Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, June 24, 2012

But Why So Negative?

This is a reply in an exchange with another critic, this one making the now endlessly familiar complaints that I am not giving people enough credit, that I am assigning too much blame, that I am demoralizingly pessimistic, that I need to stop and smell the roses, that I need to realize there are smart suave techno-elites out there who know more than I do whose self-interest will save us from the shitter, and so on.

My reply:
Watch a commercial for your common or garden variety consumer gadget, awash with promises of emancipation and youth and cool and sex, and compare it to the gadget itself, a piece of landfill destined dysfunctional toxic crap usually assembled under conditions akin to slavery in some overexploited region of the world. The truth is that most people are alienated and behaving against their self-interest, in thrall to elite-incumbent powers deceiving them through a complete suffusion of public life by the deceptive hyperbolic norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse all the while forms of disinformation, exploitation, informalization, precarity, and outright police brutality duress the scene of individual consent beyond bearing while extractive-industrial-petrochemical corporate-military surveillance fraud and force exacerbate catastrophic anthropogenic climate change and multiple vectors of resource descent to the brink of historically unprecedented slaughter. That's the big picture. It is actually beyond question that people are not thinking critically enough about their purchases or life-ways and it is beyond question that elite-incumbents are indulging in reckless, deceptive, and exploitative behavior for the most parochial of gains to the ruin of us all, including, eventually, them. I get it that you think I should qualify my case more, or watch the over-generalizations, or remember that people have brains, or not forget how nice people are and how nice it is to be nice and so on, and I am sensitive to these things, and I realize that mobilizing fragile agency while documenting devastating reality involves the threading of a fraught needle, but the truth is that I am already soft-pedaling the case by my lights to facilitate the better angels of progressive and democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle (the key site of historical change at this juncture). It is impossible to "accentuate the positive" more than I already do without abetting the crime, becoming a collaborator in destruction and self-destruction, and I just won't do it and if anything I worry I already do it too much.

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