extremely rich – a wealth they proceeded to exhibit in every way possible. This would be the pattern of the future – except for the ostentatious display. This would eventually become more subdued, as its owners became content with control instead. And the rest became content with entertainment instead.
Entertainment (the movies, and eventually television) became an industry itself – and eventually, in the form of marketing, advertising, and politics – the dominant industry.
I hope you are asking, as I go through this review: what happened to the people in all this? The answer is simple – but shocking: they ceased to exist as people but became something else – a something we have yet to acknowledge or understand.
And the situation only got worse as the external combustion engine (coal and steam) was replaced by the internal combustion engine (oil, the automobile and the airplane). And then even worse by the latest complex – the computer/software/Internet.
People had not just ceased to exist, they had actively turned against each other and proceeded to destroy the world. The ultimate terror had begun.