Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Terrorism as a Reaction to Modern Technology

    In my last article, I wrote about a form of behavior that has become a significant vehicle for resistance to the technological transformation of living environments.  Corruption, which was used since the beginning of human history as a vehicle for making intense though disruptive imprints on human fields of experience, is particularly useful for people in more traditional cultures who find that the necessary interaction with modern machines and technological environments in today’s world enforces strictures and rigid patterning on their behavior that they find impossible to tolerate.  Rigidity in behavioral rules imposed by technology compels these people to use moral rules as an area where they can create greater freedom for their behavioral expression.  By bending and breaking moral rules, these particular people who live in more traditional cultures can feel vibrantly alive in the imprints that they make and receive in the situations that they create.  These people have a particularly difficult time dealing with a scarcity of organic surfaces on which to make, preserve, and receive imprints.  Again, I want to emphasize that being technology-resistant in terms of not letting technology model or mirror behavior for them does not mean that technology is not used in the service of corruption.  Certainly it is used a great deal in weapons, as well as on the Internet.  However, it is my thought that the presence of a lot of modern technology in the environment pushes some more traditional people to want to stand apart from being robotized by participating even more in the intense disruptive imprints of corruption.  And as I have pointed out, these traditional people do tend to cluster in certain cultures where corruption today is particularly rampant.

    However, there is a paradox here.  Although corrupt behavior can have very destructive effects on the society in which it exists, it cannot totally destroy the society, or there would be no core moral base against which to measure its deviation from the norm.  Also, corrupt behavior is parasitical on its host society, and no parasite has any desire to kill off its host entirely.  Corrupt people in traditional societies would kill themselves off, if they killed off the society in which they lived.  Such people require victims for their misbehavior.

    This is very different from another group of non-conforming traditional people.  In some traditional societies, there are people who want to totally destroy the modern societies that create the technology that is, in the eyes of these people, overly constricting and patterning of their behavior and that diminishes the number of available organic surfaces for making, receiving, and preserving imprints. Rather than feeling alive by feeding off of and juxtaposing themselves next to an orderly social base of people in a modern technological society, this second kind  of traditional outsider feels alive by attempting to totally destroy the people in the orderly social base.  This second group of traditionalists consists of people that the citizens of modern technological society designate as terrorists.  These terrorists are, in turn, divided into two groups.  There are those terrorists who see themselves as soldiers who carry out ongoing attacks on modern technological societies and thus feel alive through a series of intense highly destructive imprints.  These terrorists are able to temporarily tolerate receiving the imprints from modern technological society as they attempt to destroy it.

    Then there are those terrorists who literally cannot tolerate what they experience as horrible sensory distortion from modern technological society.  These terrorists are uncomfortable with the rigidity and over-patterning of behavior created by the necessity of involvement with modern technological processes, with the lack of of organic surfaces on which to make, preserve and receive imprints, and with the moral freedom demonstrated by many citizens of modern technological society in areas like sex, alcohol and drugs.  As has been discussed before, this morally free behavior of mainstream citizens in technological society with regard to these recreational activities is, in turn, the reaction of these people to sensory distortion. Meanwhile, the influence, both direct and indirect, of this behavior on the second group of terrorists makes living for them even in the same world as this modern social environment intolerable.  Suicide bombers are people who make and preserve one significant imprint on their field of experience in the process of taking their own lives.  They prepare meticulously for death with a powerful surrogate immortality - the suicidal destruction of many other people- and then they die.

    Many people focus on the well-developed afterlife that acts as a significant motivation for Islamic suicide bombers.  But I would like to suggest that the notion of leaving a significant imprint on this world is also important.  This is a period of history when the suicide bombers perceive that modern technology, through its major agent Western society, has contaminated everything and made it impossible for them, the bombers, to leave any other kind of imprint.  Even though Islamic terrorists use modern technology as a means for carrying out their terrorist acts, their dream reverts back to a restoration of medieval Islamic rule.  The dream is a reconfiguration of a pre-modern-technology past.  A past that gives them greater behavioral freedom away from the rigid behavioral obligations of modern machine operation and greater behavioral control in the area of everyday social interaction.  Also, a greater opportunity to leave the kind of intense organic imprints that they are accustomed to leave.

    Granted that suicide bombing is also used as a vehicle of war in the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that is going on in the Middle East today.  It is primarily used by the Sunnis against the Shiites.  I would, nevertheless, say that this is a conflict that is intended to decide who is going to be the dominant theological group in creating the medieval Islamic theocracy that will end up ruling over the “decadent” modern technological West.  The war over theological dominance is still influenced by the question of who will be best suited to conquer the West..

    The interpretation I have made in the last two articles on these more extreme discontents of modern technological society has some significant consequences.  There are very large groups of people in this world who are not accommodating themselves very well to technological sensory distortion and the loss of organic surfaces for making, preserving and receiving new organic imprints.  Not only are they not accommodating themselves, but the sensory distortion makes these groups more predisposed to performing acts that are highly destructive to societies in which they live.  It is true that people who fall into the corrupt category are not directly out to destroy their host societies.  But they do enfeeble these societies and even to some extent paralyze them.  Ordinary citizens are afraid to go out at night as a result of crime.  Although they do not directly destroy a society, corrupt people damage the spirit of their society.

    If one major reason for the growth in corruption and/or terrorism in certain societies today relates to rapid technological change, then conventional attempts to get rid of these problems with police and military methods may not work completely.  Rather than simply a criminal conflict or a religious war, what we are dealing with today is an experiential war, a war about who has the right to determine the way we experience and engage the world around us.

    Both the corrupt people and the terrorists represent values on the surface that civilized people cannot permit to take over in their fields of experience.  And yet underneath these values, on one level, there exist unusually strong sensitivities to harmful situations that are affecting the living environments in which all of us dwell.  Both of these groups come from more traditional societies that, to a greater or lesser extent, are outside of the mainstream of technological innovation that is taking over the world.  However, in the case of corrupt drug traffickers, they are intimately intertwined with those people in modern technological societies that are consumers of drugs.  I have previously discussed how the use of drugs is a vehicle for dealing with sensory distortion.

    And perhaps we have become strangely intertwined with the terrorists as well.  In our ongoing war with the terrorists, which is not fought like a conventional war and doesn’t seem to have the possibility to end like a conventional war, we have found a form of deadly corrosive overstimulation to pull us out of the numbness of our vacuum experiential base.  Articles in the newspapers and searches in public buildings and at airports keep us extremely alert and abrasively alive.

    In my opinion, if we want to rid ourselves of both of these groups, we have to develop a new way of assessing what they truly represent.  If I am right, some of their underlying sensitivities and concerns are simply more extreme versions of things that more mainstream people are experiencing as well.  Maybe only by dealing with the deeper problems do we have any chance of dealing effectively with corruption and terrorism.

© 2012 Laurence Mesirow

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Effects of Modern Technology on Corruption in Developing Countries

Cause and effect relationships can sometimes be difficult to establish with certainty. This is particularly true when a particular effect has several causes that converge to produce it. On the other hand, in this series of articles, I have been focused on the different effects produced by one pair of connected causes: modern technology and modern technological environments. And I have focused on these causes as if they were the only major causes producing all the different effects being discussed. In fact, each different effect I discuss would have a different bundle of causes - some short-term, some long-term, some immediate and some remote. To try and enumerate all the causes for each effect would lead to diluting the focus I am trying to create on how modern technology and modern technological environments can have a major influence on so many disparate situations within the human field of experience.

I bring all this up now, because I am about to suggest some connections between modern technology and other displays of human behavior that, on the suface, may not appear obvious at all. In the cases under discussion, I do not presume that modern technology is the initial cause of the behavior, but rather that it exacerbates a pre-existing pattern of behavior that is somehow accepted by the culture in which it appears, even if not formally approved.

Corruption is a problem that has been surging over the last few decades in many developing countries. The people involved deal with a whole range of different activities. Among these are shady business deals involving bribes and kickbacks; the production, transport and marketing of drugs; kidnapping; and human trafficking. With regard to human trafficking, people who believe that slavery has been pretty much eliminated in our modern enlightened world should think again.

I want to explore corruption within the context of my theories on imprints. Over the years, one interesting idea that has been suggested is a correlation between creativity and corruption. Although one might think that these are two very different phenomena, both deal with reconfiguring established realities. Creativity focuses on reconfiguring and recombining the components of the sensory and cognitive realities, while corruption focuses on reconfiguring and recombining the components of the moral reality - the established moral rules of a society.

A creative approach to the world deals, to a great extent, with continual stimuli and with merging and blending grounded phenomena . This is very different from the more mechanistic approach of modern technology, which focuses principally on discrete stimuli and on well-delineated figures. Modern technology is more in sync with traditional moral rules which were means by which people gave themselves self-definition in the more undifferentiating traditional organic living environments in which they used to dwell. I have previously discussed how strict applications of traditional moralities in modern technological environments tend to make people more robotic. What I haven’t explored is the possibility that some cultures mold people in such a way that they are more resistant and antagonistic to robotizing influences.

There are cultures where most people like to recreate their world every day of their lives. These people love primary experiences, love the opportunity to make and receive new imprints to feel alive, and see excessive routine and order as an obstacle to these purposes. These people may include innovators in the humanities, but they do not tend to be innovators in the creation of technological devices that take away their opportunities to be innovative in their daily flow of life activity. Although they utilize the technology provided them as members of the 21st century, these people continue with their strong community and family relationships and their strong direct engagement with the external world in general. So there is an implicit conflict between the increasing mediation of human experience provided by advances in technology on the one hand, and the desire of these people for a more traditional organic involvement with their fields of experience on the other hand. In other words, people from these more traditional cultures tend to be more disconnected from the modern technological environments that have been given them.

One reaction particular to them is to reinforce their creative approach to life in as many different ways as possible. And here I am not talking about creating art or literature or music necessarily. A lot of people aren’t artistic in this sense. However, technological processes implicitly enforce certain more rigid patterns on human behavior, as people become more and more involved with modern machines. Many people from more traditional societies rebel against these increasing behavioral restraints from technology by finding other opportunities for more open behavior that are not so rigidly controlled by established rules. In public society, this can involve breaking and bending legal rules through corrupt interactions between people both in the government and in the private sector. Corrupt practices like bribes, kickbacks and illegal businesses not only allow people to make easy money, but they also allow them to reinforce their human essence by operating outside of established rigid legal rules that seem to mimic the rigid patterns for conduct of machines, computers and robots. In a certain way, corruption becomes a vehicle for liberation from what some of these more traditional people perceive as an overly rigid constraining mechanical order.

Corruption also creates the opportunity for making and receiving meaningful imprints on the organic surfaces of other people. At a time when modern technological environments provide few available organic experiential surfaces on which to make, preserve and receive meaningful organic imprints, corrupt practices allow for doing this through disruptive damaging imprints. Corruption is an imprint that can be left in spite of technological sensory distortion.

Certainly corruption has been around in human culture since way before the industrial revolution, let alone the computer revolution. Corruption has been a means for people to make and receive very intense although disruptive and damaging imprints long before the development of modern technology. For these people, the ability to bend and break established social and legal rules with impunity gave them an intense charge from the risk involved as well as a high from the sense of entitlement involved.

But now there is the added dimension that modern technology creates a social and physical environment where the opportunities for freer more creative behavior, for a rich vibrant life, and for meaningful imprints are greatly diminished in comparison with pre-industrial society. For people in more traditional societies, corruption takes on a greater importance as one of the few outlets available to live a more organic life.

Some of my readers may interpret this analysis as a form of support for corrupt behavior, a form of approval for immoral behavior. I would like to assure people that I do not approve of corrupt behavior, and that I would rather that people involve themselves in more moral forms of vibrant creative behavior like constructive interactions with other people in dates, encounters, celebrations and parties and like participation in the humanities. Or simply try to infuse creativity and vibrance in everyday life by constantly finding ways to do routine activities in different ways. That being said, I do accept the fact that corruption has played an integral role since the beginning of human society for the reasons I have stated and that it has a special role for more traditional societies living in modern technological environments.

Obviously, the effects of the corruption of these traditional cultures spill over into cultures that have fully embraced modern technology and propelled them forward. The freedom obtained by drug production and marketing in more traditional societies is a freedom that helps people in modern technological societies defend themselves against technological sensory distortion through the destructive consumption of drugs (although drug consumption has spread through drug producing cultures as well, providing another means to help these cultures deal with their own technological sensory distortion). But to the extent that a concerted effort is made to diminish drug consumption both in developed and developing countries, there will also have to be a focus on some of these more subtle causes behind the rise of the illegal drug business. And there will have to be a greater understanding of the role corruption, in general, plays today in more traditional societies.

© 2012 Laurence Mesirow