You can read the book for free on Huxley.net but I recommend you read it either off-screen or not on a web page.
It’s been demonstrated time and time again that people who can come up with incredible, fictional worlds that have something tangible to say about our own, have the ability to do so exactly because they understand this Earth and universe so well. Huxley was no exception, and his addendum to Brave New World is a beautifully lucid account of where his original work, written 25 years previously, had failed to anticipate the great emerging forces that were threatening freedom as Huxley perceived them at the time. This list of the book’s chapters might give you some idea of what those threats were:
II Quantity, Quality, Morality
IV Propaganda in a Democratic Society
V Propaganda Under a Dictatorship
VI The Arts of Selling
VIII Chemical Persuasion
IX Subconscious Persuasion
XI Education for Freedom
XII What Can Be Done?
I’m incredibly curious what Huxley would have to say about our 21st century society and where his hopes would lie today – whether he’d still think that
“meanwhile there is still some freedom left in the world. Many young people, it is true, do not seem to value freedom. But some of us still believe that, without freedom, human beings cannot become fully human and that freedom is therefore supremely valuable. Perhaps the forces that now menace freedom are too strong to be resisted for very long. It is still our duty to do whatever we can to resist them. “
Phew! Finally done with this 500-page+ undertaking of a textbook. Reviewing textbooks is kind of weird, but I have to say that staying with this book and reading it bit by bit over almost a period of two years has made me seriously consider studying (cultural) anthropology more formally. I mean I already have a BA in Cultural Technology, why not add some cultural anthropology in there?
Seriously, after reading this book, my official position is that anthropology is for the humanities what physics is to the hard sciences—psychology would be mathematics and sociology would be chemistry. Just like studying physics, studying anthropology (especially combined with cultural studies) you can’t help but look at reality and your circumstances from a more detached standpoint, more objectively as it were. You get to see that your life is the result of the mixture of an endless array of possible sets of circumstances. It teaches humility, it teaches tolerance, curiosity, it awakens a deeper awareness of what being a human person in a world of human and non-human persons is all about.
I still think it’s about laughing, cooking and listening to/ playing music, but that’s just me.
My favourite chapters were on sex and marriage, art, patterns of subsistence food, language, cultural change and the anthropology of futurology. Any overlap with any of my more general interests, including what I believe to be the fundamentals of human culture as exposed above, is purely coincidental, I swear.
I recently read two of Mr. Greer’s books, The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World. This review is for both of them, as they made me feel and think more or less the same things. For your information, both share the same ideological and theoretical ideas, but they were different in some aspects: The Long Descent’s explanation of what the myth of progress is and how and why it came about I enjoyed more, while it was the practical information, tips, guidelines, the rough sketches of the direction humanity should/will be taking in the next few decades or centuries and the different aspects and challenges of life in the future that I thought were exceptionally valuable in The Ecotechnic Future.
Some have expressed the problems of The Long Descent as in this review, especially related to the more practical aspects of recycling old technology. If you disregard these problems, or are willing to accept them for what they are or look into them for alternatives, these are tremendous books that serve as manuals on theoretical, philosophical and practical levels on how to perceive what’s imperceptible for most people in the present, prepare for the future and predict what it might look like and understand history in a different way which would raise plenty of eyebrows.
Nevertheless, Greer’s argument is incredibly solid. He presents the myth/religion of progress, the inevitability and unavoidable reality of the long peak-oik collapse and the fact that any suggested workaround that comes from the same “myth of progress” mental space as void of meaning and practicality, so convincingly, so eloquently, so overwhelmingly… I have few words left to express without exaggeration my level of admiration and approval I can show to this man.
He may be a druid (just adding it here because for some people it’s a minus, for me it’s a plus), he may have chosen to live without a cell phone or never tried playing video games, he may be “anti-science” or “anti-progress” (silly words coming from people who don’t but superficially grasp the meaning of these concepts), but few times have a I read the work of a man more in line with what I understand the true scientific spirit to be and only rarely do I come across the writings of a person who’s done his or her homework so deeply on what he or she’s purportedly against.
I’m serious. This is a challenge for you, if you’re up to it: persuade me that the points raised by these books and Greer’s work are moot. I can tell you from now that if you try you won’t be able to and will most likely resort to some variation of the typical “it will sort itself out/they will figure something out” or “it’s the next generation’s problem”, that are the popular ways of handling the prospect of the decline of industrial civilization today.
Mr. Greer’s work is not for everyone, but in my view it should be: almost every person living today, especially if their age marks them as young, would benefit from experiencing looking at industrial society and civilization through the prism future generations, who will live by scavenging iron off skyscrapers, to give one particularly memorable prediction off these books, will judge us by. It’s quite a revealing, shocking but also strangely rewarding experience.
The matters laid out by The Ecotechnic Future and The Long Descent form a significant part of what has been bothering me lately and will most likely influence my future decisions. For that I’m grateful. Not happy, at least not yet, how can one be happy when he or she has realised the profundity of his or her own uselessness, but grateful nevertheless.
Steam’s Autumn Sale 2013. Here we go again. Daily deals. Yesterday’s deals. Flash deals. Community picks.
There are 86 games in my account: most of them I’ve bought in different Humble Bundles or other sales, such as the ridiculous Holiday Sale of 2011. I’ve played less than half of them and even less than half of those have I “completed” – quotes because the games that I prefer nowadays are generally speaking impossible to complete. A relatively small fraction of those 86 games I got through Game 2.0 for reviewing. I don’t receive physical copies anymore, but I’ve long got over the need of owning real copies of games, especially after getting stuck with boxed copies of games that are tied to Steam keys and which I therefore can’t sell – I’m looking at you, stack of Total Wars!
This time around, you threw in our faces Skyrim Legendary Edition for 13€, Bioshock Infinite for 7.5€, Spelunky for 3€ and Civilization V Gold and the expansion Brave New World for 10€ each. Of all of the above I only resisted to buying Skyrim (it sounded very enticing but I doubt I can give it the time it probably deserves at this point), and still believe I will buy more games before the deals are over (eyeing Super Hexagon and Anno 2070). Only a fool would skip on those prices… And then you’re going to have the Holiday Sale, of course you will. I hope we’ll at least have enough time to enjoy Civilization V online with Garret and Daphne who both got the game the day before during the sale – actually, I got it for Daphne because she seems to love it so much; who would have thought that the hot seat would have grown this hot?
I feel as if I’m being manipulated to no end. It’s confusing to my Fi (ethical system/inner values to you MBTI beginners!) – which dictates that I should at least be trying to avoid being exactly like women going crazy in the shopping mall – as well as it is destructive to my wallet and my time management. You’re tearing me apart, Steama!
But seriously. What gives? How can this even work? How can you have 1532 sales every year without cheating all of the producers and developers? How is this system viable at all? I mean, with these sales and the existence and dominance of Humble Bundle, combined with the ridiculous prices games have at launch only for them to be reduced in a matter of months through these offers (and given the extreme oversaturation of the market), it’s no wonder top AAA games are slowly becoming obsolete. Given of course that people just don’t have enough money to spend on consoles (most of the people I know don’t want to buy a new console, either because of lack of interest, money or both), it’s really no wonder that you, with your cheap, flexible and robust system (and your upcoming Steam Machines) and iOS with its innovation and low prices are looking like you will together dominate the industry even further. And really, what would happen if everybody eventually stopped buying games on day one or – god forbid – stopped preordering like tiny little consumeristic muppets? I’ll tell you what would happen: the entire industry would collapse. Again.
You know something? As cool and comfy as it is, deep down it makes me feel uncomfortable having all of my games in this digital vault made out of thin air. Now you look healthier than ever, but will that be the case in 10 years? 20? You had your DRM creep on us and had us get used to it, and now we bash everyone who tries to steal some of your limelight (yes, I know it’s fun to hate EA and forbidden to even slightly criticise mama Valve). Even if you have allowed offline play, you have made reselling games impossible. Why? How can I trust you, Steam? These cheap games are like a trojan horse: you’re becoming the Google of gaming – people put up with your shitty monopoly because you’re just so damn useful. What if tomorrow I have to buy your SteamMachine to play? What if I suddenly have to, say, pay a fee to access my games – even just a small one? I’d probably pay up just in order to still be able to play 90% of the games I own or play on a regular basis (most of which I certainly won’t have played even by then). Oh, maybe you’re like the other great benefactor, Facebook, which promises that it’s free and always will be. Isn’t that a role model of a company.
Maybe I’m expecting too much – or I’m too sceptical/paranoid. Maybe my thinking is a relic from a different era, when physical mattered more – was more tangible – than digital. Maybe in this Brave New World there really will be no difference between offline and online, the physical and its digital counterpart. As far as I can see, the counterpart in many ways has already replaced the original or is indistinguishable from it (or they really are the same thing). The strictly private has become public, a single thought or utterance shared with the world is immortalised and pinned to its creator forever (or at least for what the word ‘forever’ means in the beginning of the 21st century). The social as well as the commercial sphere is changing too quickly for us to figure out, and, well, honestly we’re just not that smart to understand in what ways we’re being manipulated, controlled and generally taken advantage of at this time by “free” or seemingly harmless services. I hope you can understand, though: all these huge companies who are operating as monopolies (mostly in the digital plane) at the same time working with the secret services of the world or using us in other mostly unknown nefarious ways are just scaring me. No corporation can inspire my trust. That’s all.
I hope you can understand and won’t block me from playing Civilization V because I told you these things. You know I still love you. Right?
I had the chance to hear Dr. Vandana Shiva and other speakers today at an event about biodiversity which was organised as part of the international fortnight dedicated to seed freedom, conceived also by Vandana Shiva.
Things are looking serious. Apparently the EU is preparing legislation that will prohibit “plant propagating material” (what a sterilised, robotic way to name seeds) being exchanged, sold or distributed, unless it’s in the official lists of permitted genetic material for cultivation. Who’s going to have the privilege of featuring on those lists? Who else but our old friend Monsanto, who will finally turn their notorious GMO seeds into a monopoly. And it’s not as if more people will be fed or that food’s going to be cheaper: imagine having to pay for every (sterile) seed which will sprout a plant that is tailored to need Monsanto fertilizer and pesticide to thrive (that’s extra expenses) and, in the end, produces shit, poisoned food. That’s apparently the standard we should be aiming for as a society.
The EU is claiming that his measure will help ensure this quality through homogeneity – something like having your vegetables made by IKEA. It doesn’t take a genius however to figure out what all this will do to babies such as these:
In what way could the above benefit the civil society in any way, any way at all?
If we ask cui bono, the anwer to this, to all this, should be depressingly clear. Is this the future we want? A techno-nightmare in which people have to fight for everything they thought that being born in the 20th century had gifted them with, including a decent job and a society that respects inidividual rights?
The only solution I can think of, since most city dwellers wouldn’t be remotely interested in protecting their health, much less their country’s and our only home’s biodiversity, from these monstrous corporations, will be to actively protect the seeds planting them in one’s (urban) garden and eco-communities, at the same time forming protection networks. Peliti (for Greeks) and this campaign for seed sovereignty for a start and some ideas.
More alternatives? A concept I’d heard about and which was talked about today but I regrettably haven’t delved into is Masanobu Fukuoka’s Natural Gardening. This is the main idea: the farmer/cultivator puts lots of different kinds of seeds in little balls of dirt and sows them. The right kinds of seeds only sprout at their own ideal locations, resulting in a balanced garden or farm which has a little bit of everything. This might come to a surprise to many monoculture enthusiasts but this variety actually strengthens the balance of the plant ecology -in the same way a multicultural society creates superior dynamics to a clean one- and yields more food. The cultivator never intervenes in any way, shape or form: no chemicals, no pesticides, nothing. Not even organic means. Really: it’s the agriculture of doing nothing. Sustainability, permaculture, balance. No wonder a Japanese came up with such a practice.
The album has leaked. Even though I can easily listen to it on Grooveshark, I feel waiting for the proper release date is the least respect I can pay Mr. Wilson for gracing us with yet another collection of awesome music, especially since I won’t be buying the album — another habit and ceremony flushed down the toilet by the internet, the abolition of which will soon render the music industry even more unrecognisable than what people 20 years ago would think the scene looks like today.
Is the fact that I haven’t bought a record in years deplorable, not even the ones prepared with love and affection by my favourite musician? There’s no right answer, not anymore. When I complete my imaginary masterpiece “The Moral Dilemmas of the 21st Century Media Consumer”, I’ll get back to you – probably with still more questions than answers.
I understand that Facebook has this idea that people should have a way to show off their complete personal history and past achievements. It’s a fairly natural expansion to what their modus operandi has been thus far.
The very notion of having a version of the past to which you can add anything and everything you like, quietly shoving under the carpet ignoring the things that do not go that well with your timeline, fits perfectly with how Facebook has evolved into this kitsch (I really like using this word lately) personal shrine of admiration each and every one of us has erected to ourselves. I assume readers are on facebook, of course; pardon me if you remain one of those shining beacons of exception and keep in mind that you have made a new friend; not on Facebook of course, but in this case, for a change, it shouldn’t matter.
I was shocked when Facebook announced to me almost a week ago that I had 7 days to prepare my profile before they would be imposing Timeline on it. I put a pretty cover photo. That’s about all I did to it.
But it’s OK, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg… whoever had this idea anyway. It really is. I can understand why you felt the need to impose Timeline on everyone. As the guilt, control-freak and addiction machine Facebook really is, the Now couldn’t have ever been quite enough to keep it going — besides, no guilt or addiction would ever be possible if all there was was the Now because guilt resides in the past and addiction nests in the future; the Now is all there is, there IS no past or future. If we only understood this simple thing we would be free… but I digress.
Countless hours of spying on others, adjusting your profile, being careful about what you would post or like and where, decorating your shrine with the right number of friends, the Goldylocks Zone of interestes (not too obscure nor too mainstream, just right), wasting huge amounts of Now by cheerfully immersing ourselves in even larger amounts of nonsense…
No, Facebook couldn’t have been satisfied for long with merely the Now to feed on; it was only a matter of time before it would claim a piece of everyone’s past as well to sink its teeth in. Ooh! Now that’s a juicy piece of social anxiety and collective inferiorioty complexes.
I understand perfectly and I’m not angry. I can look behind your petty novelties, Facebook. I can see the ways in which you’re trying to trap me further, not in your own system, formidable a menace as it is, mind you, but in the belief that my past is valuable, that it is something to show off to others and base my current identity on. That it is my “story”. The beautified events you would like me to decorate my shrine with are not my story. You are feeding this collective hallucination at the same time you’re feeding from it yourself.
As far as I am concerned, the only thing you achieved by removing my choice to not have Timeline was to further confirm what I already knew about you:
that you are dangerous.
The story of your life, complete with your graduation, your old joband how you were fired because your boss found out things about you off of facebook that, well, he shouldn’t have, that super awesome trip you hadwith your girlfriendand how you couldn’t wait to return home during it, old pictures, even the ones from when you had taken on 20kg in just 6 months back in 2007, all the different places you used to live inon your parents’ money…