He despises the colonist.
But was not the very aim of his conquest
the settling of this same colonist?
--fr. Wind Sand and Stars
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In this electronic age we see ourselves
being translated more and more
into the form of information,
moving toward the technological
extension of consciousness
--Information Retrieval has got him
down as "inoperative."
And there's another one --
security has got him down as "excised."
Administration has got him down as "completed."
Technology has been the topic of discussion here today.
The peculiarity of growing physically farther from those in geographical proximity, while not necessarily communicating less, but doing so remotely, and the equal oddity of coming into virtual proximity via our technology with people who never would have entered our perimeter at all. And what will come of our outpouring of texts and tweets and blogs? Will we accomplish a middling connection with everyone that we care to have contact with, but never too much?
A friend expressed today how he found himself texting his wife's friend (they are all mutual friends), whilst she (the wife) sat next to him in bed sending her own text to the same friend. They ended up chuckling about the ironic virtual confab, of sorts, sans the spoken word.
Another friend is confronting the reality of the virtual reality which his son inhabits. The adult son disappears into the world of his Blackberry and computer and television for the majority of the day. Socially maladjusted, he communicates via these portals with people he has never actually met, people he would most like estrange upon an actual meeting. However, in the small specialties about which they dialog, he may maintain an automaton-like, correct presence.
McLuhan also said that "[i]nnumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition." It seems we are passing through Toffler's Third Wave; there is no going back. Yet we haven't even the time to service our electronic mail; sent and received mail piles up into endless queues which we perhaps subconsciously hope will reach some virtual capacity and self-delete.
A passage I read today from Wind, Sand and Stars touched on the situation. Written by the elequent Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who flew reconnaissance for the French Air Force in World War II and who disappeared over the Mediterranean on his last flight with the Free French Air Force, it -- as are most of his works -- is concerned with how we might cohabit the planet with the inevitability of new technologies in the most salubrious way:
"Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world of today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday. The life of the past seems to us nearer our true natures, but only for the reason that it is nearer our language.
"Every step on the road of progress takes us farther from habits which, as the life of man goes, we had only recently begun to acquire. We are in truth emigrants who have not yet founded our homeland. We Europeans have become again young peoples, without tradition or language of our own. We shall have to age somewhat before we are able to write the folksongs of a new epoch.
"Young barbarians still marveling at our new toys-that is what we are. Why else should we race our planes, give prizes to those who fly highest, or fastest? We take no heed to ask ourselves why we race: the race itself is more important than the object.
"And this holds true of other things than flying. For the colonial soldier who founds an empire, the meaning of life is conquest. He despises the colonist. But was not the very aim of his conquest the settling of this same colonist?
"In the enthusiasm of our rapid mechanical conquests we have overlooked some things. We have perhaps driven men into the service of the machine, instead of building machinery for the service of man. But could anything be more natural? So long as we were engaged in conquest, our spirit was the spirit of conquerors. The time has now come when we must be colonists, must make this house habitable which is still without character."