I keep asking myself – when, and how, did people become so crazy?
Perhaps people in any civilization could ask themselves this question. It was something the Greeks and the Romans asked themselves. But that was a long time ago.
Christianity and the Middle Ages followed – that swallowed up 1000 years, a respectable period of time. But then humanity took off again – into what we call the Modern World – about 500 years ago. Not very much time, really.
In my feeble reading of History, I am attracted to the middle of the 19th Century – where the wheels came off our wagon. I am not alone in this, the Industrial Revolution has attracted a lot of attention – and now, after it is over, we don’t know what to make of it. So we just forget about it, and pretend it never happened.
It happened, all right – and it changed us forever. For better and for worse.
I tend to focus on technology, as a basic driver of social change. And the middle of the 19th Century was hit by some substantial ones, that drove us crazy.
There is no question that we went crazy – although we don’t usually use that word. The world was convulsed by the American Civil War (the first Industrial war) WWI, the Depression, and WWII.
What were the technologies that caused this? The Telegraph and Photography. It is true that the Railroad and the Steamship proceeded them – and the Sailing Ship, before that. And these also changed us fundamentally.
But the discovery of Electricity plopped us into another world. Into Radio networks, and Hollywood – and eventually, TV and the Computer. The biggest, and fastest, change in human history.
Somewhere along the line, we became supernatural. Electricity had made us supernatural (and superhuman) – able to transcend space and time. But it also made us unaware – a basic endowment that any living being has.
It turned us into machines – but machines with evil (antihuman) intentions.