Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive!
CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Conservatives and Technology

by HEATHER GRAY

Oppressive conservative movements anywhere in the world, especially what we’re seeing in America, could partly be a response to challenges of traditional authority resulting from technological changes.

The great anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that in the 20th century we were witnessing for the first time an era in human history in which the youth could not go to their elders for advice on how to survive.

The elders have had much to teach us (and still do, of course) and throughout millennium the youth have sat around them and hungered for their knowledge because it was needed for survival, but also because their stories and information probably made life more interesting.

It’s rather staggering to realize that this has been the primary model of us humans for thousands of years until, roughly, the recent industrial revolution.

The issue Mead referred to was rapid technological changes that altered the way we humans relate with each other–particularly in the West where changes have been occurring in rapid succession (electricity, cars, planes, the industrial age generally, communications, etc.). This is further compounded by the fact that it takes at least 10 to 20 years for us humans to adapt our behavior to a new technology.

We’ve apparently not seen such rapid technological change as has been the case in the 20th century–and there’s simply not been time to adapt to it all. Social relationships have become somewhat chaotic as a result.

There are many examples of change in the 1900’s and how it’s effected they way we relate, but perhaps the most striking in recent history has been the computer and/or digital age. Think about it! In just the past 20 years we have become incredibly reliant on the computer and e-mail as a form of communication. And if something new becomes available in computer technology, whom do we learn about it from? It’s certainly not our parents or grandparents as would have been the case traditionally. We ask our children or grandchildren, our nieces and nephews.

On the flip side of this, it’s been said the technological change is inherently democratizing. It tends to provide opportunities for the masses to have access to technology and information. The printing press and the more recent personal computer are prime examples. They opened up vast opportunities for individual growth and exploration. Change can be liberating! These two examples are perhaps perfect examples of the enlightenment at work. But all of this is seemingly not without a societal cost and threats from the right wing.

On the other hand, some new technologies, like the Green Revolution after WWII and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), are probably not that great for us. The Green Revolution has dumped enormous amounts of chemicals on our soil and into our food system through use of chemicals in production agriculture. The GMO’s are making our family farmers worldwide more vulnerable because they have less control over seed saving as well as their crop production and GMO’s are also, unfortunately, homogenizing agriculture and destroying the diversity of our food chain. The beneficiaries of these technologies are largely the corporations and not the masses. They are not examples of what are “inherently democratizing” or liberating.

Another important factor to consider here is that when something new presents itself–new ideas, new technology, new religion, etc–there is a tendency for large sectors of the society (i.e. religious leaders, scientists, professionals generally) to cling even more to the older methods and values. Change is never easy.

Scientist Thomas Kuhn describes this best in his renowned book “The Structure of Scientific Revolution”. He says that when Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein, for example, were advancing their new scientific theories, “Each of (the new theories or paradigms) necessitated the (scientific) community’s rejection of one time-honored scientific theory in favor of another incompatible with it.” But before that, scientists refused to accept the new paradigms and attempted to undermine those advocating the change. Kicking and screaming, science will ultimately accept some of these new theories but only after they’ve been tested and retested.

Perhaps right out of the Kuhn model, conservative Christians and neoconservative movements in America are attempting to entrench and/or expand power. They’re attempting to reverse the threats to traditional role relationships that have been challenged by a century of technological changes and the accompanying liberation. They’ll want to challenge the new technology particularly if it’s liberating for the masses and threatens traditional authority.

The Christian right and neoconservatives are taking advantage of society in transition in any number of ways. For example, once again, amazingly, they are challenging Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection; as always free speech and right of assembly appear on the chopping block; women’s rights are threatened; affirmative action is being diminished; limited executive power is almost a thing of the past.

Change is not necessarily better; it’s simply a change, something new, and usually intriguing. There are times it is definitely an advancement but we need to study it carefully. It might not necessarily improve the quality of our lives, but then it might! But a few things seem certain. Technological changes result in new dynamics in our human relationships and there will be a reaction to new technologies particularly if they are liberating and empowering for the general population.

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.

 

 

 

Heather Gray is a writer and radio producer in Atlanta, Georgia and has also lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, briefly in the Philippines and has traveled in southern Africa. For 24 years she has worked in support of Black farmer issues and in cooperative economic development in the rural South. She holds degrees in anthropology and sociology. She can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail