Friday, July 6, 2007

Why I am a Luddite?

I promised to answer this question in a post last month. Well, Wendell Berry offers a pretty good explanation.

I rely on technology to navigate in this world. I am fully indoctrinated into American culture with a Masters degree in Economics. I can find my way around the computer quite well without being information systems technician. I know just enough to stay employed in this pecuniary economy.

It is my belief that most of the people I encounter everyday are not happy in their roles each one plays in this same economy. We each feel something is missing or we should be doing something else. Out connection to each other via electronic media, cell phones and text messaging leaves all of us feeling incomplete. I believe the primary component missing in our lives is a connection to place and community - culture. Contrary to the diversity specialists and multi-cultural advocates, culture is not tied to self-esteem or an individual's identity. Culture is attached to place and when we can buy culture through the mail and identify with images we see on television or on our computer, we lose a connection to our community and history. This loss is much greater than most people realize, for without this history we cannot function as citizens. We are no longer responsible for a place and neighborhood, but are rather concerned only with ourselves and our families. To be successful is to be mobile and if the community surrounds us is in danger of collapse, the successful ones will move their families to a new community. This lack of responsibility to a place is what is driving America to forget its glorious past and focus instead on its perilous future and each of our escapes.

All of this is driven by our new technologies and the only way to salvage our past is to begin taking care of a piece of land, however small at the expense of a pension, insurance, mobility, pecuniary gain. All wealth derives from material resources. The pecuniary wealth holders among the professional classes hold on the wealth is precarious at best as our collapsing housing market currently foreshadows. Buying and holding property cannot bring a return on an investment that is subject to exponential laws, unless it becomes speculative. However, these returns do not increase the real value of the land. Only stewardship and community building can raise the real return on the land.

The real return comes with a sense of place that is received from becoming part of a social network that depends on this place for its survival. We no longer have many places left in the US that are locally dependent as we rely more and more upon foreign imports of inferior products. These products are not inferior because they are produced by an inferior foreign people, but rather because they are not produced with care. They are produced with only one goal in mind -- profit. A local producer cares about what happens to the products he or she sells within the community because these products reflect on his or her reputation in the community. Multi-national global corporations have no such cares, outside of how they effect their bottm-lines. All this brings me back to the only permanent solution to the disease that infects our global culture, for lack of a better term describing our current condition.

We must place an emphasis on community and our local environments over technological advancements. Any technology that breaks apart a local community or harms a local habitat, should be restricted if not banned. Without such restrictions, we will continue down the path of individual pursuits of financial rewards at the expense of everything that is necessary for the pursuit of human freedoms and dignity in each of our lives.