Does capitalism corrode culture? I think the answer is yes and no.
Pride and Modern Prejudice: iPhones and the Past
Each one of these letters is a keystroke, an example of technology’s benefits. You can read something I have written far, far away because of the “miracle” of technology. Consciously or not, each of us uses some kind of advanced instrument almost every minute of every day. Of course, we’ve all heard the concerns: iPhones do more for zombification than Resident Evil and these days the computer steals more souls than Heaven and Hell combined.
But what’s the real problem? Haven’t people been creating technology since some ancient hominid used a stone to crack a nut? Well, let me start by telling you your soul is probably still in your body and minus a few isolated incidents George A. Romero seems to have been wrong. Now that you feel safe, I want to let you in on a little secret: a plough and an iPhone aren’t the same thing. Of course, both manipulate the world in their own way. But an iPhone does more than let a man live off the land; it can do anything. It can’t transport you across the world at the tap of a pseudo-button (yet), but it can do a lot. It is what we call “scientific technology,” that is an instrument created from within the scientific paradigm.
The plough was invented to help produce more food; the iPhone was invented to bring various types of information together in a convenient way. But what we cannot forget is that the societies that produced them are fundamentally different. The plough was invented due to a concern for survival, the iPhone for comfort and ease of access. That is what makes it “scientific.” The iPhone could not have been produced outside of our Western, rationalist society. Now you may say, “Of course! Previous civilizations lacked our depth of knowledge.” But that’s where I’d cut you off. To proclaim ourselves to be intellectually superior is to debase the accomplishments of every great thinker of the past. I would dare to say that other cultures didn’t fail to produce the iPhone because they were not smart enough, but because they weren’t interested enough. Their paradigm was different. Eleventh Century Europe was too busy figuring out who could appoint whom to what archbishopric. Their concern was not with a rationally understandable and commodifiable world.
I don’t make this distinction to poke fun at our own sensibilities. I do so to demonstrate how we tend to assume our way of life and our knowledge to be supreme. We see the failures of other civilizations as failures in their understanding, thereby failing to see that they did not share our concerns. To buy an iPhone is to support a multinational corporation with a particular record on different issues. That is to say, it is a moral decision whether you want it to be or not. So don’t view our way of examining the world as the only possibility. Look back, understand, and analyze. Recognize that not every historical decision was made so that our society, in all its perfection, could exist, but discern what has been lost in the annals of time. After all, you may have just read this on an iPhone.
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