Saturday, October 18, 2014


Here is some more joy from Jacques Ellul.  Painful to read, but important I think.

"Public opinon... is completely oriented in favour of technique; only technical phenomena interest modern men.  The machine has made itself master of the heart and brain both of the average man and of the mob.  What excites the crowd?  Performance..."

In other words, getting things done is all that counts.  Efficiency and achievement rule the day.

"What is important is to go higher and faster; the object of the performance means little.  The act is sufficient unto itself.  Modern man can think only in terms of figures, and the higher the figures the greater his satisfaction.  He looks for nothing beyond the marvellous escape mechanism that technique has allowed him, to offset the very repressions caused by the life technique forces him to lead.  He is reduced in the process to a near nullity."

The means has become the end, and everything genuinely human is in danger of being lost.  As Ellul goes on to say, when the increase in performance becomes the measure of all things, the individual human is lost; he becomes part of the mob, because only the whole can drive performance on.  Collective performance expresses the will to power of the mob, to which the individual will is sublimated.

The results are two-fold.  On the one hand, a mystical devotion to technique, expressing itself in absolute faith in progress; on the other, a "deep conviction that technical problems are the only serious ones.  The amused glance people give the philosopher; the lack of interest displayed in metaphysical and theological questions...; the rejection of the humanities which comes from the conviction that we are living in a technical age and education must correspond to it; the search for the immediately practical, carrying the implication that history is useless..."

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that this is indeed the world we live in.  And I want out.

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