Worshipers of the great God of civilisation – Technology – are destroying the planet and the life forms – human and non-human, flora and fauna – that inhabit this little ball of rock in the Milky Way galaxy. They will reduce this once thriving, living, biotic-community to a dystopian nothingness akin to that of cyber-punk science fiction.
Many might claim it’s unfair to characterise the techno-utopian vision as a suicide cult. Many readers will be thinking – “how can we save the planet without new technology?” Bear with me…
Karl Marx described religion as the opiate of the masses, as it dulled their senses and kept them passive and accepting of the alienation of capitalist, industrialist culture. This idea has been embraced by atheists seeking to demonize religion as the principle cause of all the world’s ills. But it has long become apparent to those critical of Enlightenment philosophies that the cult(ure) of Scientism – epitomised through contemporary digital-techno-culture – is the new religion of the day, the opiate of the masses.
The father of much of modern psychology, Freud, provided a similar description of religion. Freud argued religion served to repress and sublimate individual desire into activities that serve the culture. This, he argued, produces neurosis and mental illness in those that civilisation seeks to domesticate. This appears obviously true to those of us who share a green anarchist/radical environmentalist/anti-civ perspective.
The narcotic opium works through mimicking the effects of the endorphins our bodies produce to manage pain and create feelings of calm and well-being. This is exactly what technology is meant to do – manage pain and create sensations of calm and well-being. It’s what existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger termed inauthenticity.
When undergoing the sensations of opium we forget about the Real natural world, where we are mortal animal beings, fighting to survive. We are inauthentic. The drug distances our perceptions from these aspects of Being. Technology works the same way as religion, distracting us from our deaths with feelings of invincibility and immortality.
In the “Be Right Back” episode of the TV series Black Mirror, the character Martha uses a service that simulates her dead husband through his social media profiles – this starts off as just a voice simulator and culminates in a totalising robotic unfulfilling replacement, resulting in conflicting emotions for her, where she is unable to either live with or without the artificial husband she has forged a relationship with.
Is this not the relationship we have with technology in this contemporary culture? This culture seems defined by these attempts to remain immortal through social media, hating it at all moments because of what it does to our lives, but unable to escape the spectacle of media, memes, video clips, hashtags and selfies. This is inauthenticity.
Japan is undergoing a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which people are no longer seeking sexual relations – the most intimate and wildly natural aspect left to us within domestication. As a replacement, thousands of men are a playing a video game that simulates a girlfriend. Websites like invisiblegirlfriend.com and karigirl.com provide virtual girlfriends, propagating the notion that a relationship with a woman is an act of pure consumption for the pleasure of men. There is no physicality to these relationships – no contact, no risk, nothing… an emptiness, an abyss.
Bank of America analysts and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have made the claim that the world around us is probably a virtual reality. This is an extension of the solipsistic, brain-in-jar, Matrix-type of argument that says the world outside of the self is unknowable.
This solipsistic position can only exist as a problem within the language-based modes of acquiring truth of this culture. This is because language functions as a technology that acts as a substitute for the relevant “Thing” and is designed to created auditory and Symbolic pictures of the Real. Within civilisation, especially digital-techno-industrial-civilisation, the self exists as an object of language, as a transcendental entity, always out of reach.
This is what religions do – including atheistic ones like Humanism and its sibling Scientism – they tie our self-hoods to stuff that exists purely in language: God, society, the soul, manifest destiny. They exist as what Max Stirner called “spooks.” They started with civilisation – agrarian, non-hunter-gather, ways of life – and its need to create socially-normative moral narratives for sedentary life, from Gilgamesh deforesting the cedar forests of Mesopotamia all the way to the nightmarish acts of ecocide that are the business-as-usual of this culture.
The solipsist myth is the easiest myth to dispel though, for one simple reason – we all have primal, animal, intimate, existential relationships with our bodies, which require no mediator to attain. Lovers of Nietzsche will know this as “the return to the body.” We know the world through our bodies and the dances we partake in upon the landscapes we find ourselves on. Our physicality is immediately apparent through our lives.
To quote Sartre, “The body is the totality of meaningful relations to the world. In this sense it is defined also by reference to the air which it breathes, to the water which it drinks, to the food which it eats. The body in face could not appear without sustaining meaningful relations to the totality of what is.”
It is for this reason that grounding our selves outside all of the aforementioned technologies is of utmost importance for those of us who desire a livable biosphere. If our self-hoods are based in the technological substitutes of language, we won’t fight for the Real natural world that our lives are actually dependent on.
Is colonizing Mars the solution to trashing our own planet?
For evidence of this we need not look further than our friend Elon Musk again, with his plans to “make life interplanetary.” He intends to send a vessel carrying 100 individuals to Mars by 2022, in order to start a colony there. Mars would function as a technological replacement for Earth – our planet, our home, the geographical location in which all our meaningful relationships that produce our Real selves are based. Some might say that humans have always expanded their boundaries of where they live. This is just false. This culture, this civilisation, that now spans the entire globe has used the violence of colonisation since its birth and is now continuing this expansion through inter-planetary colonialism.
The lives of the colonists are not based in the Real self that is grounded in the world, but in the language-based, technological-narrative of the act of exploration for civilisation – manifest destiny. The same cult(ure), different God.
Some might say that this is simply the continuation of mankind triumphing over nature. This is again false. Mankind hasn’t triumphed over nature, as every tsunami, hurricane, tornado, flash flood or blizzard brought on by climate change, termite colony or Japanese knotweed destroying a house, weasel taking out hadron colliders, or mold growing on 5-day-old dinner plates in teenagers’ bedrooms is seeking to prove.
How about this for another example: Prophet of Scientism Stephen Hawking recently made the claim that if we do not go to space the “human race” (whatever the fuck that means) has no future. Rather than question the relentless continuation of scientific “progress,” industrialism, techno-modernity, and the destruction of the biosphere that is producing the mass extinction event and ecological crisis we are living in, Hawking – supposedly one of the greatest minds alive today – continues down the same narrative. This might be somewhat influenced by his own obvious requirements regarding technology, and as such it feels harsh to criticise the guy too much, but this cultish attachment is obviously suicidal.
I’m sorry Mr. Hawking, but humanity doesn’t have a future if we continue down this path to self-destruction, and Mars does not present a sufficient substitute (as if one were possible outside of Scientism’s mythologies) for this planet. We are Earthlings. Our Being is tied to this world that we are dependent on.
This forgetting of our Self and natural Being – what Daniel Quinn calls the great forgetting – can be immediately overcome within consciousness, which makes it so much easier to reclaim those aspects outside of our internal-psychological worlds. This can be found immediately within acts that are primal to our Being, like making love or walking through spaces where non-domesticated communities still reside. It can be found through creative and destructive acts (which are actually the same thing) that challenge this culture and its violence.
We know that civilisation is the cause of mental health issues, such as depression, and that this is at its most severe within digital-techno-industrial-civilisation. These acts are deconstructive, iconoclastic, freeing, liberating, feral and rewilding. They return us to the purest aspects of our Being. They kill the techno-utopian “God” within our psychic worlds, freeing us to do do the work to halt its relentless destruction and support the living wild world.