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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

How Far Do We Want To Go? (p. 210)

From chapter "The End"

Resistance takes as many forms as the offenses it opposes. The more unequal the power between the machine and the human beings, the more varied and sometimes devious will be the resistance. According to political scientist James C. Scott, the “everyday resistance” adopted by the seemingly powerless includes, among many other forms, “foot dragging, dissimulation, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slander, arson, [and] sabotage” as well as poaching, squatting, desertion, and evasion.

Massive enough resistance sometimes changes a policy or stymies a particular program, for a while. For example, in the 1970s, so many people refused to participate in a census in the Netherlands that it became unworkable.If folks get clear and angry enough, they may switch from underground resistance to taking collective action, including petitions, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, revolt, and revolution.If we’re really radical we rail against technology itself, maybe rip a few genetically tortured strawberries out of fields, or torch bulldozers on the edges of ancient forests. Feels good, but doesn’t particularly slow the machine. The nature of the system doesn’t change. When rebellion goes aboveground, the machines crank up their panoptic sorting of resisters. In times of real unrest, of revolt or war, the governors’ only concern becomes the continuation of the state that they rule and enjoy (or at least perceive they enjoy), the continuation of the machine they serve. The system kicks into high gear to identify and sort the acceptable cheaters from the felonious thieves from the labor organizers and public interest troublemakers from the revolutionaries who need to be eliminated.

When I taught at the prison, several of my students commented that judges know how to deal with people who steal because of greed, probably because they know that motivation so well themselves. But people who steal because they hate the system and because they want to bring it down confuse and scare judges, who respond by handing out sentences far beyond the norm. That is the panoptic sort in action, and it does not require particularly conscious cruelty on the part of cops and judges and passive bystanders.

“Some types of resisters—like the upper-middle-class tax shirker—are tolerated, even smiled upon, by political leaders. Others, like the poor women [in welfare programs], are vilified and hunted.”The worst of them are labeled terrorists (thieves, witches, gypsies, foreigners, communists, terrorists, the brand of the century) and burned at the stake or shot their wine-soaked tongues, and ask the lawyers to check on the state of their civil rights. Yep, looks like there are laws against discrimination all right. Somebody ought to enforce them!

How far do we want to go? How free do we want to be? Do we want the machine’s widgets and baubles at low prices, or do we want to drop our chains of iron and gold and cybermetal and walk free?