Thursday, March 07, 2019

Just In!!! Something From a Dead French Philospher!!!

If you've never heard of the French Philosopher Jacques Ellul that would not be surprising. I stumbled across some of his writings a few years ago. If any book changed the way I look at the world, in this technological age, it would be Jacques Ellul's book "Propaganda - The Formation of Men's Attitudes"

Here's my one cent summary of what that book says,

Hardwired in humans are a set of basic needs that need to be fulfilled in order to be happy. These needs include - to be loved, a sense of belonging, family bonds, a sense of human dignity, and to feel valued and respected as an individual.

Any technology man has created, causes effects to humans that are precisely the opposite of what humans are hardwired to need in order to be happy.

Since this is the case, mankind must be thoroughly and completed immersed in propaganda. The purpose of this total propaganda is to ensure the havoc wreaked on human happiness by technology is never made fully conscious to the individual.

Ellul spends many pages defining propaganda which I won't try to do here. I only mention that because I'm grossly over-simplifying his writings.

There may be some overlap in what Ellul was saying and  the fall of man told in the story of Adam and Eve. Eating from the tree of knowledge might be one way to look at technological development.

I should of said that was my 1% summary of Ellul's book since I probably got one percent of it right, anyway here's what Robert Kirsch from the Los Angeles Times says about the book "Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes" -

"...a far more frightening work than any of the nightmare novels of George Orwell. With the logic which is the great instrument of French thought, Ellul explores and attempts to prove the thesis that propaganda, whether its ends are demonstrably good or bad, is not only destructive of democracy, it is perhaps the most serious threat to humanity operating in the modern world."

It's not all, that depressing...Jacques Ellul was a deep and pretty unique thinker. He has some fascinating insights about a variety of things. He was very gentle, thoughtful, and Christian in the best sense of the word. If you have a ton of free time and any interest there are a set of lectures about Jacques Ellul from a Kansas State University Political Philosophy class on YouTube.

As much as I like to explore different ideas I think its best to not accept any one persons view and one would be well served by reading Ellul with a skeptic's eye. An uncritical reading of his writings, one could argue, influenced Ted Kaczynski aka the Unabomber. Ted was attracted to Ellul's book "The Technological Society". I haven't read that book but it is discussed in detail in the KSU lectures linked to above. The professor who created those videos has posted lectures on a diverse set topics that are interesting, and at times somewhat challenging to the status quo - thank goodness for public universities. If you like philosophical historical political types of thought..and have a lot of free time to spend on the interwebs this is a good channel to look around in.

The more I think about it...

Maybe a better idea, than doing a lot of research to see if we live in a technocratic dystopia, would be just to love each other and be happy you are alive on this earth.