Fuck Progress

    *The research for this piece originated with a poem I wrote entitled                      “Tricknology”. You can find it under Poems, Culture.  


Technology is not a machine, but rather it’s a culture, a philosophy, and a mindset. Technology’s a worldview that alters society in psychological, economic, political, environmental, cultural, and perceptual ways. Some questions: What’s the downside of all the hardware that surrounds our lives? What are the costs of this technological rampage, and where will it end?
Will it end?
Do we care?
You carry your brick to the pyramid, and that’s it. That’s your life. Five days a week for fifty years.

If we’ve ever questioned capitalism, we ought to care. Technology isn’t neutral, as folks like to say—it is the embodiment of capital. It spins a mythos that the corporate-run marketplace delivers happiness, prosperity, and freedom to all. Turns out that Ideology is more important than armies in maintaining Empires. There’s been no competing vision to capitalist consumption since the end of World War Two.

When we consider the myth of Progress, it’s helpful to remember that for 400,000 generations, humans lived at Nature’s speed, and that for 99/100th of our lives in these fabulously evolving bodies, we worshipped a divine female Goddess and lived as unfinished animals in accordance with Nature’s cycles. Once, we were egalitarian hunter-gatherers, moving embedded through Nature. And then, there was agriculture. With agriculture, we suddenly had more than enough—we had surplus, and men had to guard that, and armies were invented, and war. And the powerful got fat while the rest worked, and starved. And the darkness of 5,000 years descended upon the earth, ruled now by human domination. And soon there was no such thing as enough. But, what about Progress might need our approval? And how do we give or revoke our approval? Our approval and our attention are caught in a terrible co-dependence these days.

We’ve gone from the focused worship of golden gods to the mindless worship of golden arches. We watch, un-moved, as our strip malls overtake our forests and our perfect oceans fill with plastic. Now we worship at the altar of convenience and disposables as our landfills overflow and our spirits over-empty. But hey, we’ve made it to the top of the ladder—we’re the Super Predator of the world. And what do we choose to do with this elite status?

Well, we don’t choose. We have a society that thrusts the never-satisfied notion of Progress upon us—it impales our days. This consumer society is a culture obsessively in need of need, and so we’ve been trained to become so awfully needy. The entire economy has rearranged itself to this end, as a factory of need to supply the tirelessly grasping hands of our species. The computer screen is the ad-man's dream of reducing the gap between impulse and purchase to practically zero, and of course, Amazon will easily deliver everything to our door, for free.

We’ll have as our future leaders the first generation to receive their total sense of the world from one screen or another, rather than from contact with each other or with Nature. Social media makes it seem like we’re all so connected, but, it's a mediated, machine-driven connection. Self-absorption pairs with extreme individualism to send the constant message that you that you are the most important thing on earth. But really, there is NO individualism anymore, extreme or otherwise. This consumer society can't tolerate anything else near the center of our culture’s existence that might complicate consumption. And so, the mill of progress pushes us one way, ever-up, following god to his radical transcendence of the world. Gorging ever-fuller, ever-more, all the way to heaven, the final gated community.

High Tech & Information Sickness—
The spread of artificial intelligence and information technology is a disease of our times. Slayed by a deeply contagious and seemingly ubiquitous new toy that turns us all into zombies, just one bite and you’re gone from the ground, until the non-diseased are so rare they appear disabled freaks in the swirling silicon dust of the attack. Viral—the way information flows. The way institutions wield power. The way corporations set the agenda. The way meaning is produced in our society. A culture no longer created by the people. The parameters have all changed. The shape follows. For happiness, for success, for work, for relationships for reality. All of it, re-designed.

Evolutionarily, this is where we are—We've all been driven to semi-psychosis by a simulation of the world, and by the seduction of automation. An all-out war on the public interest and the earth, and the more connected we are, the more detached we become. What reality lies behind the electronic mammary? Is it all just to make us more like animals, confirming nature’s irrelevance, while denying our own agency and the merest possiblity of critical thinking?

And our reality is so technological, most can no longer relate to slower systems, like eco-systems and human social systems. We have no interest in or patience for true analysis, or a jailbreak. All information is propaganda, but we absorb the thrills and bogus bullshit as our new truth, disloyal to our bodies, forging our way into the vanguard of all the ologies. We’re merely machine-compatible now. Ruined by lack of restraint and instant gratification, when all we wanted was embodied cognition.

Consumerism is the key driver to all this pressure. The pain for the world is becoming a pivotal psychological reality, though most try to suppress it. The result of this denial is that we get sicker and more depressed. Youth are in an epidemic of suicide. The chronic despair caused by so many distractions is destroying our ability to see clearly, to moderate or to Challenge progress and fight back. We learned to say without any thought, with absolutley no analysis to support it: ‘You can’t fight progress’. Progress, which should be called Escalation.

Just when there’s all this attention deficit disorder, half the institutions of capitalism are working to get our minds' attention and the other half are busy tricking us to be even more distracted. Is it a coincidence that stress has become epidemic as the demands of our attention have mounted? Advertisers clamoring for the attention of our kids just as those kids start to suffer from a DEFICIT of that very thing. So, the capitalist economy coins a new disease— A.D.D. and prescribes yet more consumption—millions of children are on Adderal and Ritalin.

There are so many corrupted expressions, and such a variety of toxic mimics to fill the void. But no amount of bling can fill up that canyon, nothing can fill the void of true connectedness, except Relationship. Our increasing discomfort with the sort of in-person-intimacy that is so deeply rooted in what it means to be human is changing our evolution. Minds scrolling away from living in the moment, and from our holy lives as evolving, intelligent animals. Most catastrophically, away from the natural world, which is so slow and so dull and so far away from the plugs that our cords want to charge our lifeless cellphone lifelines.  

The pressure to answer a ringing phone—the panic and excitement it causes, the scrambling urgency—for what? What is the payback? Connection for which we are starving. But not authentic connection-in-the-flesh. Technology was supposed to free us from the shackles of work and give us more leisure time. But, the opposite has happened as we’re now a culture oppressed and enslaved by our electronics. We use our precious leisure time to stare at screens in silent desperation. In the absence of legitimate blooded-intimacy, social media manufactures Extreme Social Neediness. Modern humans voluntarily tie themselves to these leashes, willingly become brooding narcissists. Nothing technology’s done has enhanced the internals of life—it’s all externals, and in the end it’s all for corporate consumer industrial capitalism.  

And, the system needs us like this. We have constant notifications as we screen-gab, pivot fast, like, retweet, like, publish, like, notify, like, refresh our profiles, delete. Everyday, endlessly, we fight for popularity. Fight to be right, and to be liked. We destroy the earth as we tweet, retweet. Our resultant addictions to likes, bings, & pings soothes us as a river of data carries us along on ones and zeroes. Avatars, spambots, fake information, on-line scams, on-line shopping, on-line dating, on-demand task apps. We drown.

This is the language of waves and radiation, the infallible, unquestioned dead-end of us as human be-ings.This is the biggest psychological experiment in human history. What happens to us when the long commercial ends?

Our ultimate intimacy is with a piece of irradiated plastic composed of rare metals that cause mining, drilling, drought, and wars. It has become our self, our shield our amulet, our best friend, our memory, the silvered popcorn trail to better times. It’s our greatest disconnect and heaviest disability. People sleep with their phones, eat with their phones. Last thing in the night and first thing in the morning, our heads on the pillow, Pavlovian instincts drive us to check our phones. We are becoming unified, obsessive machine interfaces—

I, phone.

And, why is the shape and feel of an iphone so cold and alienating? They could have made it look and feel like anything, and we get a flat, hard, cold, sharp rectangular bullet. Men ruin everything. Do you imagine that women would ever choose this shape and feel for the object that’s their most intimate companion? Enemy of the natural world, how cuddly is our best friend? If women made it, you can bet it would be fluffy and soft and maybe it could purr. And, if womyn made it, it would surely have a setting for vibrator.

All the dynamics of the pressures we're under — tectonic, diamond-creating pressures. The manufacture of the hard drive on my computer is an outrageously toxic process and gives cancer to women and girls in Thailand and elsewhere who assemble them. Imagine watching slaves making this for you while you sip your latte, live-streaming. Then there are the resources, the emptying resources. The manufacture of one computer uses two tons of raw materials—five hundred & forty pounds of fossil fuels, forty-eight pounds of chemicals, thirty-six hundred pounds of water. Four pounds of fossil fuels and seventy pounds of water are used to make one single memory chip. These are hidden forms of violence. Of course, we don’t have to watch, and therefore, we do not have to know. It’s time to know.

Some app will take all your info from Instagram, Pinterest, FB, Twitter, Tumblir, Email,  FitBits and your Google Search History and design the next thing you don't need, a composite of all this info in the accuracy of algorithms to create something that’s so you—all based on input you happily store on your Powerpoint, Dropbox, or in The Cloud, on your phone or in a thumb-drive.

Privacy issues? We don't need no stinkin' privacy! How stupid we’ve become how pacified. People are just another cog in the tech- machine of consumption and surveillance, predictive algorithms—they're mining you! It would appear that consumers prefer convenience over privacy. Convenience over freedom. And surely, convenience over a living planet. This vrooming velocity of social change in this time is often compared to the rest of history, which we’re told always felt like the world was ending, yet the contrast is the difference between dog years and people years, or maybe between a year on Uranus and a year on Earth.

The collective shocks of wars, terrorism, fascism, market crashes, climate and other natural disasters have helped push through military and corporate agendas under the cover of crisis and our own disabling need to exist on our screens alone. And the crises won’t stop, because they’re good for business. We’re fooled into thinking that we know so much about the world, (or at least about the part that's exploding on our screens on any given day), that we're left with a desperate and unsustainable sense that all of it is exploding all the time. Therein lies our fear—therein lies their means to control us, and no one is even pretending to be good anymore.

This information technology that surrounds us like the land used to is nothing less than The Great Un-Making—the totality of a disabled citizenry. Holding and synthesizing information in your brain, like memory or directions or what people look like, or composing a letter bearing a unique message, is what creates your personality. We’ve surrendered our personality to an electronic device in our pockets, and to emojis. Such a convenient was to lose everything. The enemy is in here, in the things we love and need, or believe we love and need, or have been trained to think we believe we love and need. What we truly need is to understand so we can fight back.

Without a story, we lose our moorings, we relinquish our rights, we are paralyzed and controlled by fears. This is a global phenomenon today. We need a simultaneous defense and offense to fight back. A plan that's captivating, creative, credible. A NO and a YES all at once. Yes, it’s a shocking situation, but a state of shock isn't such a bad thing—it’s an enlivening thing, it wakes us from the trance. What’s a bad thing is that we don’t understand our predicament. Yet.

What we need is to come together and heal the virus that produced our sickness. De-couple the world from machines, and our lives from the ruling class. Stop believing stock market reports as any indication of our lives. As hungry souls and angry hands rise up against an amoral marketplace of un-critiqued technological control, poverty, pollution, extinction, and culture shock, they build more powerful walls, armaments, and mind-control against our outrage. It’s time to shake loose of the spell.

Clinging to jagged shreds of the flotsam of an exploding world, and sinking under the spectacle into invisibility, people just want to feel special. And what do cyborgs want? And what will robots want when they achieve self-awareness? The answer waits for us to arrive there, in the near-future, where we realize that ideas have consequences, entirely predictable. And that convenience was the enemy.

Is this then the final act of our evolution? Joanna Macy tells us, “There are causes hidden in the final act, and while they’ll be no witnesses to express its meaning, the opportunity to examine the truth is a second chance, a sort of forgiveness built into an eternal verdict.”

“What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” (T.S. Eliot)

2012 Techno-Speech
“Language is a weapon of power used to destroy the expressive abilities of the powerless by destroying their sense of reality.” (Andrea Dworkin, 1987)

“….It’s like, I mean, Ya know, ya feel me…?”  I call it ‘Like Talk’, the kind that splices meaning. That cuts, interrupts, dumbs down. It’s degrading palaver, senseless foaming from the mouth, and it surrounds us.

But also, so clearly a cry for help. A weakened try to connect to another mind, to bridge gaping chasms of alienation, separation. Listen to it: This is LIKE that, so—a metaphor—it’s, you know, like a pattern. But, what’s this meta-for? I’m drawing you a picture with my mind of how it IS for me, on the inside, where I can’t really describe anything properly anymore, because language isn’t strong in me anymore. I’ve been made so silicon-smooth and uniform that I can no longer communicate to you out there, so this feeling is lost in the secret maze of my own subjectivity. There’s no instructions for this outrageous boundlessness of everything. Like, it’s just me out here leaning in and trying....

This feeling doesn’t fit into the tiny screen’s fitbit vibe of intense compression, the emotion doesn’t feel relevant for a text on this silver robot mind that contains all known reality clutched in my meat-world hand. I just want to take you in my warm arms, touch you with my beating heart, show you how I am—Do you know what I mean? Will you follow me out on this crazy slim limb, the shim that tries to level the teeter totter of our dis-connected selves, imbalanced and adrift in mapless journeys?  

Omigod! I mean? Like….like….And I was like and she was like and it was like…right? Right? You know? You know what I mean?”

Communion. Sanga. The beloved community. Hold me closer.

Crowds streaming past, little white wires snaking from pockets to ears, looking like their heads are being transfused, and they are. The descendants of Alien-Nation receiving commands from the Mother Ship. It’s like that, man. Texting, hooking up, listening, chatting, re-posting, re-tweeting, judging, arguing, waiting for the like. Because now Like has a new meaning, it’s not just a comparison, a metaphor, but it’s also this power-filled pseudo-response from an abstract human—one who is not-here—giving you long-distance, free-stylin’ approval. Validation. So powerful for something so empty. So easy for one to give and another one waiting, so desperate to receive.

It’s empty and it’s hungry—it’s a baby crying out for mommy
It’s meaning slid away and sliding faster
It’s language that reflects the master plan the hidden disaster
Before transcendence you’re in limbo, ticking. How low can you go?
Adorable and pathetic like a motherless kitten
like language banging around in internal space never written
like a lens blinded by a sock pulled down over it
It’s like you’re blindfolded when seeing is the only thing that will save you
it’s like this world is erasing you
into a vast purity whiteout isolation
the perfect language of our times of alienation
mangled, scattered, gaseous and perfectly passive

It’s like the wars, like advertising, like corporate consumption
like civilization’s corruption of community, like the total destruction of unity
Like cell phones, ring tones, the machine voice that answers every phone
it’s like I-phones, I-pads, I-feelings, e-jargon, e-junk
it’s the dream of living closer and closer to your machines.
—do you know? do you know what I mean?

And somewhere out there on Planet Irony it’s really beautiful
‘cos language is relational, indicational, referential
Metaphors, analogies take us back to times gone by &
we learn this sideways, teachin’ by reachin’, mind to mind
but now it’s all mindless, habitual
It’s like a ritual who’s priestesses have all died
the lies that lead us into the fog, mouths first sounding this incoherent
sound bytes bite back with sharp, shallow memes
selling capitalist dreams

Consumption more important than minds being free
no way to break out of this breakdown
it’s like the brakes are on us now
Breakdown—of intimacy, family, manners, intellect
laziness of expression mirrors a culture’s inability to think about anything critically

We’re not born-again
we were born right the first time,
but then they got a hold of our minds
turned us all into mimes
we got our brains juiced
now we play charades just to get through so push!

Push through!

When it’s all about control
our response to being held this tightly in abtraction’s cold arms
& the very language of thought disarming us, trapping us
failing us, so we don’t even try anymore these days
powerlessness ties and binds us to stay and to stay away
Our words—suddenly insufficient mirror our lives
bound to a sneaking fascist system 
this then—can you see it?— the status quo’s dictum

Where machines are the only ones who are clear and precise 
clean and efficient
while we sit in shadows encircled by lies
our confusion and degeneracy dancing round us, circumscribed
whooping it up in the firelight
robbed of illumination or insight

The only light that emanates is from our screens
while our evolutionary brain sits bound and gagged
in darkness
absorbing thrills and bullshit
Oh, wake me when my people have promise again.

We all just long to connect, but it’s like, it’s like...
Metal, plastic, silicon chips, space satellites & fiber-optic cables
hydroelectric damnation of rivers, mountaintop removal, nuclear power plants
toxic factories somewhere else producing
birds fall out of the skies and we’re losing
everything but the machines.

The sin of senses dying, the air frying 
the chain links of osmosis that take us down
to the ground where all sense waits with dying birds
Down to our senses, deprived
down to where our flocks of power reside
where the Mama Earth waits to hold us
in her wordless and generous arms
and rock the sense back in
soothing all this trickery to sleep

Just this morning, my friend said this actual sentence to me—
Yeah, so I was like, whatever.”
‘Whatever’ seems to mean, I don’t have a preference. I don’t care.  For instance, paper or plastic? Whatever. And in a way it’s kind of heroic, like I’m not falling for this shit, this fake choice, like my voice makes a fuckin’ dent in any of it, motherfucker—why’d you even ask me?

Or, you know, like whatever—maybe I don’t have a strong enough mind not to buckle under a preference. Whatever—it’s also maybe the ultimate arrogance. Like I’m too busy to be bothered caring. Like I’m so cool I can be this lazy.

And also, whatever is the ultimate crushing self-abnegation. Abdication. Like, I don’t think I’m important enough, smart enough to get to choose. Like, who cares what I think? And you’re so right. And you’re so following orders. 
It’s about Power. Really. Know what I’m sayin’? I mean, right?  Right? Yeah,Whatever.

And then there’s that inflection at the end of a sentence—the raised voice signaling a question which has become the end of every pause. You notice it most in girls and women’s speech. The doubting sound that signals, maybe what I’ve just said is shit? What do I know? Negating any meaning that somehow, against all deliberate design, managed to squeak through. A giant verbal shrug tagged onto your struggle to mean shit. Well, not to mean shit, you already got that covered, but, you know what it’s like. And it used to be only the Valley Girls who had this incredibly irritating habit of speech, but it’s infiltrated the whole population. Even boys, even men. A nation of idiots making a whole lot of noise that means nothing. 

And then, there’s the spokes-folks for stupid, massive and vague optimism, who say, in pure grinning positivity, “It’s all good.” Or, “No worries.” Cowardly bastard! Blind, lying, denial-embracing fool!  I hate that fucking guy. It’s not all good, and we oughta get fuckin worried, buddy. These people are hypnotized and they’re trying to hypnotize you. Run away from them. Confront them. Shake them to wake up. Shake them like you can make all the world’s screens into classic Etch-A-Sketches. That’s a happy thought!

And, maybe at the heart of it, it’s all about my own fear that language isn’t important anymore. That this is an evolutionary & permanent human shift to cyborg presence as we mate with soulless technology, our alienation from everything except keyboards and buttons, forever shifted away from great literature, from real relationships, from depth of heart, to a broad and shallow rush to cover ground. The decline of language, of writing, the message that it’s not cool to be smart, to sound eloquent, to even complete a fucking sentence.

Computers have built in connections & corrections, and now we can all type like professionals, so why doesn’t it sound better? Why doesn’t it feel smarter?  Irony is the name of the game as we rush to collect 10,000 Facebook “friends” or Insta followers. And we call instead of visit ‘cos it’s faster,  text instead of call ‘cos it’s faster, we date on line—speed-date and speed-marry and speed-divorce each other. We sound like 30-second infomercials now that peope have learned to advertise themselves in accordance with the market. Corporate interests concoct communities. But this here life is more complicated, crowded, and cynical.

We’ve become machine components, upgrading ceaselessly, and science, our tricknology, seen universally as the panacea instead of the problem. But our masters say good sense and our senses are the problem and must be obliterated. Smart, vital youth culture is so dumbed down that it will maybe never again rise to the level needed to enact real and great evolutionary shifts, the challenges are so steep now, and we are so shallow. My fear is that we will never be able to move into true heart-fast compassion, into kindness, into relationship with Nature and the moment, into embodiment and into the sunlight. You know….I mean….it’s worries…. it’s all good.

“You’re so, like crazy.”                                                                               
“Like, like yeah? Like I’m a nearly perfect facsimile of crazy but not actually crazy?”
“Stop it!”          

“Like stop it or really-truly stop it?”

Why are we not running in the streets and screaming? We would do that if a stranger started shooting in a midnight Batman movie, in a crowded Black church, in a high school or a gay club. This is so much worse than that!

*In the late 1700's, Noah Webster, the father of American English, based the definition of language on "the general practice of the nation."  

Today we're made over by arbitrary rules that change and shove us around daily, and these become 'standard practice', legitimized by 'daily use'.

Who shall guard the lexicon? Is it worth really guarding?
And, who’s ready to consider a jailbreak?

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