Sometimes — perhaps most of the time — the most intractable dilemmas and predicaments evolve, synergistically, out of the simplest of errors or deficient beliefs (or “sins” if you will). “You can’t have too much of a good thing”, which I hear uttered occasionally in one form or another, and which is assumed or implied in great many similar statements or acts, is one such error, faulty belief, or “sin” which gives blessing to excess, gluttony, greed, cupidity, avarice, self-indulgence of all kinds as being virtuous. “There is no such thing as a house that’s too big”; “Everyone can use an extra 500,000 dollars” are statements I have heard with my own ears which reveal the spirit of hubris (or “transgression” as the Latin puts it) that underlies many of the problems of the Late Modern Era.
Here the popular saying that “big things come in small packages”, which is actually formalised in non-linear logics, complexity theory, or chaos theory as “The Butterfly Effect” is very appropriate. Popular sayings often record very profound truths that, nonetheless, are even ignored by the populace that utters them. Or, lip-service is paid to these popular truths even as one acts contrary to them — “honoured in the breach” only.
Baal (or Beelzebub) is called The Lord of the Flies. Indeed, some people are attracted to piles of money, and fall under its allure and spell, like flies to heaps of excrement, wherefore it is said that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Wherever there is decay or death, there is the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies is connected with Lewis Mumford’s cogent observation that what were formerly considered the “seven deadly sins” have been, thanks to the “Invisible Hand”, massaged and revalued as being virtues. In traditional Catholic demonology, in any case, The Lord of the Flies is one of “the seven princes of hell”, and even the chiefest of the princes of hell.
It was the dreadful Grenfell Towers disaster in London, and following that story (which some are pinning on the consequences of deregulation, “cutting red tape”, and social inequality) that brought to mind The Lord of the Flies. William Golding’s famous book by that title is less about what could be than it is about what already is, and the Lord of the Flies is implicated, too, in Naomi Klein’s critique of “disaster capitalism”. I wouldn’t discount the view that the spirit of the age is that of The Lord of the Flies.
I was perusing the pages of The Guardian today and came across this novel word “idiocracy” (in, of all places, the sports section of the paper). “An amusing but appropriate neologism”, I thought. My curiosity aroused, I googled up the term and found that it was the title of a 2006 science fiction movie that, though getting positive reviews from the film critics and having since become a “cult film”, was poorly promoted and didn’t do well at the box office. Natch, I just had to order it.
If Mr. Trump thought that pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change would force the rest of the world to buckle and flock to his doorstep to renegotiate the agreement with him, he very badly miscalculated. Trump’s arrogance in that respect seems rooted in a long-standing fiction — at least since Madelaine Albright — that the United States is “the indispensible nation”. There are no “indispensible nations” in the grand historical view, and I think Mr. Trump has just definitively popped that bubble (and apparently, so do others).
Ironically, though (and what isn’t ironic these days) Mr. Trump, quite despite himself and his intentions, may have just made the US federal state and national government irrelevant anyway, and prepared the way for some form of “glocalism“,
Crane Brinton once offered what I consider the best brief definition of the meaning of “modernity” yet — “the invention of a system for inventing systems”. That definition of modernity must be played against Nietzsche’s remark also that “the will to a system is a lack of integrity” in order to appreciate Brinton’s meaning here. With these two statements we really come to the gist of the issue — the origin, history, and the meaning of “the System”.
The invention of a system for creating systems also describes that “ensemble of techniques” that Jacques Ellul analysed and interpreted in his many writings on The Technological Society or (later) The Technological System. That “ensemble of techniques” (or orchestration of systems) constitutes the meaning of Lewis Mumford’s “Megamachine” as he described it in Technics and Civilization and in The Myth of the Machine.
But there is yet the Metamachine, which is akin to the “Master Narrative” of the Modern Era and has its origins in the metaphor of “the Clockwork Universe”. The Metamachine is the Master System that serves as the blueprint for all systems or techniques, which specifies their form and function and how they are to relate to one another as an “ensemble” or orchestra of systems, thus constituting the totality of the “built environment” and, in those terms, perhaps even the very meaning of “the Anthropocene”. This Metamachine is the Architect of our “invisible environment” (Blake’s Ulro) and Blake gave it name and purpose — Urizen.
Norbert Wiener’s God and Golem, Inc (available also online) certainly speaks to the same issues as Lewis Mumford and his critique of “the Megamachine”, as well as Jacques Ellul’s sociology of the technological system. Wiener is known as “the father of cybernetics” and his more philosophical and sociological reflections on the “golem” (which is Mumford’s Megamachine equally) are as pertinent today as when he wrote them. In fact, I don’t think “the Matrix” is anything other than Wiener’s “golem”, Mumford’s “Megamachine”, or Ellul’s “technological system” (or, for that matter, Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie) They are all attempts to give answer to the question that obsessed the character Neo in the movie: “What is the Matrix?”
So, what is the Matrix?
Until the recent death of “Joannie” (Eran Morin) from the TV series “Happy Days“, I didn’t really make the connection between Scott Baio’s appearances as a Trump stalwart and the TV series he’s most associated with that depicted America in the 50s as a time of happy innocence.
Do people really associate the slogan “Make America Great Again” with “Happy Days“? That would be bizarre. That would definitely be surreal. The 50s were, in reality, nothing like the idyllic time portrayed in the TV show. It was probably more like what was depicted in the movie Revolutionary Road, judging from my reading of the history of that decade. If people get their ideas of actual history from a TV sitcom, isn’t that the meaning of “post-historic man”?