This is something we never imagined in our worst dreams, but something we have worked very hard to get. Historians of the future, if there are any, will be baffled by what went on in the 20th Century. They always assume that people want good societies, but for some reason always get bad ones. I am saying that people (unconsciously) want bad societies – will be satisfied with nothing else – and invent new ones endlessly.
This is a basic dynamic we should recognize before it is too late. But I am afraid it has become too habitual to be visible.
All I can do is continue to live in a little corner of Costa Rica, order my books from Amazon, write on my blog, and cash my Social Security payments. I am still alive, and I keep reminding the world of that. But enough about me, let me return to the main subject – the rest of the world, and what is going on there.
We should be reminding ourselves, over and over, that we are stupid – and stupid in a number of ways. But instead we get reminded, over and over, of how smart we are. People stare at their latest smart device and marvel at how smart they are. Not realizing they are being suckered every time they do this.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against technological progress. After all, spent much of my life doing this. But having been there, I have learned a thing or two. I know how destructive they can be – and how destructive of human life in particular.
By technology, I don’t just mean technical things, all by their little selves. They never exist in isolation – but always coexist with the people who use them. And this combination of humans and nonhumans (as Latour points out) is a potent stew.
Do we recognize this? Absolutely not. We insist, over and over, that we and they are entirely separate beings – and have no effect on each other.
The most outrageous lie ever made. But one entirely consistent with the way we are. We keep saying, with great vehemence, “Pay no attention to the way things really are! Pay attention only to the way you know they are – and nothing else.” And people, being the obedient creatures they are, do what they are told.
They fill their lives with things that make them even more stupid. And think they are getting smarter. This is not a good situation because it makes them not notice the most important fact in their world – that they are destroying the world that made them.
When the Martians come to look at the remains of our society, they will shake their heads in amazement, much like the tourists used to do when they saw the Roman ruins. “Something amazing was going on here,” they will say, “I wonder what went wrong?”