Politics and Technology

Technology — This is a Word Whose Very Meaning Has Been Co-opted


Technology. This is a word whose very meaning has been co-opted, written onto like the face and body in Ron Ricardo's photos, so as to obscure its original, more natural, or at least more organic (passionate?) senses. For most of us today “technology” means electronics and electricity, wire, cables, metal, plastic, silicon. Perhaps steam, too, can be brought under this umbrella of spiderweb global internetworks, as conceptualized in the short film by Stacy Pawlowich. Ultimately, however, technology as the word is today most readily read is about rates. In the odd but thought-provoking verbiage of Paul Virilio, modernity = speed.

Alvin Toffler is the much scoffed-at author of Future Shock, a book which took the pop culture world of our parents by storm, hitting list after list of bestsellers. For Toffler, the ultimate distinction, the “difference,” that marks off industrial civilization from those of smaller-scale societal organization, is that of Fast versus Slow. For him, we are all entwined by a kind of shock, and this is not culture shock as such, not the shock of being plunged into a foreign space, but time shock. This awful fact that carries and gags us all is the opposite of a Platonic/Heideggerian anamnesis. It is not that we glimpse reality only as it disappears behind us into the past, leaving its “trace” as memory or vague/sharp neural representation: it is that reality can never find us, and we can never reach it, we are pushed along by the crowd trying to get onto the bus, leaving our “inner child,” our soul or our reality on the sidewalk wailing, hand outstretched in a desperation of urban anomie while we, the subject without subject because outside and mediated by time, bustle along to our next assignment. This has been called by Steve Crocker (1) , a Newfoundland sociologist, and he no doubt following others (Oh, we are always so much catching up, tagging others' ideas, the ideas of others zooping down pastry tubes onto our cold, metallic spaces, the word processor) prolepsis: the experience of never being “in” time (even if being “on” time, like the expert orgasm-deliverers of consumer marketing, sports, and popcorn), but always (My God: Already?!) behind time, both in the pecking order, and in the sense that exhausts us.

STOP. (This word has no meaning outside industrial culture). Teilhard de Chardin. What about him, then. There's a man who said, no, God, that is, what is important, is in the leaves. Us sea-creatures, Newfoundlanders, prairie folk born among the sea of fields of the West, may yet sense, escape to, remember, that CBC notwithstanding, Canada is not T.O. (good thing we have a way to speed up that word!), “Cash City”, or Ralph Klein's nightmares. Canada is TOO BIG to let us vanquish. Canada. STOP. Can do no other.

Sam Keen once wrote of a man who refused to fly. He went wherever he could or needed to go, right through the United States, by train. Rhythms. Nodes. Not screeching and Beatles singing “Back in the USSR.” Not Air France crashing into the 401 (oh profundity was there on the news that day!). Rhythm. Time.

And politics. L'heure de pointe of Stephen Hawkins' poem is rush-hour to you unilings. As if any other time of day Ste-Catherine Street, or Bloor and Yonge, is not enwrapped by rush-hour. RUSH. This is the form, the character, the substance, and riddles the content of “technology” as that word is used since Smith and Ford. Politics. Must get your chads punched. Time has a voice. A political voice which interrupts, elbows-in “Excuse me: It's Me who really has the power.”

And so we stand running: technology is no longer the chainsaw of Hawkins' backwoods, shared by Heidegger in his Black Forest, or the spark of flint as portrayed in John Morris Healy's poem. The Fire in the Belly is replaced by the fire in the belly of a steam engine, the smoke of the Iron Horse as it chugs and speeds across the prairie, a train of smoke trailing and marking the world.

Locomotive. Loco-motive. Location dislocated and made motion. Moving standing-point. St. John's can be London: Twin Towers are hit and London Stock Exchange telephones go dead. Waiting for the little man. Is the little man us? GO GO GO. Even the French shout this... in South America the commentators yell: GOOOOOOOOOal!!!!!

So where is rest? Rest is the TV. Rest is Britney Spears. Rest must be resistance. Rest becomes standing, standing ground, saying No. The new politics is not about Voice. It is about No. It is about Stop, but stop in order to Rest. I will make my own clothes! Technology rescued. Technology and techne remarried. Artist and Artisan become One again finally, artificial division sewn together.

Finally, then, there is a kernel of solution. Man is inscribed upon. Written onto with illuminated letters. Lit up with infrared. But going home, slowing down, striking flint instead of using “Fireliter”™, can produce resistance. Ultimately, as Gandhi, as King showed, these are the tools of revolution: stop, wait, resist. Stop, wait, resist. And between stop and resist, the keystone: wait.

Hazardous Terms:

Star Wars:
Ronald Reagan and Princess Leia. Uncontent with ravaging the world with war for 6,000 years, Man now looks to new spaces to erect missiles, satellite shields, and Salty treaties: He finds them in space (the outer one) and space (the cultural/Hollywood one). (Is the cultural one “inner space”...?)
R & D:
Not to be confused with R & R, Research and Development, cloaked behind a white wall - abbreviation and acronym - is how corporations learn to put human ears on the backs of mice.
Also spelt Tek, and to be confused with Trek, this is star wars on earth. See also Tekkie, the name that technicians use and hate to designate themselves. Consider “Technocrat”, s/he who governs using Technology, and you'll get the idea...
The Artificial:
See my commentary. The artificial is how we blind people to forget their own artistic self.
Performing miracles, like curing cancer, while, some would say, coming ever closer to the brink.
Thicko. “Can't you do anything right!” Not measuring up to industrial rationality's demands that you jettison the human, mistake-making, slow-thinking “lazy” part of yourself.
Words or objects that make the recipient cringe, and so make him temporarily cryogenic, permanently non-existent, or give him fear that you are able to effect these. See the Iraq War as a signifier-weapon, a mind-ray, being used on other maverick nations.
Genetic Engineering:
Meddling with Life and calling it science. See Progress.
Useful if you need extra sheep. Also useful if you're George Lucas. I'm not sure the Boys from Brazil was such a good movie, was it? I'd rather write on stem-cells.
Foucault once wrote how Bentham's houses of security became houses of certainty. Security is abdicating the democratic imperative to think and hoping this will not erode the foundations of constitutional democracy, our great security. Security is also allowing the police to stop and card anyone they want: certainly works in France!
A great power for security, and could possibly cure the traffic problem in Montreal. Only works well if the forces wielding it are benevolent.