29 martie 2011

Transa colectiva


Comoditatea preluarii mesajului audiovizual a facut ca telespecatatorii sa accepte bucurosi informatii prefabricate subtil malefic, aranjate si decupate, care le capteaza atentia, transformandu-i astfel, din fiinte care ar trebui sa gandeasca in fiinte gandite.

In fata micului ecran, vrand-nevrand, fiinta umana isi formeaza psihologia de consumator, devine foarte receptiv, iar televizorul va deveni o necesitate (generand boli psihice), asa cum este alcoolul pentru un betiv sau cum sunt tigarile pentru un fumator.

Libertatea telespectatorului de a alege este limitata, lui i se propun emisiuni special create, avand scopuri prestabilite, fiecare din ele avand un mesaj subtil ales. Un om care vine obosit de la serviciu este foarte receptiv (pasiv) in fata televizorului, iar psihologia lui este de a prelua fara nici un discernamant mesajul primit.

Un element esenţial pentru înţelegerea mijloacelor de comunicare video-audio este efectul hipnotic al acestora. Neuropsihologii demonstrează că televiziunea, indiferent de emisiunea vizionată, are ca prim efect introducerea cortexului telespectatorului într-o stare semihipnotică (unde cerebrale alpha). Aceasta explică atracţia pe care mass-media audio-video o exercită asupra tuturor, însă mai cu seamă asupra copiilor. Este imposibil de găsit o activitate prin care copiii să fie liniştiţi atât de repede şi aproape imobilizaţi pe o perioadă lungă de timp, aşa cum se întâmplă atunci când sunt aşezaţi în faţa televizorului. De altfel, acesta este şi motivul pentru care părinţii şi, în unele cazuri şi educatorii, folosesc televizorul ca sedativ.

Depersonalizarea individului si transformarea creierului acestuia intr-o gelatina inerta sunt din ce in ce mai evidente. La urma urmei nu se doreste decat obtinerea unor zombie care sa munceasca mult si sa consume pe masura.

( preluare de pe blogspot ) 

26 martie 2011

Despre orbii care vad.

Un film despre ce se intampla cand omul (re)devine "lup pentru om", in regia lui Fernando Meirelles, dupa romanul "Eseu despre orbire" al portughezului Jose Saramago. O epidemie de orbire care are cauze necunoscute si se raspandeste rapid ii afecteaza subit pe locuitorii unui oras. Ochiul nu are nicio problema structurala care sa explice aparitia bolii, dar cei infectati vad totul alb, de parca s-ar scufunda in lapte.

Primii bolnavi - printre ei un doctor oftalmolog (interpretat de Mark Ruffalo) si sotia lui (Julianne Moore) care se preface ca a orbit doar ca sa il urmeze in carantina - sunt izolati intr-un vechi spital. Primesc mancare din partea autoritatilor, dar trebuie sa se organizeze singuri. Sotia doctorului ajunge ghidul lor in noua societate intemeiata la voia intamplarii.

*Spoilere
Pe masura ce in carantina sunt adusi tot mai multi oameni, sistemul incepe sa semene cu un lagar. Vederea se transforma intr-o povara si o responsabilitate pentru nevasta doctorului, iar ochii ei, ca unici martori ai decaderii morale, devin ochii spectatorilor. Apare un rege auto-proclamat care preia controlul distribuirii hranei, ajutat de un pistol si de un om nevazator din nastere (veteran in lumea orbilor). In schimbul mancarii cere obiecte de valoare si apoi femei. Resemnarea cu care ceilalti prizonieri accepta rolul de dominati ca fiind implacabil aminteste de niste experimente celebre in psihologia sociala, in special de cel din "inchisoarea Stanford". 

Am urmarit cu un nod in gat si cu o neliniste crescanda scena violului-orgie, cand femeile au obligatia de a aleage sa faca sex pentru hrana. Ele involueaza din fiinte abandonate in obiecte care satisfac nevoile unor sociopati, ajungand la un nivel de degradare cu totul nou, in care supunerea in fata celui puternic se identifica cu pierderea sinelui.

Parabola orbilor - Pieter Bruegel cel Bătrân (1568)
Scena in care sotia doctorului cauta provizii intr-un supermarket din orasul devastat e usor de descris daca va imaginati un Mega Image in care toate rafturile sunt goale, iar gunoaiele ascund pardoseala. Printre ambalaje bajbaie cativa orbi ca sa gaseasca indiferent ce comestibil. Cand simt miros de carne, orbii se transforma in niste zombie ai disperarii si incearca sa o opreasca pe femeie ca sa ii smulga nu creierul - ca orice strigoi care se respecta, ci mancarea.

Spre final se instaleaza o impacare aparenta cu noua conditie si o oarecare normalizare. Daca ai acceptat premisa initiala a povestii pe care ai urmarit-o doua ore, trebuie sa accepti si concluzia ei ca fiind la fel de posibila. Blindness nu arata orbi rai si animalici, ci vorbeste in taina despre natura umana, despre instincte si despre moralitatea care iti ramane dupa ce toate legile pe care le stiai au fost suprimate.  ( preluare de pe blogspot )

19 martie 2011

Remember Carl Sagan



Recent am achiziţionat şi citit cartea lui Carl Sagan, „Creierul lui Broca”. Carl Sagan (9 noiembrie 1934-20 decembrie 1996) a fost un cunoscut astronom şi astrobiolog american care a adus o mare contribuţie la promovarea şi popularizarea ştiinţei. A fost pionier al exobiologiei şi fondator al programului de căutare a inteligenţei artificiale (SETI-Search of Extra-Terestrial Intelligence). Ediţia în limba română a cărţii a apărut în 1989 iar prefaţa , scrisă de Florin Zăgănescu, mi-a adus la un moment dat un zâmbet pe buze când veni vorba de Elena Ceauşescu: „în condiţiile actuale-arăta academician doctor inginer ELENA CEAUŞESCU, preşedinte al Consiliului Naţional al Ştiinţei şi Învăţământului…”. Apoi am mai fost puţin amuzat de idealurile oamenilor din anii ’80: sperau ca în 2010 să realizeze zboruri cu om pe Marte iar în 2035 să instaleze o bază marţiană.

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“Stiinta este mai curand un mod de gandire decat un volum de cunostinte. Scopul ei este sa afle cum evolueaza lumea, ce legitati o guverneaza, sa patrunda in conexiunile lucrurilor- de la particule subnucleare pana la organismele vii, la societatea umana si de acolo, la intregul cosmos”-Carl Sagan, “Creierul lui Broca”.
Cartea cuprinde 5 părţi şi 25 de capitole şi este o colecţie de idei, fiecare capitol putând  fi citit independent.
În primul capitol, care poartă titlul cărţii, Sagan vorbeşte despre o vizită a sa la „Muzeul Omului” din Paris; trece în revistă diferite cranii şi schelete de hominizi precum Homo habilis sau Australophitecus sau rămăşiţele neanderthaliene sau ale oamenilor de Cro-Magnon, ajungând la un dulap cu mai multe rafturi pe care se găseau creiere conservate. Printre acestea dă peste creierul lui Paul Broca, chirurg, neurolog şi antropolog al sec.XIX, o personalitate importantă în dezvoltarea medicinii şi antropologiei, fondatorul neurochirurgiei moderne. Trecând în revistă şi pe scurt câteva aspecte din viaţa acestuia, Sagan pune accentul apoi pe importanţa ştiinţei, pe impedimentele pe care diferiţi oameni de ştiinţă le-au avut, inclusiv Broca, din cauza prejudecăţilor vremii.
În finalul capitolului, autorul vorbeşte despre riscurile pe care cercetarea le poate avea (ex: dezvoltarea armelor nucleare) însă spune că cea mai bună cale pentru a evita abuzurile este de a ridica nivelul general de pregătire ştiinţifică al populaţiei, pentru ca implicaţiile unor astfel de investigaţii să fie înţelese.
O idee a capitolului 2 este despre capacitatea noastră de a cunoaşte Universul. Fiinţele umane sunt profund interesate să găsească regularităţi şi legi naturale. Iar tocmai restricţiile pe care le observăm (de exemplu că nu toate orientările unei molecule sunt posibile) fac lumea mai cognoscibilă. Fiecare restricţie corespunde unei legi a naturii, unei regularităţi a universului. Un univers în care totul ar fi cunoscut ar fi static şi plicticos; unul incognoscibil nu ar fi un loc potrivit pentru o fiinţă gânditoare. Universul ideal pentru noi este însă foarte asemănător cu cel în care trăim.
Capitolul 3 este dedicat vieţii lui Einstein. Am reţinut un citat privind vederile lui asupra religiei şi politicii. Einstein fusese dirijat către religiozitatea convenţională „de maşina tradiţională de făcut educaţie, de către stat şi de către şcoală”, dar la vârsta de 12 ani această cale se sfârşeşte brusc: „În urma lecturii cărţilor de ştiinţă popularizată, am ajuns la convingerea că multe dintre istorioarele Bibliei nu pot fi adevărate. Drept consecinţă, am ajuns la o liber-cugetare fanatică, asociată cu impresia că tineretul este în mod intenţionat înşelat de stat şi amăgit cu minciuni; zdrobitoare impresie! Datorită acestei experienţe am început să privesc cu suspiciune orice fel de autoritate, manifestând scepticism faţă de convingerile care predominau în fiecare mediu specific; această atitudine nu s-a mai schimbat niciodată, nici măcar atunci când ajungând la păreri mai clare cu privire la conexiunile cauzale, şi-a mai pierdut din trăirea iniţială”.
Partea a 2-a se numeşte „Paradoxişti” iar autorul subliniază aici cât de important este să fii sceptic şi comentează diferite fenomene supranaturale şi pseudoştiinţifice precum: spiritismul, fenomenul OZN, misterul triunghiului Bermudelor, visurile prevestitoare, proiecţia astrală (acel sentiment pe care unii oameni aflaţi de exemplu în moarte clinică pretind că l-au avut, anume că sufletul lor s-a despărţit de corp şi s-a ridicat în sus, spre tavan), şarlatani şi mincinoşi ai istoriei precum un anume Alexandru din Grecia Antică vânzător de oracole, uriaşul din Cardiff, cazul calului Hans cel Deştept din Germania începutului de secol XX care putea citi, socoti ba chiar demonstra o profundă cunoaştere  a treburilor politice.
Apoi explică de ce oamenii sunt predispuşi să creadă asemenea lucruri: „dacă proiecţia astrală ar exista, atunci ar fi posibil ca o parte gânditoare şi simţitoare din mine să-mi părăsească temporar corpul şi să călătorească fără efort spre alte locuri: îmbucurătoare perspectivă! Dacă spiritismul ar fi adevărat, atunci sufletul meu ar supravieţui morţii trupului-iată o idee reconfortantă. Dacă ar exista percepţii extrasenzoriale, atunci mulţi dintre noi ar poseda talente ascunse care trebuie numai să fie puse la treabă ca să ne facă mai puternici. Dacă astrologia ar  fi adevărată, atunci soarta şi personalitatea noastră ar fi intim legate de restul cosmosului”.
În capitolul 7 („Venus şi dr.Velikovsky”), Carl Sagan face o analiză critică a cărţii „Lumi în ciocnire” a lui Velikovsky. Teza centrală a acestei cărţi afirmă că principalele evenimente din istoria Pământului şi a altor planete din sistemul nostru solar au fost dominate de catastrofism şi nu de uniformism. Uniformiştii (ex: James Hutton, Charles Lyell) susţin că formele de relief de pe Pământ sunt rezultatul unor procese pe care le observăm şi astăzi dar care au necesitat imense intervale de timp. Catastrofiştii susţin, din contră, că nişte împrejurări violente, puţine la număr, şi desfăşurate pe intervale mult mai scurte de timp, ar fi cauza reală. Catastrofismul îşi are originea în părerile acelor geologi care au acceptat interpretarea literală a Genezei, în speţă relatarea despre potopul lui Noe.
Partea a 3-a, „Vecinii noştri din spaţiu”- e dedicată sistemului nostru solar; descoperirea şi acumularea progresivă a unor cantităţi tot mai mari de informaţii ( de la observarea cu ochiul liber sau cu telescopul la sonde spaţiale care au luat fotografii de aproape) despre planete şi sateliţii lor a dus la o înţelegere din ce în ce mai bună a sa. Apoi Sagan spune în concluzia primului capitol că peste mai multe secole, când problemele noastre politice şi sociale foarte acute vor fi uitate, vremea noastră va fi amintită mai ales pentru faptul că aceasta este epoca în care locuitorii Pământului au stabilit primul contact cu cosmosul înconjurător.
Denumirea diferitor sateliţi ai planetelor sau formelor de relief de pe acestea sau aceştia (Lună, Marte, Mercur, Titan etc.): iniţial s-au folosit nume de astronomi sau zeităţi antice, apoi pe măsură ce craterele şi munţii descoperiţi s-au înmulţit, s-au utilizat şi nume de scriitori, poeţi, biologi sau personalităţi din alte domenii.
Capitolul 13 este dedicat satelitului planetei Saturn, Titan. El ar putea fi obiectul de la exteriorul sistemului solar cel mai uşor de explorat: corpurile cereşti aproape lipsite de atmosferă cum ar fi Io şi asteroizii pun problema dificilă a coborârii line, în lipsa frânării atmosferice. Pe corpurile uriaşe ca Jupiter şi Saturn acceleraţia cauzată de gravitaţie e atât de mare iar creşterea densităţii atmosferice atât de abruptă încât e dificil de conceput o sondă care să nu ardă complet în timpul pătrunderii în atmosferă. Titan are însă o atmosferă suficient de densă şi o gravitaţie destul de joasă. Iar în pofida temperaturii joase nu e imposibil să existe viaţă biologică pe Titan, a cărei atmosferă conţine azot, argon, metan şi hidrogen.
Următorul capitol abordează problema modificărilor climatice la scara timpului geologic:
-         forma orbitei Pământului, înclinaţia axei sale de rotaţie şi precesia acestei axe variază de-a lungul unor perioade mari de timp şi pot fi făcute responsabile pentru cel puţin câteva grade din variaţiile temperaturii;
-         variaţiile albedoului (factorul de reflexie, sau ce procent din lumina solară este reflectată): de exemplu prin injectarea unor cantităţi masive de praf în atmosfera terestră printr-o explozie vulcanică albedoul creşte iar temperatura scade;
-         este posibil ca Soarele să aibă o strălucire variabilă; teoriile evoluţiei solare spun că Soarele a crescut mereu în strălucire de-a lungul mai multor miliarde de ani.
Tot aici sunt analizate şi posibile explicaţii ale modificărilor de climă de pe Marte (mai ales dacă se presupune că în trecut clima era mult diferită, chiar ar fi putut exista râuri de apă curgătoare, aşa cum arată fotografiile luate de la suprafaţa planetei).
Într-un alt capitol („În căutarea inteligenţei extraterestre”, un grup de oameni de ştiinţă, printre care şi Carl Sagan au încercat să estimeze numărul de civilizaţii avansate din punct de vedere tehnic din galaxia noastră. Prin mai multe calcule a rezultat că numărul de civilizaţii tehnice se ridică la aproximativ un milion. Un milion de civilizaţii este un număr atât de mare încât îţi taie răsuflarea. Totuşi în Calea Lactee există circa 250 de miliarde de stele şi chiar dacă ar exista un milion de civilizaţii, ceva mai puţin de o stea din 200000 ar avea o planetă locuită de o civilizaţie avansată.
In ultima parte a cărţii, Sagan abordează tema religiei şi a credinţei în Dumnezeu. El afirmă că credinţa în Dumnezeu depinde foarte mult de semnificaţia atribuită acestui cuvânt. Apoi afirmă ca religiile fie nu fac afirmaţii care să poată fi verificate, fie modifică repede doctrina după infirmare.
Andrew Dickson White, fondatorul şi primul preşedinte al Universităţii Cornell, a fost de asemenea autorul unei cărţi („Lupta ştiinţei cu teologia în creştinism”), considerată la vremea ei atât de scandaloasă, încât, la publicare, coautorul cărţii, a cerut să i se omită numele. White a descris în carte lunga şi dureroasa istorie a afirmaţilor eronate pe care le-a făcut religia despre natura lumii, arătând că atunci când oamenii au cercetat nemijlocit natura lumii înconjurătoare şi au descoperit-o ca fiind diferită de afirmaţiile doctrinare, ei au fost persecutaţi, iar ideile lor indexate.
Devotamentul Universităţii Cornell faţă de cercetarea liberă şi nesectară a fost considerat în ultimul sfert al secolului XIX atât de criticabil, încât preoţii îi sfătuiau pe absolvenţii liceelor că e mai bine să renunţe la studiile superioare decât să meargă la o instituţie de învăţământ atât de lipsită de pioşenie.
Ideea microintervenţiei divine în treburile oamenilor a fost folosită adesea pentru a sprijini convenţile sociale, politice şi economice existente. Circula ,de exemplu, ideea „Drepturilor divine ale regilor”: dacă ideile revoluţionare ale cuiva erau îndreptate să zicem, împotriva lui George al III-lea, acel cineva se făcea vinovat de blasfemie şi lipsă de pioşenie sau crime de natură religioasă sau trădare.
Apoi Sagan precizează că, ideea că religia este un corp de credinţe imune la critică, fixate o dată pentru totdeauna de un fondator, semnează condamnarea la dezintegrare pe termen lung a religiei, mai ales în vremurile noastre. Sagan mai crede că ar fi bine dacă religiile ar promova ele însele o anumită doză de scepticism în legătură cu propriile lor fundamente.

 (Autor: Raul Sandu. )

18 martie 2011

Instinct


We have only one thing to give up. Our dominion. We don't own the world. We're not kings yet. Not gods. Can we give that up? Too precious, all that control? Too tempting, being a god?

15 martie 2011

The Final Empire part 1 : The History Of Disintegration

Collapse on the Periphery

Individual empires have suffered cyclical collapse since civilization began. The Babylonian, Greek and Roman empires are classical examples. These civilized empires initially expanded, funded by their base of arable land, grazing areas and forests. As they reached out, conquering new lands and peoples, their growth was fueled by slave labor and appropriated resources. Their growth continued until the ecological base of the empire was exhausted. At that point, the empires imploded. Sumeria and Babylonia stripped their lands through overgrazing and deforestation. This brought down huge amounts of erosion material that threatened the irrigation works. They also inexorably salinized their soil by irrigation. Early on, in the history of the Greek Empire, Plato complained of the ecological devastation in the area of Attica. By the end of that empire the ecology of the whole of Greece was severely injured. Both the Greek and Roman empires used North Africa as a "breadbasket" and by the close of the Roman Empire it was ecologically destroyed along with much of the rest of the Roman territories.
Though the standard political and social histories of these empires do not stress an ecological view, there is certainly no question that at the end of their cycles these empires had little ecological energy remaining.
Anywhere the culture of empire (a.k.a., civilization) has spread one finds devastated ecologies. The life is literally "rubbed out," the original life is gone. Much of the living flesh of the planet does not now exist in those places. But, we know that it did exist. The life in those areas has suffered a die-back. The forests are gone, the topsoil is depleted and the land is eroded. The richness of the land has been used up. The wealth of the earth’s life has been spent by the extortion of empire.
Empires implode. They collapse from within. This is beginning now on the edges of world civilization where the ecology has been stripped, the population is exploding and the resultant social turmoil insures further decline. These implosions of the colonies will eventually become general throughout the cultural system.
Islands such as Madagascar, the Canaries, the islands of the Caribbean, many south sea islands and others have been ecologically stripped. In areas like Peru, whole mountainsides fall off because of the ecological devastation caused by deforestation and hillside farming. In Brazil’s Northeast, the coastal rain forest and the fertile areas further inland have been replaced by desert. In some areas of the former fertile southern interior of Brazil, coffee plantations have reduced the land to such eroded conditions that cows cannot even graze it for fear that they will fall into the canyons created by soil erosion. In Central Asia, many bodies of water such as the Azov, Caspian, Black Sea and Baikal are severely injured. The supply of caviar there has almost ceased because the waters are so polluted that the fish die. In Tibet where the Chinese Empire has invaded, devastation is spreading as trees are cut, steep areas are plowed and mines are begun.
The story of the brief empire of Venice is instructive as to how the ecological base of empire injures the earth and how the culture of empire uses up the life of the earth to generate its ephemeral power. By the end of the fifteenth century the City of Venice was emerging as a sea-power. Venice traded all the way from the eastern Mediterranean to England. Galley ships were the power behind the merchant fleet. The oar-powered galleys ultimately depended upon slave labor. They were fast and could navigate where sailing ships could not. The whole arrangement was based on wood for ships, and in turn depended upon forests, which in the beginning were abundant near Venice. As the power of Venice was coming to an end, the City was obtaining ships in Barcelona built with lumber from the forests of northern Spain and finally from the Baltic region of northern Europe, which had not yet been stripped. By this time there were no forests anywhere in the Mediterranean that could fund a sea-faring empire.
This phenomenon of implosion is occurring now in the present World Empire. The country of Bangladesh shows us one type of implosion. In the distant past the whole of the area was populated by forager/hunters such as those threatened tribes who live now in the Bangladeshi hills. As the waves of empire culture came, first with the Indo-Aryans thousands of years ago, the life of the area was progressively degraded. Bengal as it was formerly called, was conquered by the English early in the colonial period. Prior to the conquest it had been a fertile and self-sufficient area. When the English moved in they began to put heavy pressure on the organic fertility. They established the plantation system and mined the agricultural land to ship valuables to the "mother country." Later, in the Twentieth Century when England was severed from its colonies on the Indian subcontinent, the region became part of Pakistan and finally an independent country. In the later years, Bangladesh has suffered flooding, a constant population explosion and periodic drought.
Bangladesh is located on the delta of the Ganges River that drains the Himalayan range. With the Chinese now stripping Tibet, floods and erosion material race down out of central Tibet borne by the Bramaputra River that joins the Ganges and comes through countries that are being stripped along the southern tier of the range: Bhutan, India and in particular Nepal. Because the forests are being stripped, the land no longer can absorb water and the floods grow larger. The State of India’s Environment: 1982, a report by non-governmental groups, states: "From Kashmir (far west) to Assam (far east) the story is the same. Below 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) there are literally no forests left. In the middle Himalayan belt, which rises to an average height of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), the forest area, originally estimated at being a third of the total area, has reduced to a mere 6-8 per cent."1
A global environmental study, Gaia: An Atlas Of Planet Management, says that the erosion is so bad that an island of five million hectares (12,355,000 acres) of erosion material is beginning to surface in the Bay of Bengal. "Around one-quarter of a million tonnes (255,325 U.S. tons) of topsoil are washed off the deforested mountain slopes of Nepal each year, and a further sizable amount from the Himalayan foothills in India’s sector of the Ganges catchment zone." The study notes that the countries of India and Bangladesh are geared up to contest possession of the island when it surfaces.2
Due to the periodic catastrophes of flood and drought the society of Bangladesh is beginning to disintegrate into a low-level warlord society where even the central government cannot exert control much distance from the capital city. One effort that the government is making to alleviate its population crush is an attempt to settle a relatively small "hill country" area with lowlanders. These hill areas contain remnant tribes of non-civilized people. The Bangladesh government has warred against these people for some years, attacking them with modern armies and rounding up the survivors into concentration camps. As the lowlanders invade into the vacuum, they level the forest and attempt to raise crops.
On the lowlands, a large share of the population lives in the delta. Here the impoverished people fight each other for small plots of land. As the floods come and go, the islands and marshes change continually. As the above-water areas dry out following a flood, the people rush in to claim small plots on which they attempt to grow food before the next flood or drought.
The combination of exploding population and ecologically based disasters is causing the society to disintegrate. This process which began years back in Bangladesh is one of the effects that we can expect to see in the years ahead in other parts of civilization.
Writer Mohiuddin Alamgir, researching his report, Famine in South Asia; Political Economy of Mass Starvation, asked villagers in Bangladesh during a famine in 1974, about the reasons why people were dying around them. He found that the villagers had only a vague notion about the true cause. The villagers could see that people were dying of disease and that they had various symptoms but few villagers could see or admit that people were starving. The villagers were in a weakened condition, which allowed them to die of the first disease that came around. Death was the end result of the steady social deterioration that they had experienced. "Once people ran out of resources to buy food grains, they sold or mortgaged land, sold cattle and agricultural implements, sold household utensils and other valuables (such as ornaments), and, finally their homesteads," says Alamgir.3
When there is nothing left and people are starving, they leave and wander aimlessly about the country of Bangladesh. Many of the uprooted households that Alamgir studied had begun to disintegrate, with members of the same household wandering off in different directions toward separate areas of the country. Deserted children, deserted wives, deserted husbands and deserted elders are becoming commonplace. Bangladesh society has gone over the brink. The centralized control by the wealthy elite and the military has broken down. The population is destined to continue as a wandering, increasingly hungry mass until, sometime in the future, all coherent human society and culture dies and human cooperation and optimistic effort disintegrates. It is this condition, as shown by Bangladesh, which is the ultimate end of a culture that eats up its survival systems.
We need keep in mind that forager/hunter populations lived in stability in this area for hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of years because they did not destroy that which sustained them.
Alamgir states that after previous famines in Bangladesh, the society returned to near normal social relationships, but he reports:
"Both separation of families and desertion represent a breakdown of the system of security provided by family and kinship ties under traditional social bonds. This is, of course, not unique in the 1974 Bangladesh famine, as reference to erosion of social ties can be found in almost all preceding famines. However, two points should be noted: First, a slow process of disintegration of traditional ties had already set in and famine only accelerated it. Second, manifestations of breakdown of kinship and family bonds were reversible in the past in the sense that old relationships were restored through the normal process of post famine societal adjustment. This is no longer true in the Bangladesh scenario today where such processes seem to be irreversible, which is reflected in the rate of permanent destitution."4
The horn of Africa region where the country of Ethiopia is located represents another example of implosion. Ethiopia is hit with periodic drought. If the region were in its primordial climax ecological condition the droughts would likely have minimal impact but like Bangladesh, the region’s ecology is so ravaged that any perturbation of climate becomes a disaster and the human created situation is called an "act of God."
Ethiopia originally had a stable population of forager/hunter people but it became one of the "cradles of civilization." The life of Ethiopia is now almost gone. Almost all of Ethiopia is high, mountainous country with good rainfall, but there is little vegetative life left. The ancient empires were nourished on it and the vitality has evaporated. It is estimated that three quarters of the country was originally forested yet at present only four percent of the country has forest. One study estimates that the volume of live trees now, is 800 million cubic meters and then goes on to say that the annual fuel wood consumption is 20 million cubic meters and rising rapidly.5 Even if the remaining forests were only used to heat houses and cook food they would not last long.
Despite having one of the highest death rates in the world, the country’s population continues to rise. One would think it would decline but unlike our former forager/hunter culture, which sought to keep their population within the carrying capacity of the environment, people of the culture of empire do not. The people of civilization have many motives, other than simply lack of awareness that propels population growth. One important reason is that civilized people work at exploiting the land and the more hands the more production. Agrarians, for example, traditionally have large families to help with farm work and hard times call for more hands to force the land to produce more. There is also motive for large families so that one will be cared for in old age. There is the motive of the pride of the patriarch in large families. Though there are a number of basic motives, there is a functional reason also why population is not responsive immediately to food supply. If there is a famine or drought, the children already born will have children. Demographers say that population responsiveness has a time lag of seventy years to social/environmental events and even this responsiveness is only a momentary blip on the over-all graph line of exponential growth.
One researcher highlights the continued drama of destruction in Ethiopia partially attributed to population growth:

"A dramatic alteration in environmental quality has been visible within a single lifetime in the hills surrounding Addis Ababa. When the capital was founded in 1883 by the Emperor Memelik II, it was still surrounded by remnants of rich cedar forests and reasonably clear streams. Deforestation and erosion were immediately spurred by the influx of humans. In the ensuing nine decades, virtually all the available land in the region has been cultivated, while charcoal producers cut trees within a 160-kilometer radius for sale in the city. Now the waters of the nearby Awash River and its tributaries are thick with mud, and waterways are shifting their courses more markedly and frequently than in the past."6
Addis Ababa sits in the high mountains of central Ethiopia. It is near the headwaters of the Awash River. From Addis Ababa, the river courses northeast into a rapidly widening valley that eventually reaches the coast at Djibouti on the Red Sea. UN researchers expect the whole Awash Basin to soon become rocky desert; but the eye of civilization sees only war, ideology and revolution. The problem is ecological but the cultural attention and media-focus emphasize war. As civilization fixates on war and violence in Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, the life of the earth dwindles in that area and starvation spreads. Although the destruction of the life of the earth is caused by civilization, civilized society is unable to see its own problem because the organic life of the earth is below its threshold of consciousness.
El Salvador, in Central America, is another country that is imploding on the periphery of the Empire of Civilization. The Spanish Empire invaded the area that is now El Salvador early in the sixteenth century. They immediately began to enslave the stable and sustainable cultures of the region as factors of imperial production. At that time, the western two-thirds of the country was inhabited by a Nahuatl speaking culture. The Nahuatl language group includes Aztec, Hopi and Ute. In the eastern one-third of the country, across the Lenca River lived the tribes named Lenca, Jinca, Pokomám, Chortí and Matagalpa. There are now some half-million "invisible" Indians in El Salvador, in a country of five million. They are invisible because they have been forced to abandon their native dress and language. The first census from the years 1769-1798 listed 83,010 Indians in a population of 161,035. Initially, the native people of the lowlands were enslaved into the Spanish estates. These original estates exported cacao and balsam. By the end of that century, indigo plantations were spreading out further into the last Indian communal lands in the higher elevations. Soon cattle ranching moved into the northern tier of the country and masses of Indian people, who were not among the indentured workers, were wandering through the area in a detribalized condition. The native people’s habitat had been destroyed. Inasmuch as their cultural knowledge and skills were related to the living world, the native people became powerless and dependent upon the invading culture. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, coffee began to be the major export crop and this agriculture with its need for the last available higher elevation land, began to finish the remaining communal Indian lands as well as their forest habitat. By 1930, coffee was more than ninety percent of El Salvador’s exports.7
In 1932, in the midst of the world depression, Indians in the highlands around Sonsonate revolted against both the imperial conquerors and their latino subjects, the mestizos. The army of the oligarchy was unleashed against the unarmed Indians. The virulent anti-Indian racism of "latinos" was also unleashed as they, also, began to participate. By the time the massacres were over, somewhere variously estimated at between 15,000 and 50,000 children, women and men had been murdered and the native land base was occupied by the aliens.8
The story of El Salvador is of native tribes who lived stably with their habitat, the forests and other ecosystems of the isthmus. The events since that time have been created by the far different culture of empire, which invaded, to extort valuables from the area. The pattern displayed has been consistent since empire culture began. The industrial revolution and markets have added a few new wrinkles. The pattern is that of a small powerful elite taking land and labor from the colony for free or at very low price. The extorted valuables are then exported in exchange for currency that supports the elite of the colony who, in return, keep the native populations in control. This is the classic picture of third world colonies and is the picture of El Salvador. This pattern has persisted in El Salvador and is largely the reason for its environmental destruction. The oligarchy runs the country on a feudal basis little changed from the days of the conquistadors. This means that in the pursuit of their profits they need observe no environmental laws. They may take any land they need, they may use any type and amount of agricultural chemicals on their crops and they may dump toxins in any manner that they please. One group that researches Central America’s environmental problems says that as of 1990, "75 per cent of pesticides exported to Central America from the U.S. are either banned or severely restricted for use in the U.S."9 This elimination of the cost of environmental protection controls makes El Salvador a high-profit enclave for its rulers and for the transnational corporations located there. They are provided with an impoverished and cheap labor pool, which is unable to organize effectively because of military repression and death squads. They do not have the expense of meeting environmental standards so this gives them a decided competitive advantage over other countries.
Since the arrival of civilized culture, 95 per cent of the country’s original tropical, deciduous forest has disappeared. Twenty mammal species and eighteen bird species are gone. Serious soil erosion affects 77 per cent of the country. Following deforestation, groundwater is disappearing, sediments are beginning to fill the dams and stop the hydroelectric supply and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says the country is undergoing a process of desertification.10
In the familiar pattern, particularly since World War II, the alliance between the domestic oligarchy, U.S. aid agencies and transnational corporations have increased exports which has led to the clearing of the last viable stands of old-growth ebony, cedar, mahogany and granadilla trees. Where the country was once food self-sufficient it now exports cash crops of food items and even flowers to the industrial countries (for the profit of the oligarchy) and imports food.
The Environmental Project On Central America (EPOCA) says that: "Today unequal control of resources remains at the root of poverty and environmental destruction in El Salvador. A small elite, referred to as the ‘Fourteen Families,’ comprises less than 2 per cent of the population yet enriches itself from ownership of more than 60 per cent of the country’s arable land. The poorest 20 per cent of the Salvadoran people own no land and receive only 2 per cent of the national income." In the countryside, the report says that: "two-fifths of the population cannot afford a basic diet of corn and beans."11
The EPOCA report says that one in ten have access to safe drinking water. "Look at a body of water in El Salvador and you will see a reflection of almost every major environmental problem in the country: pesticide and fertilizer contamination; industrial pollution; municipal waste and sewage; sedimentation from deforestation and soil erosion; and waterborne diseases. All the major waterways in El Salvador are contaminated by raw sewage and a variety of toxic chemicals, according to a 1982 report by the U.S. Agency for International Development."12
With the oligarchy occupying the land that an agriculturist would call "arable," the poor are forced up onto the mountainsides where they use slash and burn agriculture. Because the people are overcrowded and there is not enough land, the fallow periods on the slash and burn plots are too short. This quickly erodes the topsoil and leaves the mountains denuded of all vegetation except for hardy brush. In 1974 there were 400 people for each square mile of El Salvador. The population doubling time in El Salvador is now twenty-two years.13
These three countries, Bangladesh, El Salvador and Ethiopia, with their varying histories and varying types of impact from civilization characterize the periphery of what we may term the industrial empire. These are the conquered and colonized resource and labor areas and their societies are collapsing under the pressure of environmental degradation, population explosion, and militarism and export economies. If the oligarchy of El Salvador were to suddenly depart for Miami, the country would still be in a state of disintegration. The soil, water and air are poisoned. There are few natural resources left and importantly for our analysis, the civilized culture of the people of El Salvador would not be disposed to restore the land mass to the climax ecosystem, even if that were possible.
This is the beginning of the end for the Final Empire of civilization. Here we see in these examples that there is little remaining to take out and the populations are exploding. When two people have five children and then fifteen years later those five children have five children the stage is being set for disintegration. As these factors of soil and ecosystems work themselves out into social turmoil and breakdown, the reports of the media refer to revolution, economics and politics. The life of the earth is not within their consciousness.
As the regions on the periphery of the empire implode, the center is also imploding, though in a qualitatively different way. The most general statement to make on the system-wide implosion of the industrial empire has to do also with the cultural consciousness. Because of the nature of the culture, it lives and profits by exhausting the life of the earth. Within the cultural bubble we tend to measure our progress by our wealth. The more pressure that the farmer puts on the soil, the more the farmer and the banker profit. The more forests that are cut, the more the timber company and the employees benefit. What this means is that as the life of the earth is eradicated, the information feed-back system (bank accounts) reports that things are getting better and betters. Progress is being made. This is another major example of how the reality of life is below the threshold of consciousness and also helps to explain why civilization cannot extricate itself from the fall toward apocalypse.
As we approach the end of the Final Empire, societies become paralyzed and disintegrate. There is nothing left with which the society can regenerate itself. In El Salvador, even the "arable" soils are exhausted and poisoned because they have been subjected to years of industrial agriculture with its poisons and artificial fertilizers. The other side of this grim equation is the population explosion. This is compounded by the fact that a majority of the population now is youthful and just beginning to come into their child bearing years. This means that the already overbearing population has reached a take-off point and will climb even more steeply.
The life of the earth dies out at varying speeds. So that we do not lose contact with reality we must look at this. These examples show swift destruction. It is possible to see the huge erosion canyons in Ethiopia. It is possible to see the floods of Bangladesh and it is possible to count the children in hospitals in El Salvador who have been poisoned with agricultural chemicals. Although not as dramatic, we must realize that our own backyard is degraded and poisoned. If any of us walk out of our back door and look, we will see gross injury to the life of the earth. We may view a lawn that has been subjected to poisons and artificial fertilizers. At some point in the history of that small area, toxins may have been introduced such as motor oil, household cleansers or maybe air drift or subsoil moisture seepage of some industrial dump. The point is that if the climax ecosystem is not there then the earth is losing its life. This is a difficult concept for modern people to deal with mentally. The statement is that the life of the earth, the climax ecosystem, must regain balance or the earth will become substantially dead. The natural state of health and balance of the earth is to be covered with climax ecosystems or ecosystems closely approximating them.
There are examples in the Mid-East of reg pavements (rock-hard soil) where forests once stood. The reg pavement is a hard, virtually impermeable, layer of clays and other dirt that covers wide areas. We have the example of El Salvador proceeding toward desert status (and there are other examples in other parts of the world of tropical forests becoming deserts). With both of these examples we can trace the historical devolution of these ecosystems and soils, which usually begin with the cutting of the forest. When we travel about the earth we don’t always realize that where we are seeing a desert now, there may have been a thriving semi-arid ecosystem. Where there is a brushwood hillside, there was once a magnificent forest. In those areas where we now see forest we will soon see deserts.
The life of civilization is only an eye-blink in the eons of time of the life of the earth. We can see the killing of the life of the earth in the rapid dramas as well as the long range spirals of descent. As we continue to examine the condition of our earth we must maintain contact with reality and realize that everywhere civilization has spread the earth is hurting, injured and dying. Even if an area is green with vegetation, it may only be the first aid crew of weeds struggling to heal the earth and the chances are good that soon the bulldozers will come to destroy even that, so that the "real estate" can be "developed."
Collapse From the Center
Our generation is on the verge of the most profound catastrophe the human species has ever faced. Death threats to the living earth are coming from all sides. Water, sunlight, air and soil are all threatened. When Eskimos of the far north begin to experience leukemia from atomic radiation and Eskimo mothers’ milk contains crisis levels of PCB’s, we must recognize that every organism on the planet is threatened.
Compounding this crisis is the fact that the prime forces in this affair, the civilized humans, are unable to completely understand the problem. The problem is beneath the threshold of consciousness because humans within civilization (civilization comes from the Latin, civis, referring to those who live in cities, towns and villages) no longer have relationship with the living earth. Civilized people’s lives are focused within the social system itself. They do not perceive the eroding soils and the vanishing forests. These matters do not have the immediate interest of paychecks. The impulse of civilization in crisis is to do what it has been doing, but do it more energetically in order to extricate itself. If soaring population and starvation threaten, often the impulse is to put more pressure on the agricultural soils and cut the forests faster.
We face planetary disaster. The destruction of the planetary life system has been ongoing for thousands of years and is now approaching the final apocalypse which some of us will see in our own lifetimes. Far from being a difficult and complex situation it is actually very simple, if one can understand and accept a few simple and fundamental propositions.
The planetary disaster is traced to one simple fact. Civilization is out of balance with the flow of planetary energy.
The consensus assumption of civilization is that an exponentially expanding human population with exponentially expanding consumption of material resources can continue, based on dwindling resources and a dying ecosystem. This is simply absurd. Nonetheless, civilization continues on with no memory of its history and no vision of its future.
Possibly the most important source of life on this planet is the thin film of topsoil. The life of the planet is essentially a closed, balanced system with elements of sun, water, soil and air as the basic elements. These elements work in concert to produce life and they function according to patterns that are based in the laws of physics, which we refer to as Natural Law.
The soil depth and its richness are a basic standard of health of the living planet. As a general statement we may say that when soil is lost, imbalance and injury to the planet’s life occurs. In the geologic time-span of the planet’s life, this is a swift progression toward death. Even if only one per cent of the soil is lost per thousand years, eventually the planet dies. If one per cent is gained, then the living wealth, the richness, of the planet increases. The central fact must be held in mind of how slowly soil builds up. Soil scientists estimate that three hundred to one thousand years are required for the build up of each inch of topsoil.
The nourishment of the soil depends upon the photosynthetic production of the vegetative cover that it carries. There are wide differences in the Net Photosynthetic Production of many possible vegetative covers. As a rule it is the climax ecosystem of any particular region of the earth that is the most productive in translating the energy of the sun into the growth of plants and in turn into organic debris which revitalizes the soil.
A climax ecosystem is the Equilibrium State of the "flesh" of the earth. After a severe forest fire, or to recover from the injury of clearcut logging, the forest organism slowly heals the wound by inhabiting the area with a succession of plant communities. Each succeeding community prepares the area for the next community. In general terms, an evergreen forest wound will be covered by tough small plants, popularly called "weeds" and the grasses which hold down the topsoil and prepare the way for other grasses and woody shrubs to grow up on the wound. ("Weeds" are the "first aid crew" on open ground.) As a general rule, the "first aid crew" - the first community of plants to get in and cover the bare soil and hold it down - is the more simple plant community with the smallest number of species of plants, animals, insects, micro-organisms and so forth. As the succession proceeds, the diversity, the number of species, increases as does the NPP, until the climax system is reached again, and equilibrium is established. The system drives toward complexity of form, maximum ability to translate incoming energy (NPP) and diversity of energy pathways (food chains and other services that plants and animals perform for one another). The plants will hold the soil so that it may be built back up. They will shade the soil to prevent its oxidation (the heating and drying of soil promotes chemical changes that cause sterility) and conserve moisture. Each plant takes up different combinations of nutrients from the soil so that specific succession communities prepare specific soil nutrients for specific plant communities that will succeed them. Following the preparation of the site by these plants, larger plants, alders and other broadleaf trees will come in and their lives and deaths will further prepare the micro-climate and soil for the evergreens. These trees function as "nurse" trees for the final climax community, which will be conifers. Seedling Douglas Fir for example, cannot grow in sunlight and must have shade provided by these forerunner communities.
The ecosystems of this earth receive injury from tornado, fire, or other events and then cycle back to the balanced state, the climax system. This is similar to the wound on a human arm that first bleeds, scabs over and then begins to build new replacement skin to reach its equilibrium state. The climax system then is a basic standard of health of the living earth, its dynamic equilibrium state. The climax system is the system that produces the greatest photosynthetic production. Anything that detracts from this detracts from the health of the ecosystem.
Climax ecosystems are the most productive because they are the most diverse. Each organism feeds back some portion of energy to producers of energy that support it (as well as providing energy to other pathways) and as these support systems grow, the mass and variety of green plants and animals increases, taking advantage of every possible niche. What might be looked at as a whole unitary organ of the planet’s living body- a forest or grassland- experiences increased health because of its diversity within.
On a large scale, the bioregions and continental soils substantially support sea life by the wash-off (natural and unnatural) of organic fertility into aquatic and ocean environments. This is a further service that these whole ecosystems perform for other whole ecosystems.
A few basic principles of the earth’s life in the cosmos have now been established. Balance is cosmic law. The earth revolves around the sun in a finely tuned balance. The heat budget of the planet is a finely tuned balance. If the incoming heat declined, we would freeze or if the planet did not dissipate heat properly we would burn up. The climax ecosystem maintains a balance and stability century after century as the diverse flows of energies constantly move and cycle within it. In the same manner the human body maintains balance (homeostasis) while motion of blood, digestion and cell creation, flow within it.
The life of the earth is fundamentally predicated upon the soil. If there is no soil, there is no life, as we know it. (Some micro-organisms and some other forms might still exist). Its vegetative cover maintains the soil and in optimal, balanced health, this cover is the natural climax ecosystem.
If one can accept these few simple principles then we have established a basis of communication upon which we may proceed. Anyone who cannot accept these principles must demonstrate that the world works in some other way. This must be done quickly because the life of the planet earth hangs in the balance.
We speak to our basic condition of life on earth. We have heard of many roads to salvation. We have heard that economic development will save us, solar heating will save us, technology, the return of Jesus Christ who will restore the heaven and the earth, the promulgation of land reform, the recycling of materials, the establishment of capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, Muslimism, vegetarianism, trilateralism, and even the birth of new Aquarian Age, we have been told, will save us. But the principle of soil says that if the humans cannot maintain the soil of the planet, they cannot live here. In 1988, the annual soil loss due to erosion was twenty-five billion tons and rising rapidly. Erosion means that soil moves off the land. An equally serious injury is that the soil’s fertility is exhausted in place. Soil exhaustion is happening in almost all places where civilization has spread. This is a literal killing of the planet by exhausting its fund of organic fertility that supports other biological life. Fact: since civilization invaded the Great Plains of North America one-half of the topsoil there has disappeared.
The Record of Empire
The eight thousand year record of crimes against nature committed by civilization includes assaults on the topsoil of all continents.
Forests, the greatest generators of topsoil, covered roughly one-third of the earth prior to civilization. By 1975 the forest cover was one-fourth and by 1980 the forest had shrunk to one-fifth and the rapidity of forest elimination continues to increase. Indeed, World Wildlife Fund study released in 1998 states that between 1970 and 1995 the world's forests declined ten percent. This is a loss of forest cover the size of England and Wales- each year. If the present trends continue without interruption eighty percent of the vegetation of the planet will be gone by 2040.
The simple fact is that civilization cannot maintain the soil. Eight thousand years of its history demonstrate this. Civilization is murdering the earth. The topsoil is the energy bank that has been laboriously accumulated over millennia. Much of it is gone and the remainder is going rapidly.
When civilized "development" of land occurs, the climax system is stripped, vegetation is greatly simplified or cleared completely and the NPP plummets. In the tropics, when pasture is created by clearing forest, two-thirds of the original NPP is eliminated. In the mid-latitudes one-half the NPP is lost when cropland is created from previously forested land. The next step is, that humans take much of even that impaired production off the land in the form of agricultural products so that not even the full amount of that impaired production returns to feed the soil.
This points out a simple principle: Human society must have as its central value, a responsibility to maintain the soil. If we can create culture that can maintain the soil then there is the possibility of human culture regaining balance with the life of the earth.
The central problem is that civilization is out of balance with the life of the earth. The solution to that problem is for human society to regain balance with the earth.
We are now back to everyone’s personal answer concerning how to respond to the planetary crisis. Most proposals for salvation have little to do with maintaining the soil. All of these seek to alleviate the situation without making any uncomfortable change in the core values or structure of existing society. They only try to "fix" the symptoms. If we had a society whose core values were to preserve and aid the earth, then all of the other values of society would flow consistently from that.
The civilized people believe they have an obligation to bring primitive and underdeveloped people up to their level. Civilization, which is about to self-destruct, thinks of itself as the superior culture that has an obligation to bring others "up" to its level.
Civilization, is a cultural/mental view that believes security is based on instruments of coercion. The size of this delusion is such that the combined military expenditure of all the world’s governments in only one year- 1987- were so large that all of the social programs of the United Nations could be financed for three hundred years by this expenditure.
Looking back at the simple principle which says that humans cannot live on this planet unless they can maintain the topsoil, demonstrates the delusion. The delusion of military power does not lead to security, it leads to death. The civilized denial of the imperative of maintaining topsoil, and the addictive grasping to the delusion that security can be provided by weapons of death, is akin to the hallucination of a alcoholic suffering delirium tremens!
Civilization must come to see that its picture of reality is leading it to suicide. It lives on topsoil and it is destroying that topsoil. This is ultimately a self-destructive act.
Here we have the whole of it. The problem is imbalance and the solution is to regain balance. Here we have the simple principle: if human actions help to regain balance as judged by the condition of the ecosystems and the soil beneath them, then we are on the path of healing the earth. If the theory, plan, project, or whatever cannot be justified by this standard, then we are back in the delusional system.
We of civilization have lost our way. We are now functioning in a world of confusion and chaos. We must recognize that the delusional system of civilization, the mass institutions and our personal lives function on a self- destructive basis. We live in a culture that is bleeding the earth to death, and we have been making long range personal plans and developing careers within it. We strive toward something that is not to be.
We must try to wake up and regain a vision of reality. We must begin taking responsibility for our lives and for the soil. This is a tall order. This will require study and forethought. That is what this book is about. Humans have never dealt with anything like this before. This generation is presented with a challenge that in its dimensions is cosmic. A cosmic question: will tens of millions of years of the proliferation of life on earth, die back to the microbes? This challenge presents us with the possibility of supreme tragedy or the supreme success.
Creating a utopian paradise, a new Garden of Eden is our only hope. Nothing less will extricate us. We must create the positive, cooperative culture dedicated to life restoration and then accomplish that in perpetuity, or we, as a species cannot be on earth.





SURSA:

13 martie 2011

Molding Minds

School is the cheapest police.
-- Horace Mann
But who can unlearn all the facts that I've learned
As I sat in their chairs and my synapses burned
And the torture of chalk dust collects on my tongue
Thoughts follow my vision and dance in the sun
All my vasoconstrictors they come slowly undone
Can't this wait till I'm old? Can't I live while I'm young?
-- Phish
No discussion of control would be complete without some attention to modern schooling, the linchpin of the program to subjugate the inner wilderness—human nature—just as we use technology to dominate the outer.
Why do we go to school? The universal response is, "To learn", and here we encounter the primary contradiction of modern schooling that leads us to all the others. For if the purpose of school is that children may learn, then school is quite evidently not working.
The massive National Adult Literacy Survey undertaken by the Department of Education in 1992 is especially revealing, so I will quote John Gatto's summary in full:
1. Forty-two million [out of 190 million adult] Americans over the age of sixteen can't read. Some of this group can write their names on Social Security cards and fill in height, weight, and birth spaces on application forms.
2. Fifty million can recognize printed words on a fourth- and fifth-grade level. They cannot write simple messages or letters.
3. Fifty-five to sixty million are limited to sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade reading. A majority of this group could not figure out the price per ounce of peanut butter in a 20-ounce jar costing $1.99 when told they could round the answer off to a whole number.
4. Thirty million have ninth- and tenth-grade reading proficiency. This group (and all preceding) cannot understand a simplified written explanation of the procedures used by attorneys and judges in selecting juries.
5. About 3.5 percent of the 26,000-member sample demonstrated literacy skills adequate to do traditional college study, a level 30 percent of all U.S. high school students reached in 1940, and which 30 percent of secondary students in other developed countries can reach today.
Well, maybe it can't be helped, maybe most people are just dumb. In that case school takes on a benevolent, even a noble aspect, using the sciences of psychology and pedagogy to bring at least a glimmering of knowledge and literacy to the benighted masses, who if left to their own devices and the well-meaning ignorance of their parents would surely be unfit for life in technological society. After all, unlike two hundred years ago, we have to read now, do math. . . use computers. Sure it has some problems, but in general school brings each person up to the level of intellectual competency that their genes and environment allow. Right?
Wrong. Over the last 60 years, while real spending on education nearly quadrupled, illiteracy has quadrupled along with it. Few blacks went to school before 1940, yet in that year black literacy was 80%; today it hovers around 60%. White illiteracy meanwhile rose from 4% to 17%. [24]
Before forced schooling, in 1840, literacy rates in New England approached 100 percent, and the popular best-sellers of the time included books the likes of Herman Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, and Ralph Waldo Emerson—all bought by a population consisting mostly of small farmers. Have you ever sat yourself down for a relaxing afternoon with a little leisurely reading—a thirty-page long Emerson essay loaded with Greek mythological allusions, complex sentences with multiple nested appositive phrases and dependent clauses, intricate logic, and a vocabulary that would challenge most graduate students today? I find I can only access early 19th century literature with a great effort at concentration. My attention wanders, I lose the train of the argument, and soon find myself passing my eyeballs over the page, uncomprehendingly.
John Taylor Gatto observes: "In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them." Today, no more than twenty percent of my college students understand the Thomas Jefferson passage quoted in Chapter Four of this book. As for fifth graders, their texts consist mostly of short declarative sentences using simplified vocabulary. A recent trend is the reissue of children's classics such as Little Women or The Wind in the Willows in special dumbed-down editions.[25] Few children these days have the reading ability to handle Treasure Island, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, once a staple of high school English, is off the curriculum because children no longer have the attention spans to understand it.[26]
Modern schooling is a failure—or is it? That depends on the real purpose of schooling, an enormous topic that I cannot possible do justice to in these pages. Fortunately I don't have to, thanks to John Taylor Gatto's magnificent opus The Underground History of American Education, a work of prodigious scholarship, unflinching honesty, seasoned insight, and towering indignation. I will share some of his insights (and his indignation), since they illustrate so well the mentality of control, the logic of the Newtonian World-machine, the liquidation of spiritual capital, and ultimately our culture's fundamental attitudes towards nature and human nature.
Just beneath the superficial justifications for mass forced schooling lies the first level of its true motivation: to create a population suitable for the demands of the industrial economy. (That we are supposedly in a post-industrial economy today is part of the reason why school is admitted even by the elites to be "not working anymore".) School as we know it, like other applications of the technologies and mentalities of mass production, got its start in the early 19th century in the great coal powers of the period: Prussia, England, France, and then the United States.
Early industry faced a problem. Mine and factory work was dull, repetitive, arduous, and dangerous while offering wages barely high enough to sustain life. Office work—the work of clerks, scriveners, and accountants before computers—was equally dull and dehumanizing, if not so dangerous. Factory discipline was alien to the independent, self-directed farmers and artisans that made up pre-industrial society, and the question of how to instill labor discipline was discussed at length by the intellectuals of the day. One solution was outright force: the driving of peasants off the land through enclosure, the use of militias to enforce strike prohibitions, and mostly the motive of extreme economy exigency. However, the inhumanity of this solution offended the conscience and besides, it was potentially very explosive as a series of insurrections, revolutions, and bloody labor strikes throughout Europe and North America attested. Wouldn't it be better to somehow condition people from childhood to accept, and even to desire, work that was partial, trivial, mechanical, dull, repetitive, and unchallenging to thought or creativity?
Is this description already reminding you of school? Where learning arises not from curiosity but from authority's agenda; where achievement is adjudged by external standards; where human beings, like so many objects, are numbered, "class"ified, and "graded"; where knowledge is reduced to answers, right and wrong; where children are confined to a classroom or desk except when authority allows them "recess" or a pass; where problems are solved by following teacher's instructions; where free speech and free assembly are suspended—where, indeed, there are no freedoms at all but only privileges; where bells condition us to follow a regular external schedule; where fraternization is surreptitious (as my teacher once said, "You are not here to socialize!"); where none outside the hierarchical structure of authority have the power to make or change rules; where we must accept the tasks given us; where work is arbitrary and meaningless except for what external reward it brings; where resistance is proved futile in the face of a near-omniscient, omnipotent central authority. . . what better preparation for adult confinement to offices and factories could there be? What better preparation for accepting unquestioningly the lives given us? Where else can students "learn to think of themselves as employees competing for the favors of management"?[27]
Not only does school prepare us to submit to the trivialized, demeaning, dull, and unfulfilling jobs that dominate our economy to the present time, not only does it prepare us to be modern producers, it equally prepares us to be modern consumers. Consider Gatto's description:
Schools train individuals to respond as a mass. Boys and girls are drilled in being bored, frightened, envious, emotionally needy, generally incomplete. A successful mass production economy requires such a clientele. A small business, small farm economy like that of the Amish requires individual competence, thoughtfulness, compassion, and universal participation; our own requires a managed mass of leveled, spiritless, anxious, familyless, friendless, godless, and obedient people who believe the difference between "Cheers" and "Seinfeld" is worth arguing about.
The consumer model is written into the very foundations of the modern classroom. Gatto writes: "Schools build national wealth by tearing down personal sovereignty, morality, and family life." These things are precisely the social and spiritual capital whose conversion into money was discussed in Chapter Four. It is not just that the broken and stupefied child is unable to stand up for himself in the workplace or to resist his role as a standardized cog in the vast automaton of industrial society; it is that relationships themselves, and all the previously non-monetized functions and exchanges associated with them, have been objectified, depersonalized, and commoditized. When the autonomous relationships (social and spiritual) that define our humanity are stripped away, we naturally becomes consumers of them. When self-directed learning through reading is replaced by programmed teacher instruction—the dishing out of a curriculum—we become consumers and not producers of knowledge, which is reduced to measurable "information". Thus we instill in our children not only obedience—tell me what to do—but also intellectual dependency, the reliance on authority for truth. What is the difference between getting truth from books and getting truth from teacher? Reading books as part of a personal search for knowledge does not make one a mere consumer, because the search is self-directed and the information subject to independent, uncoerced selection and judgment. In school quite the opposite holds: the truth—the right answers—has already been pre-selected and pre-judged by the authorities, and the students are to accept it—are coerced into accepting it (at least to the extent that exams, grades, detentions, "permanent records" and so on are effective instruments of reward and punishment).
In other words, school is an instrument of alienation. It alienates children from their families, not only by removing them physically but by replacing and professionalizing a traditionally important sphere of interaction: education. It alienates children from communities, segregating them by age, inducing competition among them, isolating them from adult life, and feeding them a curriculum determined by distant experts. (The community-breaking function of school is especially strong after 100 years of school consolidation and state-sponsored standardization of curricula). It alienates children from nature and the outdoors, of course, simply by keeping them inside all day—surely an unprecedented condition of childhood until the last century. It alienates children from real experience by substituting for it games, simulations, and lessons, in which everything they do is, after all, only in a classroom, without real consequences, and terminating as soon as the bell rings for the next class. But most importantly, school alienates children from themselves: their own natural curiosity, inner motivation, self-reliance, and self-confidence. As Ivan Illich puts it, "Rich and poor alike depend on schools and hospitals which guide their lives, form their world view, and define for them what it legitimate and what is not. Both view doctoring oneself as irresponsible, learning on one's own as unreliable, and community organization, when not paid for by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion. For both groups the reliance on institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect."[28]
William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906, wrote in the last year of his tenure:
Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.
The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places. . . . It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.[29]
Gatto comments, "Nearly a hundred years ago, this schoolman thought self-alienation was the secret to industrial society. Surely he was right." This alienation is nothing else than the separation that is the theme of this book, implicit in all technology and culminating in the pinnacle of modern science, technology, and the Machine.
These features of schooling were designed into it from the very beginning, as stated very explicitly by such guiding organizations as Rockefeller's General Education Board:
In our dreams. . . people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. . . . We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple. . . we will organize children . . . and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.[30]
"A mass-production economy can neither be created nor sustained without a leveled population, one conditioned to mass habits, mass tastes, mass enthusiasms, predictable mass behavior."[31] The modern institution of school helps create the very "human nature" that is assumed in liberal economic theory, whose behavior is predictable according to deterministic laws just as are the masses of classical physics.
On a deeper level, the goal of modern education is the perfection of Lewis Mumford's megamachine—the great automaton composed of human parts—that itself provided the original model for the factory, and in which each person is reduced like a machine component to a standardized function. Just as physical machines produced unprecedented wealth and power over the environment, so it was also supposed that the sacrifices made of individual wholeness and self-determination would find compensation in the glorious onward march of science, the eventual conquest of nature, the fulfillment, in other words, of the Technological Program that would take us beyond labor, beyond suffering, beyond death, beyond planet earth across the Final Frontier of space.
The subordination of the individual to the needs of system is a key component of the ideology of "scientific management", associated with Frederick Taylor but tracing its roots back at least to Francis Bacon. Bacon believed that with the Scientific Method humanity had arrived at just that, a "method" that could be mechanically applied to achieve unlimited progress in science. No longer would individual genius be required, just the competent and correct application of method. John Raulston Saul eloquently describes the evolution of the ideology of reason, method, and system in his magnificent Voltaire's Bastards. As Taylor put it, "In the past, man has been first. In the future the system must be first." Gatto comments, "It was not sufficient to have physical movements standardized, the standardized worker 'must be happy in his work,' too, therefore his thought processes also must be standardized."[32] If you aren't happy in your work, that must imply a fault in your production process (socialization, education, training); fortunately, that can be adjusted with pharmaceutical technology. Indeed, the term "well-adjusted" implies the molding of the human being, a standardizing to the needs of system. Again the 1933 World's Fair slogan comes to mind: "Science Finds. Industry Applies. Man Conforms." School is simply part of the process of conforming man to machine, the engineering of human nature.
While correctly and compellingly identifying the true historical objectives of schooling as comprising a monstrous violation of the human spirit, Gatto sometimes leaves the impression that it was contingent on a few historical accidents and could easily have been otherwise. If only Humbolt had won the debate with Baron Vom Stein in early 19th-century Prussia, if only the Massachusetts legislature had swung by a mere 36 votes to reject Horace Mann, then the crime of mass compulsory schooling might never have happened. In fact, it was bound to happen, bound by vast historical processes that carried Vom Stein, Mann, Dewey, the Carnegie Foundation and Rockefeller Board, William Rainey Harper and the rest to victory. Even the behind-the-scenes manipulators—Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, and Morgan—who sought the creation of a docile proletariat and orderly society were themselves merely enacting roles dictated by the very processes that brought them to power.
Yes, school is an agent in the dissolution of family and community, in the conversion of citizens into subjects and creators into consumers, in the breaking of children to the demands of institutional life; school is an agent in all this, but these processes extend far beyond the institution of schooling to embed it and guide it. It was inevitable that one way or another, we would apply the same essential technologies to children as we did onto nature and everything else—and for the same basic reasons. How to "subordinate the individual to the needs of the system"? The individual must simply be made labeled, quantified, measured, graded, and standardized. That is the only way the methods of management can be applied. School is thus an outgrowth of the Mumfordian megamachine, which itself is the logical endpoint of the progressive objectification, management, and control of nature.
In taking children away from the matrix of family, nature, and social apprenticeship, mass schooling is essentially an enormous experiment in social engineering, the fruition of thousands of years of utopianism going back to Plato in which institutional training of the young was always a crucial component. Up through the Owenite and socialist experiments of the 19th and 20th centuries, children were removed, at least in part, from their families. Sorry, but the family is obsolete: henceforward we are going to raise children scientifically. Surely trained experts can do better than ignorant parents, surely science and reason can improve upon primitive, biological, emotion-driven families. The scientific laws of psychology and child behavior will replace the old irrational customs, and unclouded by parental subjectivity we will raise children for modern society. You, the modern parent, can do your best to learn about scientific parenting, but in most areas you'll have to yield to the experts.
The terminus of this trend is nothing other than Huxley's Brave New World, in which the factory method is applied to child-rearing from birth and before. All people are graded, from Alpha-plus to Delta-minus—sound familiar?—and each given the stimuli and resources appropriate to their grade.
Like all technology, the social engineering agenda of schooling involves a separation from nature, in this case the removal of children from their original biological and social habitat of family and community. The separation from the family, totalized in Brave New World, is a necessary, inevitable product of the attempt to engineer society according to the same methods and logic as we engineer the material world. In both there is a replacement of the personal, subjective, and traditional with the abstract, formal, and general. We have not yet reached Huxley's extreme, but a trend in that direction is visible wherever the Technological Program is pursued. When I was a child we listened with horror to stories of the Soviet Union, where the state was replacing the parent, replacing the very family, with mandatory "scientific" child care, youth indoctrination, and so forth. But today the same thing is happening everywhere, if not directly at the hands of the state, then with its literal license, or else at the hands of other institutions operating by the usual principles of scientific management. Whether by chance or design, today's system of infant and child care, school, organized sports, counseling, and television conspires to replace the parent and community. The same functions of socialization, education, and identity-building are being provided, but now by institutions and their functionaries who may not really care about your child at all, except that they are paid to. Moreover, there is a fundamental conflict between the social engineer's goal of adjusting the child to fit the needs of the system, and the spiritual goal of personal fulfillment. The socialization is socialization to the machine. The identity built is the identity of a consumer.
The agenda of social engineering explains the emphasis that psychology—the "science" of the mind—has always received in pedagogy (the "science" of teaching) ever since Horace Mann advocated phrenology as the key to a successful classroom. As in other realms of humanity's "ascent", we follow Galileo's prescription of applying measurement to learning in hopes of turning it into a science. We can then deploy the whole gamut of technologies based on standardization, efficiency, management, and control. The object of education—the child—becomes the object of technology. School is an aspect of a vast enterprise: the engineering of the human being, the human mind, the human psyche, the human soul. An audacious ambition indeed: not the accidental result of an historical blunder, nor the plot of an evil conspiracy, but implicit in the original audacity of technology. On the deepest level, the purpose and motivation of education is to apply the Technological Program to the ultimate frontier: society and the human being. As technology in general seeks to improve on nature, educational technology seeks to improve on human nature.

4 martie 2011

George Orwell şi noaptea totalitară

George Orwell şi noaptea totalitară

Împreună cu Arthur Koestler, George Orwell a fost unul dintre acei intelectuali care au personificat exemplar eroismul clarviziunii, curajul de a refuza şi repudia credinţele mitologice, narcoza ideologică. Într-o epocă în care identificările fanatice cu dogmele totalitare au reprezentat o maladivă ispită pentru atîţia presupuşi slujitori ai spiritului, cînd ideea de clasă sau de rasă ameninţa să se substituie oricăror abordări raţionale ale realităţii, oameni ca Orwell, Koestler, Albert Camus, Panait Istrati, André Gide, Stephen Spender, Ignazio Silone, Hannah Arendt, sau Manès Sperber au îndrăznit să spună cu voce tare adevărul despre terifianta goliciune a împăratului, au numit oroarea şi au denunţat-o fără echivocuri diplomatice. Ferma Animalelor şi O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru, principalele contribuţii ale lui George Orwell la literatura trezirii şi a apostaziei, fac parte din acel univers intelectual inaugurat de Spinoza şi de Hobbes, susţin şi fortifică un demers peren al intelectului care refuză să îngenuncheze în faţa tiraniilor de orice fel. Una dintre cele mai elocvente formulări ale acestei etici a revoltei o găsim în cuvintele lui Orwell: "It is a most encouraging thing to hear a human voice when fifty thousand gramophones are playing the same tune" ("Este un lucru extrem de încurajator să auzi o voce umană atunci cînd cincizeci de mii de gramofoane transmit aceeaşi melodie").

Student al Facultăţii de Filosofie din Bucureşti, în anii '70, lector avid de literatură disidentă şi contestatară, am fost lesne fascinat şi subjugat de geometria ideilor orwelliene. Nu puteam să nu fiu frapat de formidabila capacitate de anticipaţie, de extraordinara forţă premonitorie a scriitorului britanic. Îmi venea astfel greu, îmi era în fond imposibil, să operez o brutală segregare între viziunea politică şi construcţia estetică a romanelor lui Orwell.

Alături de Zero şi infinitul (Darkness at Noon) de Koestler, alături de scrierile unor Victor Serge, Boris Souvarine, Aldous Huxley, şi lista poate continua fireşte, alături de eseurile intelectualilor grupaţi în jurul legendarei Partisan Review (Philip Rahv, William Philips, Dwight Macdonald, Nicola Chiaromonte), cărţile lui Orwell sînt de natură să lumineze şi să explice esenţa lumii totalitare, logica ei secretă, fenomenele de strangulare a libertăţii şi, mai ales, geneza alarmantului proces al înrobirii voluntare. Nu are sens să intru aici în detalii referitoare la drama epică a romanului O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru: am încă în memorie excelentele prezentări ale literaturii orwelliene, datorate Monicăi Lovinescu, şi sînt convins că, asemeni mie, şi alţi ascultători ai Europei Libere au devenit familiari, de-a lungul anilor, cu temele majore ale literaturii antitotalitare (între timp, graţie Editurii Humanitas, aceste răscolitoare contribuţii au fost publicate în ţară). Ceea ce vreau să realizez în aceste rînduri este o investigaţie a semnificaţiei contemporane a romanului O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru, o examinare a implicaţiilor axiologice şi etice ale tezelor atît de controversate propuse de scriitorul britanic. Pentru că, să nu uităm, O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru este un roman-eseu, o variantă modernă a utopiei, mai exact spus, este o anti-utopie, sau o utopie negativă. Despre problematica filosofică şi morală a utopiei a scris rînduri excepţionale Sorin Antohi. Aş menţiona aici şi o recentă lucrare a sociologului Krishan Kumar, profesor la University of Virginia, 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), în care critica orwelliană a totalitarismului, în oricare din variantele sale, este asociată cu opoziţia lui Karl R. Popper faţă de utopiile colectiviste ("The Open Society and Its Enemies has remained the most thoroughgoing and influential critique of utopianism from the pen of a modern social theorist; it is, we might say, the non-fictional equivalent of Nineteen Eighty-Four", op. cit., p. 175). Romanul lui Orwell vorbeşte despre coşmarul utopiei realizate, despre moartea iluziilor şi despre triumful logicii birocratice. În lumea descrisă de Orwell, în universul blocat al societăţii închise, toate speranţele au fost anulate, individul este condamnat la o lentă moarte spirituală. Negativitatea a dispărut, tehnologia puterii a ajuns la forme de o macabră perfecţiune. Despotul absolut, anonim şi periculos, o divinitate tribală însetată de glorie, este simbolul înspăimîntător al uniformizării totalitare. El este fratele cel mare, "salvatorul magic" despre care vorbea cîndva Erich Fromm. El deţine controlul absolut asupra faptelor şi minţilor oamenilor. Dictatorul totalitar ştie mai bine decît oricine cînd şi cum trebuie să fim fericiţi, el se consideră în măsură să formuleze criteriile fericirii. Datorită lui ştim cînd este noapte şi cînd este zi, ce este alb şi ce este negru, cine este erou şi cine este trădător. Hitler decidea că un întreg popor nu este altceva decît o mizerabilă vermină, iar decizia lui, celebrată de scribi frenetici, era rapid tradusă în acţiuni criminale nemijlocite. Totalitarismul adoră eficienţa: imediatitatea respinge speculaţia, nu lasă loc pentru amînări şi aşteptări presupus sterile. Concretul este argumentul magic de care se serveau torţionarii de la Auschwitz şi fraţii lor gemeni de la Vorkuta. Pentru Stalin lucrurile erau puţin mai complicate: el a fost fratele cel mare care a învins, concretul lui se dovedise superior concretului nazist.

În spaţiul irespirabil al stalinismului şi-a regăsit George Orwell sursa capitală de inspiraţie. Trebuie accentuat acest lucru îndeosebi acum, cînd o anumită direcţie spirituală "anti-anti-comunistă" din Apus încearcă să "dezamorseze" mesajul orwellian, să-l frustreze de semnificaţiile sale genuine, să-l descrie în termenii neutri ai "refuzului represiunii tehnologice". La vremea sa, în anii '50, gînditorul troţkist britanic de origine poloneză Isaac Deutscher încerca să sterilizeze mesajul dinamitard al romanului lui Orwell, ironizînd efortul anti-comuniştilor de a promova o "mistică a cruzimii". Este perfect adevărat că Orwell, asemeni atîtor altor gînditori din acest veac, a privit cu îndreptăţită neîncredere tendinţele de necontrolată şi nesăbuită expansiune a tehnicii, s-a temut de autonomizarea acesteia, de riscurile sugerate de mitul ucenicului vrăjitor. Ceea ce nu înseamnă că O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru ar fi doar o utopie-avertisment, motivată de pericolele dominaţiei tehnologice. Putem oare să-l bănuim măcar o clipă pe George Orwell că nu a sesizat diferenţa dintre utilizarea tehnicii în sistemele democratice şi instrumentalizarea ei în dictaturile totalitare? Poate crede cineva cu sinceritate că "teoria şi practica colectivismului oligarhic", copleşitor rezumată în romanul lui Orwell, trimite spre cine ştie ce nebuloasă orînduire "globală", iar nu spre organismul social fundat pe dominaţia partidului unic şi a ideologiei monolitice, aşadar spre acel totalitarism? Mai mult, Orwell a izbutit să ofere ceea ce sociologii numesc tipul ideal al societăţii totalitare, şi numai ignoranţa ori reaua-credinţă pot explica tentativele unora de a determina carenţele descrierii imediate şi exacte a unor societăţi întotdeauna polimorfe.

Într-unul din ultimele sale eseuri, Orwell îşi mărturisea visul estetic: a face din literatura politică o artă. Tocmai din acest motiv, cartea sa nu s-a structurat ca o cenuşie relatare politologică, este departe de a se reduce la o simplă autopsie sociologică a universului stalino-nazist. Orwell a perceput teroarea ca substrat al existenţei totalitare, însă nu a ignorat angoasa şi anxietatea ca fenomene ce acompaniază dezvoltarea subiectivităţii în acest veac. El a ştiut să indice zonele precare şi punctele nevralgice ale conştiinţei, acele teritorii subconştiente şi anevoie controlabile, asupra cărora totalitarismul a ştiut să-şi pună apăsătoarea amprentă, fără însă a izbuti să le constrîngă definitiv la tăcere.

Într-un eseu publicat cu ani în urmă în Le Nouvel Observateur, Jean Lacouture atrăgea atenţia asupra anumitor puncte comune între biografia lui George Orwell şi cea a lui André Malraux. Este vorba, înainte de toate, de experienţa traumatică a războiului din Spania, de înţelegerea jocurilor politice operate de staliniştii diverselor Fronturi Populare. Mai departe, şi acest lucru este fundamental pentru interpretarea adecvată a evoluţiei celor doi scriitori după cel de-al doilea război mondial, finalul "iluziei lirice", despărţirea de utopiile de sorginte marxistă, a dus la redescoperirea unor valori stabile şi durabile, maculate de demagogia iresponsabilă a feluritelor profetisme.

Orwell a detestat organic totalitarismul în oricare dintre ipostazele sale. Ca nimeni altul, el a ştiut să surprindă ipocrizia nesfîrşită a discursului totalitar, cinismul ca resursă esenţială a acelor comportamente care susţin perpetuarea regimului despotic. Mai mult, el a fost printre primii gînditori ai secolului douăzeci care a analizat stupefianta originalitate a sistemului totalitar. Înainte ca Hannah Arendt să-şi publice monumentala cercetare asupra originilor totalitarismului, înainte cu atîţia ani ca revelaţiile lui Soljeniţîn să devină un punct cardinal de referinţă al culturii occidentale, avînd în minte doar experimentul nazist şi puţinele date deţinute despre cel stalinist, George Orwell a detectat principalele legităţi de funcţionare şi supravieţuire ale formaţiunii totalitare.

Universul compact al anului 1984, acel punct mort al istoriei în care însăşi ideea de opoziţie a fost anihilată, iar libertatea ca practică şi concept a fost definitiv suprimată, nu este altceva decît consecinţa finală a logicii totalitare, aşa cum a fost pregătită de sistemele staliniste din Uniunea Sovietică, Germania nazistă şi din statele din orbita de dominaţie a acestor puteri. O spune de altfel în romanul lui Orwell însuşi O'Brien, ideologul-călău: "Naziştii germani şi comuniştii ruşi s-au apropiat foarte mult de noi prin metodele pe care le-au folosit, dar n-au avut niciodată curaj să-şi recunoască propria motivaţie. Şi unii şi ceilalţi au pretins, şi poate chiar au crezut, că ajunseseră la putere siliţi de împrejurări şi numai pentru o vreme şi că undeva, după colţ, îi aştepta raiul pe pămînt, în care oamenii trăiau liberi şi egali. Noi nu sîntem atît de naivi. Noi ştim că nimeni nu pune mîna pe putere cu intenţia de-a o mai preda vreodată altcuiva. Puterea nu este un mijloc, puterea este un scop în sine. Nu instaurezi o dictatură ca să aperi o revoluţie, ci revoluţia o faci ca să instaurezi dictatura. Scopul persecuţiei este persecuţia însăşi. Scopul torturii este chiar tortura. Scopul puterii este puterea". O succesiune de axiome la care pot adera atîţia dintre tiranii totalitari ai acestui secol, diverşii "părinţi ai naţiunii" şi lideri supremi, fii "veneraţi" ai unor popoare reduse la tăcere şi condamnate la amnezie. Experimentul grupului Pol Pot în Cambodgia, cele mai mult de patru decenii de terorism nestăvilit din Albania lui Enver Hodja, mascarada cultului personalităţii la Phenian sau la Bucureşti, prigoana disidenţilor în toate statele comuniste fără excepţie, toate acestea vorbesc despre permanenţa şi perseverenţa totalitarismului, despre capacitatea sa de adaptare, despre forţa sa de expansiune şi contagiune.

Sistemul totalitar urăşte memoria, se fereşte de martori şi mărturii, face tot posibilul pentru ştergerea frontierelor între adevăr şi minciună, între obiectiv şi subiectiv, între realitate şi iluzie. Personalitatea trebuie degradată la statutul de masă, poporul devine populaţie, iar populaţiei i se pot servi orice inepţii, fără teama că cineva va fi făcut vreodată răspunzător pentru continuul viol simbolic practicat de sistem. "Ministerul Adevărului", sediul propagandei de partid, centrul nervos al complotului minciunii, este un element indispensabil al ordinii totalitare. Partidul unic nu poate accepta adevărul, îşi refuză propria istorie, subvenţionează o armată de funcţionari supuşi, pentru a rescrie mereu un trecut neasumabil.

Partidul este infailibil, aceasta este logica funestă a stalinismului de ieri şi de astăzi (la vremea sa, înaintea rupturii definitive cu Stalin, chiar Troţki a subscris la postulatul partidului ca încarnare a Raţiunii în Istorie). Partidul este posesorul adevărului şi, întrucît se întîmplă ca partidul să greşească, nu rămîne altă soluţie decît să modificăm adevărul. Despre experienţa deprimantă a topirii şi retopirii adevărului vorbeşte filosoful polonez Leszek Kołakowski într-un impresionant eseu publicat în cadrul volumului 1984 revizitat. Totalitarismul în secolul nostru, editat la mijlocul anilor '80 de cunoscutul critic literar şi filosof social american Irving Howe. Kołakowski este conştient de atacurile la care este supus în ultima vreme conceptul de totalitarism şi tocmai din acest motiv el înţelege să susţină valenţele cognitive şi relevanţa politic-intelectuală a acestei noţiuni. În absenţa unui cadru explicativ întemeiat pe conceptul de totalitarism, în absenţa conştiinţei noutăţii fundamentale a sistemului totalitar în raport cu tot ceea ce a cunoscut umanitatea în materie de teroare şi represiune, este imposibilă abordarea lucidă a problemelor societăţilor de tip sovietic. Trebuie să fii cu deosebire refractar evidenţelor pentru a nu vedea relaţia de profundă afinitate dintre sistemul ideologic marxist şi structura despotic-teroristă a regimurilor staliniste şi neo-staliniste. Kołakowski a experimentat personal intoleranţa şi obtuzitatea birocraţiilor dominante, s-a izbit de zidul de orgoliu insolent ridicat de potentaţii totalitari. Cărţile filosofului polonez, şi în primul rînd epocala sa trilogie Main Currents of Marxism, au reuşit să clarifice relaţiile de profundă solidaritate între visul social-marxist şi utopiile poliţieneşti ale acestui veac.

În celebrul ei studiu asupra fenomenului totalitar, Hannah Arendt accentua faptul că regimurile despotic-totalitare îşi află forma perfectă nu în împărăţia mesianică, ci în lagărul de concentrare. Lagărul de concentrare este simbolul tragic al condiţiei de prizonierat la care este condamnat individul în cadrul sistemului totalitar, sau cu cuvintele lui Adam Michnik, "lagărul de concentrare este totalitarismul pe deplin realizat". La Buchenwald şi la Magadan s-au scris paginile esenţiale ale istoriei totalitare: sîrma ghimpată a devenit veritabilul fir roşu al unui întunecat şi infinit supliciu. Sistemului îi repugnă îndoiala, el se teme de eretici, nu are nici o milă pentru cei slabi şi şovăielnici. "Aici nu există warum (de ce)", avea să afle Primo Levi în prima zi trăită la Auschwitz. Dictatura trăieşte sub semnul mobilizării permanente, îşi denunţă adversarii, automat identificaţi cu interesele cine ştie căror puteri străine. Totalitarismul tratează cu ostilitate orice inovaţie, se fereşte de alteritate, persecută metodic imaginaţia şi creativitatea. Pentru Hitler, fizica trebuia să fie "ariană", pentru Stalin cibernetica şi genetica erau ştiinţe "burgheze", deci "pseudo-ştiinţe": cele două totalitarisme perfecte ale secolului douăzeci mărturiseau cel mult diferenţe de jargon, nu însă şi de impuls ori finalitate. Scopul ambelor era acelaşi: "purificarea" permanentă, înlăturarea tentaţiilor eretice sau libertare, masacrarea adversarilor, obsesia lugubră a năruirii unui inamic de cele mai multe ori fantasmat. Lupta de clasă şi lupta de rasă devin fixaţii patologice ale discursului terorist. Dictatorii vorbesc cu spume la gură, anunţă noaptea totalitară şi nu ezită să lupte pentru eternizarea ei. Aici este miezul întregii chestiuni a totalitarismului: o dată cu această orînduire a răsărit în istorie un sistem care aspiră la veşnicie şi care urmăreşte să distrugă tot ceea ce este liber şi spontan. Victimele totalitarismului, spune Orwell, "trebuie să trăiască într-o continuă exacerbare a urii faţă de duşmanii din afară şi de trădătorii dinăuntru, de jubilare în faţa victoriilor şi de auto-umilire în faţa puterii şi înţelepciunii Partidului".

Glorificarea fiinţei colective a partidului, pasiunea de a smulge din rădăcini orice pornire de emancipare, plăsmuirea unei noi structuri lingvistice adecvate scopurilor propagandei totalitare, iată numai unele dintre caracteristicile colectivismului birocratic pe care Orwell a ştiut să le distingă cu admirabilă acurateţe. Confiscarea memoriei, tratarea cinică a trecutului, cauterizarea oricăror relaţii de ataşament sentimental şi încurajarea celui mai abject oportunism au dus la geneza unui tip uman incapabil să mai opereze distincţia dintre adevăr şi fals. Spre a-l cita pe Kołakowski, în societăţile de tip sovietic, "minciuna devine adevăr - sau cel puţin distincţia dintre adevăr şi fals în sensul lor obişnuit a dispărut. Acesta este marele triumf cognitiv al totalitarismului. Întrucît el reuşeşte să abroge însăşi ideea de adevăr, nu mai poate fi acuzat de minciună".

Tăcerea şi consimţămîntul, conformismul cel mai obedient şi răbdător sînt însemnele inconfundabile ale zodiei totalitare. Timp în care diverşi inspectori ai sufletelor, servitorii dictaturilor concentraţionare, se pregătesc să mai adauge vreun cadavru etic pe lunga listă a oribilelor lor cuceriri. Reluînd cuvintele lui Albert Camus, putem spune că "nici un rău pe care totalitarismul pretinde a-l vindeca nu este atît de rău precum totalitarismul însuşi". Dincolo de atîtea triste abdicări, rămîne însă certitudinea raţiunii ca substrat al speranţei, convingerea că solidaritatea, individuală şi socială, poate învinge noaptea totalitară. Poate că nimeni nu a afirmat mai limpede acest lucru decît Hannah Arendt în finalul Originilor totalitarismului: "But there remains also the truth that every end in history necessarily contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only 'message' which the end can ever produce. Beginning because it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man's freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est - 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every manChrW(8220) ("Rămîne totuşi adevărul că fiecare sfîrşit în istorie conţine în chip necesar un nou început; acest început este promisiunea, unicul «mesaj» pe care îl poate vreodată genera sfîrşitul. Începutul, întrucît devine un eveniment istoric, este suprema capacitate a omului; se identifică cu libertatea umană. Initium ut esset homo creatus est - «pentru ca începutul să se producă a fost creat omul», a spus Augustin. Acest început este garantat de fiecare nouă naştere; el este de fapt fiecare om").

Toate aceste lucruri trebuie necontenit subliniate, îndeosebi atunci cînd din diverse motive se încearcă "respectabilizarea" experienţelor totalitare, escamotarea frontierelor fundamentale dintre acest tip de regimuri despotice şi oricare dintre celelalte modele de organizare politico-socială, fie ele democratice ori autoritare. Înfrînt în versiunile sale seculare, totalitarismul îşi caută refugiul în zonele fanatismului teocratic. Noile sau vechile fundamentalisme continuă să viseze la instituirea unui "regat al virtuţii" şi îşi află suporteri în acele grupuri ostile proiectului modernităţii pluraliste. Devizele imperiului imaginat de Orwell în O mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru prezidează asupra întregii ofensive anti-occidentale a diverselor secte radicale pseudo-iluminate: Războiul înseamnă pace; libertatea înseamnă sclavie; ignoranţa înseamnă forţă. Falsitatea şi ipocrizia sînt pilonii de rezistenţă ai propagandei totalitare, acea instituţie omniprezentă pentru care scopul a fost şi rămîne acelaşi: lichidarea libertăţii, distrugerea democraţiei, zdrobirea demnităţii individului.


- Vladimir Tismaneanu -