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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 03, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail