(en) A note on an inconvenient truth

Una reflexión de Abe Cabrera desprendida de una cita de Marx.

“Flesh is replaceable”

One more time, on the grid.

If there is any aspect of anti-civilization thought that needs to be questioned, it is its Neo-Luddism. Not because technology is somehow a good, but more because those who have recourse to blaming technology for everything use it as a scapegoat, or as an excuse to be intellectually lazy. Here is the reason that they need Karl Marx. From Capital:

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.

“The grid” here is the embodiment of the social relations of humans manifested in things. The social relationship is primary: the domestication and the social cohesion. The actual material existence is secondary. Yes, perhaps given enough of a destructive impulse, perhaps the grid once attacked “stays down.” But let us note that massive infrastructure was destroyed during the Second World War, with entire cities being leveled, power lines cut, railroads stopped, etc. etc. but that didn’t deter anyone from re-building. Indeed, such destruction led to things being re-built bigger and better. It also led to three decades of prosperity that birthed the Space Race and the Computer Revolution. Even before then, the Black Death that killed a third of Europe led to the foundation of capitalist modernity according to many historians.

In other words, disaster may not be antithetical to civilization, but at its very heart. Yes, maybe we are approaching catastrophic levels wherein civilization will no longer be possible. Then again, even if civilization was reduced to drastically smaller cities underground or in climate controlled environments, you haven’t destroyed techno-industrial civilization: all it is doing is re-grouping.

If you believe in a dogma wherein human nature is inherently good and salvageable, then of course you are going to blame non-human things (i.e. machines) for corrupting it, while desperately looking past their true (man-made) nature and functionality. If, on the other hand, you appreciate that they are merely physical manifestations of social relations that are a lot more difficult to destroy, you are in a much tougher position, but at least you are being honest with yourself. The former approach is the ideological foundation of anarchism: humans would be just fine if only the State, Capital, Technology etc. would leave them alone. The latter approach, the more realistic one in my opinion, sees that technology and the modern human are intertwined with each other almost to the point of being con-substantial. If technology exists it is because modern humans will it to exist, they love it, and value it with their whole lives. You may dispute this sincere affinity all you like, but here appearances don’t lie.

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