Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The State As A Moloch Machine

"The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies...." ~ Henry David Thoreau

"All machines are amplifiers" ~ Cooper's Law

I have never been a big fan of Metropolis but there is something fascinating about it. Notice the scene above. What's it saying? That the State is a Machine, a Moloch-Machine, and it will eat people as sacrifices.

And if the State is a Machine, then what are people? Replaceable, disposable cogs. So the bigger and more powerful the States gets, the more people are reduced to cogs. Organic cogs, but still cogs.

There is an old theme in literature that got started during the Industrial Revolution: the Machine State versus the Natural State. It was related to the myth of the Garden of Eden: Unconsciousness/Innocence/Natural State versus Self-Consciousness/Experience/Machine State.

This theme is everywhere. The Machine is everywhere.

As for machines being amplifiers, that, too, is true. Machines are amoral; we can use them for good or bad. They amplify our natural abilities - for good and bad.

That theme being everywhere? The Eloi versus the Morlocks in The Time Machine. The Machine in The Matrix. The Borg in Star Trek. The Elephant Man. Darth Vader, "more machine than man."

So the big question is: How can you tell if machines are being used for good or bad purposes?

The simplest answer: if it's for bad purposes you're being sacrificed to them. In other words, you're being sacrificed to the Machine State, i.e. the State as Moloch. Or let's put it this way: the State as Satan. And like Satan, the State wants absolute power over everyone.

When machinery of whatever kind is appropriated by the State it will quickly be used for evil purposes. And people are just supposed to be disposable, replaceable cogs.

Think THX 1138.

And it was George Lucas who later created Darth Vader.

I also find it interesting the Machine State is almost always underground. Hidden. The Morlocks. Logan's Run. THX 1138. Metropolis. A prison, Hell, the totalitarian State, the Eye of Sauron, very hard to escape.

But some run. They don't want to be turned into soulless cogs.

Machines are supposed to make our lives easier. They are meant to serve us, not we them. Because when we serve them then we end up being sacrificed to them.

Machines are supposed to make us more free. I'd rather have a washing machine than spend hours a day beating my clothes on a rock in a stream.

Or as the mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote: "Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that's what is threatening the world at this minute....Certainly Star Wars has a valid mythological perspective. It shows the state as a machine and asks, 'Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity?' Humanity comes not from the machine but from the heart."

Speaking of the heart, Metropolis had a wise comment how to make sure machines serve us and not us them: "The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!"

The State does not want us to have a heart. That is, courage and love and freedom. And meaningful play, for that matter. It just wants us to be obedient slaves, ready and willing to sacrifice ourselves to the Machine.

"The conflict between the central power of the political State, and the whole set of functions and authorities contained in church, family, guild and local community has been, I believe, the main source of those dislocations of social structure and the uprootings of status which lie behind the problem of community in our age." - Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community

No comments: