Martin LeFevre: At times like these, one returns to first principles, or reverts to absurd worldviews. Our views of human nature, nature, and the universe form the core premises of how we see the world. With few exceptions they are unexamined.
False humility is worse than arrogance in these matters. Indeed, false humility is merely camouflaged arrogance. A current version is to admit one’s fallibility and smallness, but only in the context of the human species.
Take this cunning sentence for example: “I am confronted each day with my own fallibility, tininess and hypocrisy (as just one more trash ape among billions, I contribute to the problem simply by existing).”
Nothing is more arrogant than indulging in the pleasure of misanthropy. It allows one to hate humankind while feeling good about oneself. Rather than speak for himself, the writer pretends to speak about humankind… I’m “just one more trash ape among billions, contributing to the problem simply by existing.” In this view, our very existence as humans is an affront to the planet.
Painting everyone with the same black brush, and admitting hypocrisy while continuing to be hypocritical, such a mentality not only assumes no responsibility, it assumes responsibility doesn’t matter. This from a fellow who prides himself on picking up other people’s trash on his daily walks.
It’s true that man is a “trash ape,” but human beings, however small their numbers, are not. Human beings don’t inwardly add trash to the mountainous heap of man. They take responsibility for their own darkness, as part of the collective darkness of man, and end it.
In short, human beings realize that we cannot deal with the trashing of the earth outwardly until we stop adding to darkness inwardly.
Of course if one’s worldview maintains that life is random and meaningless, and that the universe is utterly indifferent and hostile to life, then the only thing that matters to you, if anything matters at all, is the material world and its progression. That’s why many progressives are hard-core atheists, people who don’t just discount the childish belief in a ‘Creator God the Father,’ but believe there is nothing but this world and its material, technological improvement.
Most technophiles, and the journalists who scamper after them, fall into this camp. The worst among them combine their utter spiritual and philosophical emptiness with a law of the jungle worldview.
The “chief ideologist of the Silicon Valley elite,” for example, claims that “ancient Greek games beginning in 648 B.C. used to train Greek soldiers” attest to how “combat sports play a primal role in human civilization.” Idiotically, he says, “If it was good enough for Heracles and Theseus, it’s good enough for us.”
Taking the hackneyed view that the internal collapse of America is a Republican problem, a writer in America’s “newspaper of record” shares the Silicon Valley ideologist’s belief that technology drives the advance of human civilization. He diverges only in placing the venture capitalist’s fascistic ideas in the context of the stale liberal critique — “the Republican Party’s collapse into incoherence reflects the fact that much of the modern right is reactionary, not conservative.”
Attesting to the fact that one’s worldview, as much as one’s character, is determinative, the New York Times writer gives a concise critique of the philosophy of an influential dead man’s thinking: “The muscled ancients knew and what today’s flabby whingers have forgotten is that man must cultivate the strength and will to master nature, and other men, for the technological frontier to give way.”
Yet the pundit’s answer to such mockable ideas, with which National Socialists would have felt simpatico, is this woefully inadequate response: “We have lost the habit of imagining what we could have; we are too timid in deploying the coordinated genius and muscle of society to pull possibilities from the far future into the near present.”
In short, the problem is that “we lost faith in technology and, more broadly, growth.”
Such a notion is only slightly less risible than the idea of combat sports as a remedy. It fails to perceive the nature of the ecological, philosophical and spiritual crisis confronting everyone alive. And it adheres to a view of nature that lies at the root of the problem.
So which is worse, a reactionary ideology, or a denialist ideology (or “vibe”)?
Both the Silicon Valley and NYT ideologists propose something called “effective (or affective) accelerationism.” “Effective/affective accelerationism aims to follow the ‘will of the universe’: leaning into the thermodynamic bias towards futures with greater and smarter civilizations that are more effective at finding/extracting free energy from the universe.”
In this worldview, the decimation of the earth by man does not reflect the intensifying human crisis, necessitating radical change at every level. To such a mindset, the Sixth Extinction is cosmetic, the unfortunate result of an expanding technological species capable of “extracting free energy from the universe.”
It gets worse. “Effective/affective accelerationism [of technology] has no particular allegiance to the biological substrate for intelligence and life.”
Translation? There is no intelligence in nature or the universe, much less one that has a “particular allegiance” to the human brain as the “pinnacle of creation.”
In this view, the human brain has no latent potential for a higher consciousness that can, in the stillness and silence of the mind, embody the consciousness that imbues the universe. The earth and its creatures be damned; the universe ruthlessly selects for technological advancement.
The true questions arise from beyond these superficial contexts and their superannuated worldviews.
Is the age hopeless, and all the individual can do is inwardly survive and grow, and look to the future of humanity, if there is one? Or can enough of us make the leap to being human beings?
Technology has not advanced human civilization, but brought the perennial questions to a head.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.