Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stopping the Megamachine

The Machine is not a Metaphor

When Lewis Mumford referred to the hierarchical power structure behind civilization as the megamachine, he was not invoking a metaphor.  Civilization is, in the most concrete sense, a machine.

The difference between the megamachine that erected the great pyramid and the one that is presently scouring the planet dead is simply one of efficiency—a product of a few thousand years of technological “improvements.”  The modern gears are constructed of a different alloy, but they turn in the same way that they have always turned.  And the end result is the same: progressive dehumanization and the despoilment of the environment.

In battle, it is almost always advantageous to know something about the opposition; knowledge of the enemy’s nature sheds light on potentially exploitable weaknesses, and suggests strategies of attack.  Our enemy is a machine.  All machines share common features and attributes, regardless of their specific design and purpose.  An automobile and a corporation have more in common with each other than either has with a living human person.  Note that this is precisely why the corporate world has taken great strides to convince humans to think of themselves in mechanical or functional terms—as consumers, for example.   

There are at least three fairly straightforward ways to shut down a machine that is made of metal and plastic and hoses and wire.  The most obvious is to disrupt access to its source of power.  Tactics for accomplishing this vary depending on the specific power source or the kind of fuel, but the options are obvious.  Another approach is to damage or remove a critical component, ideally one that is difficult or impossible to replace.  Tossing a monkey wrench into the workings is a variation on this second strategy.   A third approach is simply to employ brute force and smash the machine to pieces.   

These three general strategies apply to the megamachine of civilization just as they do to more pedestrian mechanical devices.  The major obstacles with applying these three strategies to civilization lie in the difficulty recognizing the true sources of the megamachine’s power, identifying and disabling its vulnerable critical components, or assembling a big enough hammer.  

No comments:

Post a Comment