Our culture seems to be haunted by often recurring dreams in different forms. Frankenstein, the man re-created from spare parts, in a time pre-dating our technology of human spare parts. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where imagined a group of aliens leaving pods that became identical replicas of our friends and loved ones. Terminator, where we battled the machines that developed their own intelligence.
All of them seem to be variations of our realizations of our own selves, of our own powers, extended technologically into a possibly nightmarish world that we once hoped to be happy and fulfilling.
As Slater writes:
“Every technological advance contains within itself a monster, for each one expresses in one form or another man’s monstrous narcissism as well as the simple desires of which it appears superficially to be an expression”.
McLuhan pointed out(Understanding Media) that “narcissus” comes from the Greek “narcosis”, and is a form of “numbing” as we extend ourselves into our environment. All technological extensions of any body part act as a kind of “local anesthetic” on the part being extended. Our fantasies, therefore, really are part of us, just as the nightmares are also a part of us. For the Terminator, there is the machine that wants to overcome us, and this is a very real part of ourselves, as we are the mechanical extensions of negative feedback processes of the genes, that cartel creating the “purpose machine” that uploaded themselves into our bodies. We are, in fact, a means to an end, and that end is the replication of other genes.
Slater, in agreement with McLuhan writes:
It is with the psychic equivalent of Novacain that we do manage to adapt to change. By numbing ourselves to life, by distancing ourselves from our senses, by losing events in a haze of conceptualizations, we escape the trauma of personal disruption.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is very real, because we are, after all, controlled by a kind of mechanical “body snatchers” that operate within us, and we are subject to their functions and malfunctions. The genes are “us” but they are not “us”, yet we must have them to survive. We are a colony of genes, and mechanically operated genes at that, with only the goal of replication.
Again, from Slater:
“The attempt to control and master the environment thus automatically pollutes it, for it decreases that aspect of the environment that renews, refreshes, surprises, and delights us….our mastery of the world has proceeded to the point where the parts of ourselves that we have extruded into it keep backing up and flooding the personality with its own rejected components.”
In systems of nature, as Slater points out, living systems must recycle the waste that they produce. What we produce, by our deadening of the senses and the narcissistic control of the environment, is psychic waste. The ever more powerful controls we force on our environment comes back to haunt us, and we fear the effects of our own technological extensions. If the genes operate by adjusting and seeking equilibrium from negative feedback, our conscious minds seek to achieve equilibrium using coping mechanisms of conscious choice to escape the negative feedback of our own technologies.
But more recent discussions suggest something more than just cultural memes”, but also “temes”, technological memes which extend and compete for recognition as further extensions of our lives. There is the feedback from which Terminator comes. “I” seek to be in control of my environment because I know I am not in control of my environment at some unconscious level, so I must find ways to extend and enlarge that control, whether by organizing(which simply brings the same competitive forces into play), or by voting(which merely reduces your “power’ to an average of all who vote), or by seeking a democracy(which is merely reducing all social power to statistically decided decisions of majority rule).
Each strategy above is merely the reduction of your personal power to the control of the superorganism, merely a conscious extension of the cartel of genes that seek to replicate, and your individual power within society is minimized so that you must maintain “equilibrium” in order to successfully “replicate”.
In fact, you have merely taken the “numbing” of your brain by technological extension and used that same extension to create yet another numbing effect of government by statistical extension of “you”, in the hopes that it will generate enough similarity and control of others so that “you” can be recognized. This becomes the near perfect strategy for the replication of genes and memes.
So we feel now that we are the victims of conspiracies to take over our lives, and we have merely contributed to our own conspiracies. As Pogo said “We have met the enemy, and he is us”.
But let us not forget the zombies that have recently taken over our imagination. The “living dead’ who feel no pain, whose only need is to feast on us, and thereby infect us with their “deadness” . These zombies, the symbolic extensions of our technological selves into an environment from which we wished to escape, only to be cornered from every direction by the living dead.
As DESO author Reed Kinney writes, our society seems to be guided by “pathology and necrophilia, where necrophilia is defined as “the compulsion to dismember life.”
But what of pathology? Slater writes:
…the dearest wish of the thoroughly indoctrinated individualist is that he might pursue a life devoid of negative feedback–that he would be ‘right on’ eternally, never deflected from his rigid and purely self-perpetuating course.
“In brief, the existence of linearity betrays the absence of negative(that is, corrective) feedback, and the inability to receive negative feedback is ultimately calamitous….If the concept of pathology has any utility at all, linearity is pathological.
Remember that the “purpose machine” built by the genes functioned by establishing equilibrium based on negative feedback. If the human body which is a product of the genes finds ways of ignoring negative feedback, the ultimate result is a cancer-like condition, a “balance wheel lost, and the system runs amuk”.
The problem, not yet fully realized, is that the human brain, even with its decision-making abilities, was NOT created to ignore negative feedback, but to respond with behaviors that ensured the genes were secure to function in their own capacity. The fact that human minds began developing symbol systems that involved linearity, shaped by the alphabet, allowed them to extend their cultures by virtue of that symbol system, and begin ignoring feedback. We come full circle to the “Tower of Babel and The Gray Goo” in my essays below.
“The schizoid defense becomes possible with the emergence of the capacity to generate manipulate, and relate symbols. Once that ability exists it is possible for the organism to withdraw from the complex network of mutual feedback in which it is embedded and respond to its inner circuitry alone. Nature and the body no longer rule the organism”.
The organism begins to respond pathologically to its own inner circuitry, and seek to extend itself into the environment, controlling it, and reducing nature to what is contained within that linear symbol system.
It was Jesus who offered us the counter process to this system:
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
“And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.(Matthew 6:28)
This was not the advocacy of a “do nothing” lifestyle, but the realization that we are embedded in a natural system in which all living things interact and respond according to mutual feedback systems. We are part of all that is. As to those who follow the policies of pathologies and Necrophilia, Jesus responded “Let the dead bury the dead”.