LIVING FOR CHANGE
HiTech can free us from Jobs System
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Oct. 23-29, 2011
While planning and preparing next weekend’s Re-Imagining Work gathering, I have been revisiting the work of the late Neil Postman (1931-2003), the media theorist and cultural critic who over the years has helped me understand that technology is a Faustian bargain with both a downside and an upside.
Last Saturday on Afterwords, CSPAN 2 re-played Postman’s discussion of his 1992 book Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology.
Technology, says Postman, giveth and but it also taketh away, and not always in equal measure. A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates.
For example, 2500 years ago, Plato, the Greek philosopher, feared that the invention and development of writing would lead to disuse, decline and destruction of our capacity to remember. In the early 19th century the Luddites resisted machine production because it de-skilled the worker.
On the other hand, the printing press’s invention in the mid-15th Century has been applauded because it made the Bible widely accessible, led to the Reformation, and fostered the modern idea of individuality.
Today’s HiTech can help build both our communities and our humanity by freeing us from the industrial Job system which has been killing us, as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times made unforgettably clear in 1936, seventy-five years ag[
Next weekend, at the Saturday lunch session of Re-Imagining Work, we will be discussing the “New Work and Culture” projections of University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Frithjof Bergmann. Frithjof believes that the new HiTech can increase self-reliance and build community because it empowers individuals and local communities both to disseminate information and to produce their own goods and services in small workshops. He has worked with community organizations to produce their own housing, transportation, etc.
In his 1982 book, The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman credits the invention of printing with creating the idea of childhood and schools. With literacy came adult “Secrets,” information available only to adults who could read , and also Schools to teach people how to read. “Because school was designed for the preparation of a literate adult, the young became to be perceived not as miniature adults, but as … unformed adults”
Then, in 1950, with the advent of television, childhood disappeared because TV is an egalitarian dispenser of information. As TV became the dominant source of information (over books), the distinction between children and adults increasingly diminished and schools became increasingly dysfunctional.
That is why we urgently need a paradigm shift in our concept of education.
A new technology tends to favor some groups of people and harm others. School teachers, for example, may be made obsolete by television, as blacksmiths were made obsolete by the automobile. Technological change, in other words, always results in winners and losers.
Postman has been called a Luddite because in Technopoly he argued that the U.S “has been inundated with technophiles who do not see the downside of technology.” He especially feared that Hi-Tech would bring an increase in privatization and a decline in community and citizenship because when people can use personal computers to shop by mail, they go out and mingle less often.
To combat technopoly, he said, we need “to use technology rather than be used by it..”
At the Oct 28-30 Re-Imagining Work gathering participants will discover how their neighbors are already using both low-and-hi-tech to rebuild, redefine and re-spirit our communities and cities. They will also meet educators who are redefining education.
FocusHOPE 1400 Oakman Blvd. Detroit 48238
Discover how your neighbors are Re-inventing Work and Education and at the same time Building Community.
Join conversations with Vandana Shiva, Gar Alperovitz, Frithjof Bergmann, Detroit Summer youth and members of the Boggs Educational Collective.