Man and Technology

by Dr. William L. Pierce (1972)

Technology has come somewhat into bad odor among many of today’s young people. Sensitive souls who find themselves out of tune with the gaudy, gimmicky, and artificial world of 20th-century America often place the blame for this dissonance on the technology which has made all the gimmicks possible. This attitude is revealed, for example, by the pejorative use of the term “plastic.”

DDT and Big Brother

Hostility toward technology also often finds expression among those genuinely and deeply concerned about wildlife and the beauties and virtues of our vanishing wilderness. DDT and mercury pollution, oil spills, smog, the mind-shattering racket of jet aircraft and diesel trucks, the chemical adulteration of foodstuffs, the unsettling thought that Big Brother may be electronically eavesdropping on our most intimate and personal affairs, the Niagara of household detergent wastes which are killing our lakes and streams — all these things are blamed on modern technology to which they are, undeniably, related.

And, because of blame so directed, solutions are being proposed which are no solutions at all. They are based on the reasoning that since technology is being used to destroy our environment, our culture, our peace of mind, and our former relationship with Nature — all unarguably evil consequences — technology is itself a bad thing and we ought to try to get along without it.

Back to Nature

Although a relatively small minority of the population has come to such a drastic conclusion, the number is growing, as manifested by the increasing proliferation of “back-to-Nature” style communes. Such developments are, in fact, encouraging, insofar as they indicate a healthy regard for the preservation of our natural environment and of man’s proper relationship to the rest of Nature. But they are also dangerous when they inspire a misevaluation of the root of today’s technological problems and lead to the misbelief that these problems can be eliminated by eliminating the technology of which they are consequences.

Paradise Lost

Adam, no doubt, wished that he and Eve could remain in Eden by unlearning the fatal knowledge imbibed with the forbidden apples. And we have all experienced the nostalgia for childhood days — the desire to escape the responsibilities and worries of adulthood by returning, somehow, to the innocence of the past.

But life and human history and the evolution of Nature are one-way streets. There is no turning back. With each nibble we take of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we lose a little more of our innocence.

What we must understand is that that loss is utterly and absolutely irrevocable and that we must, therefore, stop longing for the simplicity of childhood and instead learn how to make the best of our adulthood.

Facing the Facts

The essence of adulthood is responsibility. As adults we cannot solve our problems by wishful or romantic thinking or by embracing impossible solutions.

We find unacceptable the pollution of the environment which is a consequence of our technological civilization. Very well. But we certainly cannot eliminate the pollution by abolishing technological civilization.

A few of us, of course, can turn our backs on everyone else and run off into the woods. But the rest of society cannot do that, and the few escapees will find their personal solution transitory.

One in 1,000

Consider: If we, as a people, eschewed all technology — even that inherent in agriculture, which is one of the most ecologically catastrophic of man’s technologies — our land might eventually support an equilibrium population of one in every thousand now living.

If we compromised by accepting the level of technology we had 200 years ago, sustaining ourselves with horse-drawn plows forged by the village blacksmith, North America, might, at the limit, support a population one-quarter its present size.

Precarious Existence

That would give us a much more desirable population density than we presently have, but without the chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other mixed blessings of modern technology even a population of sixty million would face a very precarious existence, subject to decimation or worse whenever a potato blight or the like came along.

There is an inescapable relationship between technological level and maximum possible population density. Without those thundering diesel trucks clogging the roads and polluting the air — and hauling countless tons of refrigerated foodstuffs daily — the populaces of all our jam-packed cities would quickly starve to death.

Everyone Grew His Own

There is a similar dependence of man’s freedom of choice on the level of his technology. Two centuries ago nearly everyone farmed, not because of the joys of the bucolic life but because, without those smoke-belching steel plants and those smelly oil refineries producing the steel for tractors and combines and the fuel to run them, when the farmer had finished feeding his own family he had very little of his crop left to sell to the non-farmer.

Pitchforks vs. Tanks

If we, nevertheless, decided to dispense with most of the technology which the last 200 years have brought and, having reduced our population by one means or another to a suitable level, take up an 18th-century-style rural existence (which, despite its shortcomings, has many attractive features) we would immediately find our plans foiled by an army of invasion from some country which had not renounced the evils of technology and could, therefore, quite successfully overcome our slingshots and pitchforks with their more modern weaponry.

Nixon’s Folly

In the same way, regardless how horrendous we find modern, technological warfare, we simply do not have the option of returning to slings and arrows. Even so tentative a step as the unilateral destruction of chemical and biological warfare materials and the renunciation of further study in such areas is enormously foolhardy. The hard truth is that we are living in a highly competitive world, and any single participant in the game of life who deliberately imposes a competitive handicap on himself is toying with self-destruction.

Dilemma of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Not only is it not reasonable, once a new invention has been introduced, to withdraw that invention and expect the world to return to its prior state, but it is not feasible to artificially halt the more-or-less continuous process of technological innovation. Human nature being what it is, technological development is the inevitable companion of the progress of human knowledge.

Shall we expect that all men, everywhere, once the knowledge of how to make an electric light bulb — or an antibiotic or a machine gun — has been disseminated, should refrain from applying that knowledge?

Theocratic Solution

Or shall we, in order to retain what shreds of innocence we may have left, seek to prevent the further progress of human knowledge? There have been times in our history when that approach was actually taken. It is perhaps the only reasonable approach if one wants to maintain a theocratic form of society. But that is not an acceptable solution for Western man.

And yet we are not really faced with a dilemma. Technology is inevitable. The present, unhappy consequences of technology are not.

Hansel and Gretel

We can never again have a non-technological, Hansel-and-Gretel sort of world, in which young men ride forth into forest and field to slay dragons and seek their fortunes. That, in a way, is very sad. But neither must we stoically accept the polluted, unnatural hideousness which technology and urbanization have brought about.

Let us rebel! But let us first understand why we are rebelling and what it is against which we are rebelling.

Culture Distortion

It is not technology — or human knowledge — which lies at the root of our unhappiness, but particular manifestations of technology: the particular forms in which our scientific knowledge has been actualized. Those objectionable forms are themselves the consequence of alien attitudes toward technology which have governed the course of development it has taken in recent years.

Materialistic America

People today — educated as well as ignorant, wealthy “limousine liberals” as well as the hourly paid factory worker — think of technology, just as they think of life, in typically materialistic terms.

The importance of technology to them is that it has increased their standard of living. It has made their work easier. It has allowed them more leisure and amusements, from fiberglass cabin cruisers and self-propelled garden tractors to 8-track cartridge players and color television.

The Jewish Outlook

It has made their lives longer and removed much of the pain and struggle of living. And that’s all they think about it — pain vs. pleasure, inconvenience vs. convenience, struggle vs. leisure, period.

This unrelieved materialism is not inherent in Western man’s world view. It is imposed. It is alien, oriental. It is Jewish.

Levantine man’s outlook comprises only the moment — he is the inventor of the “now generation.” Western man’s soul encompasses the infinite — the endless past and the endless future.

A new technological advance means to the oriental the possibility of increasing the GNP or, perhaps, shortening the work week. To the man of Western blood it offers the possibility of climbing to a new and higher plane of existence.

More Plastic

Technology in the hands of the one means more plastic, neon, and chrome. In the hands of the other it means new opportunities to master the profane and comprehend the sublime.

To the one it offers the chance to extort more wealth from an already pillaged Nature: a new way of converting a virgin forest into plastic hair curlers or padded dashboards — at a profit. To the other it offers new tools — new muscles, new hands, new legs, new eyes — which enable him to accomplish feats otherwise impossible: to explore regions of his universe otherwise inaccessible, to consider options otherwise unavailable, to know the otherwise unknowable; it gives him new power, not to exploit or subdue or contravene Nature, but to fulfill Nature’s innermost purpose; her upward striving.

Struggle: Essence of Life

The real importance of technology to Western man is not that it removes struggle from his life but that it provides him with new means, hopefully better means, for carrying on a never-ending struggle.

To the Levantine mind, struggle is something to be avoided, and the rewards of life are the bodily pleasures which technology makes possible and wealth can procure.

To the truly Western mind struggle is the essence of man’s life. Western man has a mission, and he must struggle all the years of his life — all the generations of his race — to further that mission. The billion years’ struggle up from the primeval slime was as inevitable and necessary for him as the endless struggle toward godhood which still lies ahead.

Purge Needed

We have lost our innocence and we have not yet gained wisdom, yet, still, we can see what we must do. That is not to renounce struggle, or the technological means of struggle we have developed — which would be to renounce life itself — but to purge the Western world of the alien ideology and the alien values which have perverted the ends to which our scientific knowledge has been applied.

Then we can redirect our energies, reshape our technology, and use it to help us climb out of the present pigsty of degeneracy and materialism and pollution and find our way once again to the upward path.

Harmony with Nature

And, with care, we can continue to develop and refine our technology as we remain on that upward path. At the same time, we can live in harmony with our inner selves — our Western race-soul — and with the rest of Nature.

The way upward is not difficult to see. It is within our reach. We need only develop a unified will to move in the right direction.

The first step will be to remove from our midst those whose natural inclination is to convert forests into hair curlers.

The second step will be to accept the necessity of a continent-wide coordination and regulation of all matters affecting the modification of our natural environment.

It must become no longer possible for a cartel of real estate developers, whatever their motives, to make the independent decision to call out the bulldozers and transform a thousand acres of meadowland into supermarket parking lots. Or for a power company to arbitrarily dam mountain streams in order to sell more electricity to local industries. Or for the citizens of any community to continue pouring their filth into the nearest river in order to avoid the taxes necessary for total sewage purification.

That will be a big step.

Improving Man

The biggest step, however, will be the retransvaluation of our values, through an educational process extending over generations, if necessary.

Children in a British classroom in the 1940s

We must learn to value quality above quantity in all things, beginning with man himself.

We must learn to relegate economic considerations to their proper place, instead of allowing them to be the determining factor in all decisions. We can, in fact, change the coefficients in the economic equation so that the economic criterion comes much more nearly into accord with more fundamental criteria.

Planned Obsolescence

The argument that a pollution-free industrial process is “too expensive” will no longer be a justification for pollution, just as the argument that “consumer demand” requires a myriad of models of everything made, all with incompatible components, will have much less weight. Planned obsolescence and subsidized waste will become intolerable.

We must reorient our thinking so that convenience may not play so large a role in our judgments of things as now. We must understand that a hardy and robust people is a greater good than a comfortable people.

Thinking Organically

Most difficult of all, we must learn to think organically: that is, to view each minor or major aspect of our lives in relation to the whole life of the individual, of the community, and of the race — not only as it affects the present but as it is linked to the past and as it bears on the future.

When we have learned to think this way we will be able to appreciate the very necessary role — not just the desirable or expedient or utilitarian role — which technology can fill in the furtherance of Nature’s purpose.

Coming of the Lightning

Without technological means the great bulk of mankind must remain, in essence, beasts of burden, drones in the human ant-heap. That condition of existence, requiring a certain type of man, imposes inevitable bounds on man’s evolutionary development.

But technology, properly harnessed, can remove the condition of general servitude and, thereby, liberate our race for the possibility of a continuous higher breeding.

From Attack! No. 12, 1972 transcribed by Anthony Collins and edited by Vanessa Neubauer

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