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Commentary :: Radical Culture
No Future and Computerization
06 Jan 2017
Crises, cracks in the mirror, wake-up calls and writing on the wall call us to rethinking and resistance, to new priorities and countermeasures. Didn't the Club of Rome around 1970 warn that it was "5 minutes before 12"? If government is only a tool of self-enrichment, the murky future will be full of cynicism and mistrust.

By Theresia Pfister

[This article published on December 29, 2016, is translated from the German on the Internet in Streitzuege 68/ 2016,]

With what I have gathered in experiences and insights, I am convinced (and more every day) we are marching straightaway to a deadly abyss. I must say "we" because I belong to the human species. I belong though I'd like to distance myself and feel alien (more alien the older I become).

Marx and Engels described the development of humanity in the contemporary capitalist system and its ruinous laws like the growth and profit pressure. This has gone on for several thousand years and the cry "Stop!" was only rarely heard. The French and Russian revolutions and even the short-lived Paris Commune that did its utmost for the abolition of private property and for a more peaceful solidarity world failed magnificently. Nevertheless, revolutionaries had the courage to swim against the stream and pointed to the possibility of a different cooperative life even at the risk of their lives.

Finally, master and servant came to an arrangement when the whole species felt superior to the creation and practiced its subjugation although (or because) they saw their powerlessness daily or hourly. Sooner or later, death comes to everyone. The body and all its organs work without human help, the heart beats and breathing comes and goes without asking. We have no control over this. Despite this "thrownness" and our obvious delivered-up existence, we have the audacity to claim the earth is our property. We presume we can determine what belongs to whom, draw borders, build fences and walls and murder when these arbitrary dividing lines are violated.

There is a story about Buddha who asked a murderer "Before you kill me, fulfill this one wish: cut off the branch of this tree." The surprised malefactor did what was asked of him. Then the Buddha asked him to let the branch grow again. While destruction is easy, the creative act is hard to impossible.

In the meantime, we can destroy all life on our planet several times. There are over 400 nuclear power plants, 10,000 nuclear weapons, the storage of burnt fuel rods of nuclear power plants is unexplained and no solution is in sight. Even after Tschernobyl and Fukushima, we persist in our ignorance, laugh about the simplemindedness of the sheep, and call one another dumb cows, stupid geese, and cattle without noticing that our foolishness as humanity, on the whole, surpasses all the animals.

Didn't the Club of Rome warn around 1970 that it was "5 minutes before 12"? Since then, an appeal in book form or some other form was made almost every year that referred to the dangers of the current development – global warming, the melting of the glaciers and the poles, cutting down the last ancient forests, the rapid dying of the species, the eroded soil, damages through pesticides, genetic manipulation and others. All the cries of doom died out unnoticed. What was learned from the two world wars with their atrocities? Is greater horror imaginable? Oh no – the horror continued and continues.

The people were blessed with so much talent. Not much imagination is needed to picture how the creative powers of all the people oppressed, enslaved and kept down by the system madness could have improved society, not to mention the creative powers of the feminine half of society. Do we have any imagination? Capitalism has no alternative. Thesis-antithesis-synthesis is not true anymore. The Yin and Yang of Asian philosophies, the play of opposites and their transcendence – all this is denied. Everything becomes gray and sinks into a paralyzing superficial something. Deafened and unconscious, the whole multitude drowns in their powerlessness. The wire-pullers and the puppeteers drown in their omnipotence fantasies.

The person is now a god who believes he can play with everything. But "natural laws cannot be annulled. The form where these laws gain acceptance is what can change in historically different states." (Marx) The form where natural laws are now enforced becomes a catastrophe for the blind arrogance and presumption. Thus we stand with the water up to our necks, subject to the blind dictates of capital, ignoring the natural laws and repressing the consequences.

We are all jointly responsible for the present local situation, each one of us. We have not revoked the decision for private property, for patriarchy, the nuclear fission, incursions into genes and so forth. No God and no devil forced us to that. There are also no scapegoats, neither those above nor those below. Turning back seems unlikely. We are all stuck deep in the filth and it is already long after 12. But with self-criticism, self-knowledge, and knowledge of our own responsibility in hitting the wall, we are always better and more humane than in dull conformity like lambs led to the slaughter. But perhaps we have only been too dumb up to now to see we could still have a chance.


Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?, September 17, 2013, 72pp
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