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Revolution Not Progress June 21, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Primitivism, Technocracy, Transhumanism.
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I don’t intend to bear the torch for pessimism. I seek to shatter the progress myth but not deflate dreams of transformation. I couldn’t survive in this world without keeping utopian visions in mind and striving toward them daily. While sharing Philippe Verdoux’s dreary assessment of the record so far, I remain committed to the possibility of radical change in a positive direction.

My quarrel with invocations of progress come with their political and strategic implications. I fear the acceptance of grand upwards curves and near-term super futures inclines folks to dismiss protests against the horrors of high-tech industrial capitalism. With the exaltation technoscience, people who struggle for environment justice and self-determination in their communities easily turn into ignorant Luddites or eco-terrorists. That’s a story that replayed endless over the last couple centuries. Here in the United States, civilization and progress have signified the dispossession and elimination of Native peoples, ecological devastation, the brutal suppression of labor radicals, the expansion and centralization of government, and the march of imperialism across the globe. The Enlightenment project casts a nightmarish shadow that threatens to devour all joy and beauty from the Earth. I’m a human, goddamn it, not a machine, and I want to live free.

I refuse to sacrifice anyone for a imagined and uncertain future, however appealing. Here I part ways with many other transhumanists. My sympathies lie with rebels rather than the system, even the technoscientific system that supposed going to take us to nano-heaven: anti-nuclear activists before nuclear energy executives, workers over digital technology corporations, and autonomists in favor of modernizing states. I take the primitivist condemnation of actually existing civilization seriously but unlike my anti-civ comrades I’m sanguine about the prospect of innovation in the absence of coercion and oppression.

(This post also appears as a comment over on my IEET article.)

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