The individual is in a dilemma: either he decides to safeguard his freedom of choice, chooses to use traditional, personal, moral, or empirical means, thereby entering into competition with a power against which there is no efficacious defense and before which he must suffer defeat; or he decides to accept technical necessity, in which case he will himself be the victor, but only by submitting irreparably to technical slavery. In effect he has no freedom of choice. — Ellul, Jacques. “The Technological Society”. Vintage Books: N.Y., N.Y. (1963) p. 84.
From a will to power perspective, the last few weeks of mass hysteria have been Technological Society (“TS”) at its best and one of its finest works of art. Not just one nation’s culture but the entirety of world culture has changed drastically and substantively without any bloating bodies strewn about the streets or blood running in the gutters — no armies and navies fighting, no extermination camps, no mass rallies of armed crowds roaming the streets, no cities covered in volcanic ash, no cities swallowed by earthquakes, and none of the other natural or historical events that usually are the foundation for cultural revolution. Complain about it all you want and call the Powers of TS names such as corporatism, capitalism, communism, neo-liberalism, socialism, or whatever, but the factual reality is that the Powers of TS ordered everyone to imprison and isolate themselves and everyone followed orders — cleanly, easily, antiseptically, and without any fuss or protest. In fact, any protest would seem monumentally evil because the orders get their validity based on the innocent deaths of some elderly and other sick who most likely would have died of something else instead of the virus anyway; since they would have died anyway, TS does not even need martyrs or human sacrifice to achieve cultural revolution. The Powers of the past must be rolling in their graves admiring the beauty of this exhibition of power for the sake of power.
Of course, the bodies and blood are still there. Just the higher suicide fatalities resulting from the forced isolation will most likely cancel out any lives saved by this pandemic cure. Even before the collapse of the world economy, on average 15,000 5-year-old and younger children died each day from malnutrition, under nutrition, or starvation; no doubt, these deaths will now go up by thousands more daily with global economic collapse. The educational system was barely educating the working classes as it was; now that they have lost a whole semester isolated at home while the upper classes afford on-line education and tutors for their children, I doubt they will ever catch up and will be permanently under-educated. The massive destruction and loss of life caused by the pandemic cures will far exceed the number of lives of the elderly and others it supposedly saved but this destruction and death will be hidden and not in the mass propaganda describing and explaining its history and thus they do not matter.
As always in TS, it is tough to make conceptual sense of what is going on because there is so much going on, no one knows what is going on, and no one knows what they are doing. Yet, not only does everyone go about pretending they know and talking about how much they know, but then from their tower of ignorance they pass judgment on the lives of others and decide what others ought to be doing as a matter of ultimate normative value — define the morality and ethics of the state of affairs. Most of the time it does not matter and is just yalking with no value other than perhaps as aesthetics in some form, but when those doing the yalking have the power actually to enforce their value judgments upon others, it does matter and it matters big time. At that big time moment, in just a few weeks, even without any natural catastrophe or war but peacefully through the monopoly on violence that is the rule of law, world culture arbitrarily and randomly changes drastically, substantively, and forever. This is the will to power freedom TS grants its gods.
What about the rest of us? Unless one is suicidal, as Ellul eloquently wrote, acceptance of TS is required because it is “a power against which there is no efficacious defense and before which [we] must suffer defeat”. But, does the acceptance of technical slavery allow for any substantive freedom of choice for the will to power of the technical slave? How does the technical slave continue their will to power struggle and thus continue class struggle so history may continue?
In terms of being naturalized to reality, TS on the surface appears to deny the rest of us freedom of choice as we become bound to technical slavery. However, as I have argued elsewhere in more detail (Such as at Existential Meta-Ethics ), the acceptance of material technical slavery in order to be a victor in life through the material prosperity it gives does not necessarily negate substantive freedom of choice for the human mind and the will to power of the individual soul. Technical slavery is not unnatural or an anomaly, it is the natural flow of history. This recent Wuhan Virus events and the associated mass hysteria further elucidate my arguments that nihilism allows for nihilist Acceptance: we can knowingly and intentionally accept our fate in life but without loving it and without making it our life’s meaning in order to give meaning to our life and our lives. This new school freedom of choice is founded upon what was once old school theological agnosia; it is the freedom nihilism grants us even while physically imprisoned and most definitely while technically imprisoned by the will to power given to the Powers of TS by its godless Fates or even by God. This nihilist freedom of Acceptance is a freedom not even granted the Powers. Ultimately they need godly power over us and, if God is in fact the source of all authority, they need the God who grants this will to power so as to give meaning to their lives. We however do not need godly power over them nor any godly power over anyone including over ourselves to give meaning to our lives. Ultimately, the Powers need us but we do not need them. This is their one weakness that must be exploited so as to struggle and to overcome them and ourselves to defeat out technical slavery. This Acceptance gives nihilists the power not only to reject the Powers but also to reject God or to accept God: the ultimate freedom of choice and the ultimate godly power.
Pragmatically, we must first see that Acceptance of technical slavery in TS is not something that we should see as a weakness or as an existential bad faith surrender to lack of authenticity or whatever other phrases about which the some hypocritically pontificate to ignore their own status as technical slaves. As a matter of practical reality, in addition to being conceptually necessary, to be a victor in TS for anyone who is not one of its gods regardless if one is a simple proletariat or an intellectual proletariat requires one accept technical slavery. There were never any “good old days” nor any “noble savage” who had a greater freedom than anyone living in TS including any wage slave workers in TS. In the past, workers may have had a different kind of freedom but it was not any better. If one’s hunter-gatherer tribe or ancient classical tribe became too tyrannical, for millennia workers including slaves — if smart and lucky enough — had the freedom to run away one day and to start another tribe in the next valley, hill, or wherever they could survive. This type of freedom however requires the knowledge of how to survive in reality as-it-is and does not allow for the freedom of creating reality as it ought to be. This old school freedom is missing in TS and gone forever. It is a different type of freedom but not any better or worse than we have now consisting of the freedom to decide how reality ought to be — to declare “God is dead” and pretend we mean it.
The last century or so of human history despite all its problems has been the most materially prosperous and peaceful time in human history in which while growing from one billion in 1900 to more than six billion population in 2000, workers have for the first time in human history enjoyed freedom from: chattel slavery; world famine; true plagues of truly pandemic proportions such small pox, polio, measles, the Black Death, the Antonine Plague, and many more deaths that lacked any cure or any concept of a cure; unsanitary water; unsanitary living conditions; world pestilence; locusts causing mass suffering; mass sufferings due to the vagaries of weather and nature; and much more. The freedom to change one’s tribe at will simply by physically leaving one’s social constructs allows one to look and admire the heavens from any place on earth but it cannot give one the power to actually discover, explore, and conquer the heavens. TS gives us freedom from material imprisonment so that we are free to confront the reality of imprisonment of the soul and its mind in this meaningless life if we have the courage to do so.
This confrontation is a necessary aspect of TS that cannot be eliminated because it flows naturally from the nature of its technique though it can be ignored if one lacks the courage to confront it. One can see this necessary aspect of its nature working in the simplest of techniques in which pragmatics provide a foundation for a will to power leap to creation of morality and ethics. For example, if one pragmatically needs a bridge for the purpose of carrying 5000 tons of vehicles, one does not engineer a bridge capable of carrying 5000 tons of vehicles. I am not sure what the engineering standards are these days, but most likely the technique for the technology of building a 5000-ton load bridge is to engineer at least a 10,000 ton load bridge and mostly likely a 40,000 or more ton load bridge depending on one’s arbitrary and random choice of the morality and ethics of such risk decisions. Likewise, if with certain conjectures or assumptions, medical technicians build a modeling of the Wuhan Virus in which millions of persons die, this leaves open the option for calling it a pandemic and for the Powers of TS to use their power to define morality and ethics so as to force self-imprisonment and social isolation and so forth for all. Why would they do it for this model instead of for the 15,000 five-year-olds actually dying per day model or for any other modeling for problems that have equivalent or worse scenarios? Again, respective to the godly exercise of power as an end in itself, asking for such an explanation is a meaningless question and misses the point of godly power just as it does respectively for the power of God. God is power; the gods of TS are power. The gods of TS just as with God can do whatever they want when they want to do it — power is an end in itself. The fact they can arbitrarily and randomly exercise their power of creating morality and ethics purely as a will to power is a necessary aspect or attribute of their power; by definition, morality and ethics is in their power to define.
The spiritual questions of freedom of the soul and mind for meaning in life are the same in TS as they always have been. In fact, TS allows for the existence of the intellectual proletariat and their freedom — which is based not on knowledge but on ignorance and verbiage to hide ignorance — to work on these questions. The intellectual proletariat technical slaves appear to be above slavery because it is their technical task to sit in the stands and criticize the techniques of those slaves struggling in the blood and sand of the arena, but in the end they are just as expendable to TS as those struggling below. These questions of freedom in TS, instead of being expressed by shamans in religious or mystical expressions or even by the Platonic contemplations of philosophers as expressed in the past, are now expressed in popular media and aesthetics by post-modern shamans through aesthetically pleasing phrases that are in denial as to their equally religious, mystical, and Platonic nature: such phrases as authenticity, inauthenticity, angst, bad faith, despair, slave morality, master morality, the self, the other, self-identity, whiteness, blackness, and all the other post-modernist favorites complaining about the weaknesses of the “herd” as they like to call wage slaves among themselves as they look down on us from the stands while pretending to empathize with us. Again, the concepts are different but not any better nor worse. What there is now is the freedom to be purely aesthetic about these concepts and to ignore their pragmatics.
In prior cultures before TS, when exercising the freedom to leave and to create a new culture, one had actually to know how to physically survive; if one did not pragmatically know how to survive in reality, one did not survive reality. This was true as much of the tribal shaman as it was for the tribal hunters and gatherers; even the tribal shaman needed to know how to hunt, farm, gather food, and so forth and needed a record of success or the tribe would find another and the shaman would starve. Such is no longer true. The power of aesthetics in TS allows for survival independently of having any pragmatic knowledge of survival or of reality other than the ability aesthetically to create delusion more real than reality or to create what reality ought to be through fictions and verbiage. It no longer matters if our TS tribal shamans have any record of success or any record other than being able to convince through propaganda that they ought to have a record of success. Even failure can become a successful basis for power in TS if one controls the successful propaganda techniques available in TS.
If you look at how most of the proponents of the above aesthetically pleasing terms actually lived their lives instead of how they preach others ought live their lives, the practical reality of their necessary conceptual Acceptance of technical slavery in their own lives so as to have the freedom to complain about it is easily seen. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for the rest of us to accept and to go on to the bigger questions of freedom of the will to power of the individual mind and soul. For example, even for Jacques Ellul, he had his chance explicitly to fight the last explicit imposition of technical slavery upon the world during World War II; he instead spent it making a good living as a potato farmer in Vichy France selling his product into the high demand created by TS and its World War II so he could survive to be critical of TS once liberated. Vichy France provided post-modernist hero Foucault with the formal education and the freedom to engage in his sexual escapades so that after liberation he could go on to complain about the West that liberated him and their supposedly destructive and oppressive power over the individual — though apparently he was not really seeking liberation nor needed liberation and could have continued living the life he wanted just as well under the tyranny of fascism or under the tyranny of communism as long as they left him alone to satisfy his sexual desires including sexual needs involving minors. The greats like Sartre, Beauvoir, and even my working class hero Camus and many more preachers of authenticity spent those World War II years — again, the last great opportunity for explicitly struggling against explicit technical slavery — enjoying the cafes of Paris and Marseilles and the critical adulation of both Vichy and German literary critics. These examples are countless. Intellectual proletarians are technical slaves as much as the rest of us but are simply in denial as to their status. Those who were or are not able to accept their technical slave status usually died fighting it either at the hands of others or by their own hand in physical or spiritual suicide.
Camus at least during his war years developed the idea of his book The Plague which is being rediscovered in this recent mass hysteria by the intellectual proletarians of the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and some others while completely ignoring — or not realizing — that the plague in The Plague was an allegory for fascism and Stalinist communism. They have also ignored the relevance to the recent mass hysteria of such books as Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Most definitely, they have not rediscovered Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (“‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have eroded.”).
It is the success of TS in creating freedom from material imprisonment that is its most powerful technique for creating spiritual and mental imprisonment through technical slavery for those who either lack the courage to face this new school type of imprisonment or who enjoy their technical slavery as acceptable mental and spiritual meaning in life. One of the reasons the recent Wuhan Virus has resulted in mass hysteria is because a large proportion of the world population especially in the West has gone their whole life without ever experiencing death or unbearable physical or even deep tragic emotional pain or emotional isolation from society and most definitely without experiencing actual plague, pestilence, famine, war, or anything approaching catastrophic social collapse. This is good; as I have said before, given a choice between my child growing up in a world of violence in which by necessity only the strong and the fittest survive accustomed to the traumatic misery of life or of their growing up in a peaceful world in which all survive and the strongest must by choice work at being fit and strong to the traumatic misery of life, I will always prefer the latter peaceful option. In the latter, the pragmatic reality is that the weak as well as the strong will survive thus perhaps weakening the chances of survival for all and the chances of our exploring, discovering, and conquering the universe; but, since one never knows whether you or your children will be among the weak or the strong, if possible, my love for myself and for them would prefer the latter option. T.S. makes the latter option more practically possible, acceptable, and workable than in any prior time in history.
So, given that acceptance of technical slavery is necessary to be a victor in TS and thus in life, it is not something of which workers should be ashamed or be ridiculed as bad faith lack of authenticity or whatever ridicule elitists have of those who are not their gods. The important question is what freedom of choice does nihilist Acceptance of this new school slavery give to those who have the courage to confront the mental and spiritual aspects of this technical slavery? The answer is that there is a will to power freedom of mind and soul possible for the technical slave. It is founded on a new school nihilist version of the old school concept once know as theological agnosia from the philosophy of Pseudo-Dionysius or Dionysius the Areopagite: “unknowing” or agnosia is not ignorance or absence of knowledge as ordinarily understood but rather the knowledge that no language can express that which is beyond and above language. TS will always have gods who know what ought to have ultimate value and how others ought to live their lives. For the rest of us, the power of our will to power is to live without knowing either. The gods of TS will always convert their knowledge of good and evil into morality and ethics with its final attribute of violence. For the rest of us, the power of our will to power is to live without this knowledge and without this attribute.