Further observations on Technology, science and anarchism

Submitted by Reddebrek on November 2, 2017

IT IS SOMETHING (OR OTHER) TO HAVE STIMULATED REPLIES to an article in ANARCHY at least I must assume that Smythe, Uloth and Small were provoked by my screed for they mention my name, yet the content of their letters in ANARCHY 25 has nothing to do with what I wrote. I must write very badly indeed.
In my original article ("Homo Aedificans", ANARCHY 25), I made certain assertions about the "nature" of man and then indicated conclusions and questions that arise from that view, with particular attention to anarchist propaganda and social organisation.

Whilst the three correspondents may have assumed to oppose the view I presented they have failed to indicate any objection or refutation. Eulogies of freedom are eulogies of freedom, not descriptions of human activity or potentiality. If the correspondents believe that they have made a material contribution to the discussion I initiated then they have failed to understand one of my prime objections to current anarchist propaganda, that if you wish to convert someone to your persuasion then you must cast your efforts into a form that that person will understand. It is, after all, you who so confidently despise the society that is, it is therefore up to you to present your arguments in a form that we of the ignorant masses who are not party to your privy assumptions can digest.

Superficially it is Arthur Uloth who seems widest of the mark, the other two are but making comforting ritual gestures. Uloth bases anarchism on "The belief that men and women are capable spontaneously of co-operating and working together". I suggest that this assertion is true of almost any contemporary political belief, if that is all he has to offer I wish to know what all the fuss is about. He then goes on to paraphrase Kropotkin and Stirner, and interestingly enough shows that an anarchist society, in every case, requires knowledge on the part of the individual for him to guide his actions. Which I thought was a point I had made. Reason and goodwill are not enough. Would Mr. Uloth please tell us how he proposes to ensure the requisite degree of knowledge in the population in a complex society wherein you need one hell of a lot of information before a given course of action can be recognised as harmful? Whether you recognise the harm or not the harm will nevertheless be done.

I am sad that Mr. Uloth did not have space to elaborate on the doctrines of the simple life. Unlike Mr. Uloth I do not depend upon a library but upon people, I meet them and talk with them, in the "naturist" clubs and resorts of Europe and elsewhere. So what Thoreau wrote does not concern me in the least except insofar as he has influenced the actual behaviour of people in their daily lives, here and now.

Mr. Uloth's world is strange. He finds it unlikely that people will wander on airfields. I have noticed the opposite. He gives the Red Indians as an example of primitive people well able to defend themselves, yet there is no Red Indian nation now, nor has there been for almost a century, the language and culture of their country is that of the invader, the genetic line is anything but amerind. I do not understand.

Mr. Uloth remarks on my "implicit nihilism". My dictionary indicates that he believes me to "deny all reality, or all objective growth of truth". I might even say the same about him, he'd better watch out! He then goes on to pose the highly original question of whether we might not go to our destruction through the abuse of technology. I did write about this possibility. It is a possibility. May we have Mr. Uloth's solution?

It would be comforting to believe in Mr. Uloth's interminable effort to reduce cruelty in our world were it not for the fact that he may well be playing the cruellest joke of all. He offers us a vision of a life to come. Pie in the sky by and by. If Mr. Uloth cannot tell Joe and Jack, Jill and Joan, how to attain that vision then he had better examine his beliefs very carefully. Whether it suits Mr, Uloth or not we live in a society wherein the simplest needs of life depend for their satisfaction on complicated social and technical relationships. We may not like it either, but it is the world we have. I wish to know how Mr. Uloth proposes to transform this world in accordance with his ideals without causing suffering and harm to those unwittingly enmeshed in it. I suggest that any attempt at such transformation requires an understanding of the organisation of the existing system far in excess of anything yet revealed in anarchist propaganda.