You know how people tell you that as you get older you will get more conservative? Well I never would have believed it of myself when I was younger, but it’s gradually dawning on me that it’s true. This doesn’t have anything to do with politics or social issues; if anything, I’m even more radical now than when I was younger.
I really see it being expressed in my attitudes towards progress. I feel like one of those old codgers you see in the movies who goes on and on about the good old days, and how they’re never going to replace the horse with that confounded contraption.
Then there’s the other side of me that is sickened by the things we do and call progress, and it brings out the radical in me. I want to scream at the top of my lungs: “Hey, what about the human race and our chances of survival?” But I get the feeling that no one is listening.
Like any good conservative I want to stop the clock and make people slow down and stop what they’re doing because I thing it’s dangerous. While the radical in me wants to protest with all my heart and sould at their blind ignorence.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of Luddite who is against progress and technology to the extent that I want to smash machinery and return us to the Stone Age. I make far too much use of technology and appreciate the opportunities it gives me to want that.
What bothers me is that instead of technology being considered in light of what it can do to improve the human experience, it’s the technology itself that has become the focal point. Technology for the sake of technology; building a faster computer because we can, not because we really need to, doesn’t do anything except increase the profits of one chip developer at the expense of another.
Does anybody really need a 4gigabyte mhz processor for their home computer? What purpose does it serve? What kind of software is anybody going to run at home which really merits that type of processing speed?
It used to be said that when you drove your new car off the lot it would depreciate by a good chunk of change. Nowadays, by the time you get your computer home, unpacked, and set up, its obsolete. That maybe somewhat of an exaggeration, but, after six months, I’ll bet that if you wanted to stay au courant with the latest games or software, you’d have to go out and buy some upgrades.
But I shouldn’t pick on computers; they are just an obvious symptom of our culture’s ever increasing desire for bigger and faster. From food,super size me and thirty minutes or free, to cars, the Humvee, just like the Marines use for those off road desert battles, and even sexual potency, Viagra, get it up quicker and keep it up longer.
I’m sure people have always made this type of complaint throughout the ages. When the wheel was invented there was most likely somebody making doom and gloom predictions about it being an indication the world was going to hell in a hand basket. But the wheel actually improved the human condition, while super-sizing meals, and fast food in general, has led to North Americans being some of the unhealthiest people on the planet.
So much of our progress is devoted to providing quick fixes to problems. Instead of trying figure out a cause, we look for a means of masking symptoms. Viagra is a balm to the ego of predominantly middle-aged men, allowing them to pretend that the reasons for their impotency don’t exist. But it’s not a cure. A cure would involve having to actually think about what’s causing your problems.
Almost every year Bill Gates and company release a newer, better and flashier operating system. Then the software developers, the game creators, and the hardware builders have to make everything compatible. Woe to the poor consumers who don’t want to buy or upgrade to a new system. The next time they go to buy something for their computer, it’s only to discover it’s no longer compatible.
During the last twenty years, as personal computers have proliferated and millions of dollars have been spent on their development and promotion, the AIDS virus has reached epidemic proportions in Africa and is spreading into South Asia. Just like computers. the AIDS virus has spread rapidly but none of our vaunted technology is being put to use to counter the outbreak and find a cure.
What drugs are available to help slow the onset of the disease are priced so expensively by their manufactures that those afflicted can’t afford to buy them. Why we would put something so vitally important into the hands of people who are out to make a profit off the backs of other people’s suffering is beyond me.
It seems that whenever we do make some technological advance that could benefit people, there is a price tag attached which puts it out of reach of those most often affected by the problem. Explain to me how that’s progress.
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars devising the means to kill people more efficiently and to put cameras in bombs so that generals can give snappy press conferences complete with pictures and jokes. I’ll never forget watching a press conference from the first Gulf war and some general showing film footage from the nose cone of a bomb as it closed in on some poor person pedaling his bicycle for all he was worth across a bridge about to be bombed. The general made some joke, and all the reporters laughed like little sycophants.
They were like children with new toys. That was the war where they started to use technology to supplant reporters, and go over their heads straight to the people using words like collateral damage to describe the death of hundreds of civilians. One of CNN’s reporters, Peter Arnett, managed to file reports from Baghdad throughout the bombing raids.
When he started to substantiate the claims of the Iraqis that the “smart bombs” were still killing civilians and blowing up hospitals, he was accused of being brainwashed or un-American. He had the nerve to remind people that their new toys did just as good a job ripping people’s arms off and killing woman and children as the old dumb bombs.
So much of our new technology seems to be centred on providing people with instant gratification and mindless entertainment. From the cell phone which can play music, send e-mails, take pictures, and who knows what else, to satellite television which gives you over three hundred television stations, there is always something available to provide you with a distraction from the world around you. To watch the movies you’ve made with your phone, or the latest episode of your favourite reality show you can now get a 100-inch television to further deaden your senses.
Of course if size is not the be all and end all for you, there are plasma T.V.s and High Definition television and lord knows what else. I look at all this stuff and I wonder why. What purpose does it serve other than to improve your television experience? Am I the only one who finds the idea of television being an experience an incredibility bizarre notion?
Is there anyone who can tell me how any of these things are a benefit to humanity? Do they do anything aside from cost a lot of money to buy? Every night after school and work the family gathers together, daughter goes on line to her chat room to talk to people who want to meet her, son plugs himself into his mp3 player to listen to songs about bitches and fancy cars, and mom and dad stare at there big screen television.
There’s nothing wrong with progress when it is progress. The endless manufacture of newer, faster, bigger, and shinier commercial goods is not progress, its greed. The constant development of more and more efficient means of destroying other members of our species is not my idea of advancements for the good of civilization.
Instead of moving away from our former existence as near primates who communicated in grunts and used violence to solve our problems, we’ve just become far more sophisticated in our choice of clubs. The grunting hasn’t changed much at all.