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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

If You Want Servants (p. 88)

From chapter "Fear"

Scientists—and more broadly all believing members of this culture—often pride themselves on being rational and sometimes sneer at indigenous (noncivilized) cultures as being not rational, not reasonable, and based on superstition as opposed to “solid scientific observation,” whatever that means. The truth, however, is that this culture collectively and its members individually aren’t very smart. Let’s be frank, we’re pretty fucking stupid.

Let’s examine some evidence. How rational is it to put poisons on your own food? In the last seventy years worldwide annual pesticide use has gone from zero to five hundred billion tons. Cancer rates have risen, as have a host of other problems. For example, children raised in areas with higher than “normal” pesticide use are more likely to suffer retarded physical and mental growth: they are made small, sickly, and stupid. How smart is it to poison your own children, observe that they are poisoned, and then keep doing it (or allowing it to be done)?

We already mentioned the prevalence of dioxin (and other carcinogens) in every mother’s breast milk but did not yet mention that every stream in the United States is contaminated with carcinogens. At a talk I gave recently, I asked how many people in the audience had suffered the loss of someone they love because of cancer. All one hundred and fifty of us (including me) raised our hands. How rational is it for those in the Panopticon’s inner circle to poison us and the ones we love, and themselves and the ones they love? How rational is it for the rest of us to not resist?

The stupidity continues: taxpayers pay to deforest the planet and pay to vacuum the oceans. Taxpayers, especially poor taxpayers, pay for police to put their sons and daughters in prison and pay for guards to keep them there. Prison guards get pay raises while the young are turned away from college.

I’ve long had a habit of asking people if they like their jobs. About 90 percent say no. What does it mean that the vast majority of people spend the vast majority of their waking hours doing things they’d rather not do? Who would create a system so stupid? How stupid are we all to allow it to continue?

And it’s simply not true to say that all cultures have toxified the air and water, deforested the land, murdered the oceans, or even that the members of all cultures have worked as hard as we do. Not only do indigenous cultures maintain livable landbases but they have far more leisure (in other words, killing the planet is damn hard work).

Rape is another thing that is really stupid (and of course rape is not “a product of our biology,” as many apologists for our current rape culture would have it; many cultures have—or rather had before they encountered ours—very low to essentially nonexistent levels of rape). Apologists for our rape culture often talk about the importance of rape as a biological means of men “spreading their genes,” and of “a show of force” that lets women know they are “better off bonding [sic] with a strong male.” By now I’m sure you can see what is missing: relationship…. Sure, we can make the argument that these levels of rape amount to a systematic program of terror, and that men derive the “benefits” of terrorized women’s subservience, but even the undeniable truth of this argument doesn’t make the act of rape any less stupid, unless of course you’re more interested in having slaves than friends (which is, you guessed it, the point of this wretched system). Similarly, child abuse is stupid. What sense does it make to beat or rape one’s child? Over half a million American children are killed or injured each year by their parents or guardians. Is that rational?

Well, the answer to that—and to all of the above questions— depends on what you want. If you want servants, perhaps you can perceive it in your best interests to terrorize others into serving you. This is as true for terrorizing women as it is for children as it is for the poor as it is for nonwhites as it is for nonhumans as it is for any others to be enslaved. Of course this only works if you keep blinders on to prevent you from perceiving not only their pain but your own loneliness at having cut yourself off from relationship.

All of which finally brings us to a way in which our culture is extremely rational: there does happen to be one definition under which our culture is as rational as it pretends to be, which is that rationalization is the deliberate elimination of information unnecessary to achieving an immediate task.If you want a culture full of terrorized slave-women on your hands, rape may be one way to accomplish that. If you want a culture full of terrorized slave-children on your hands, beatings may be one way to accomplish that. If you want a continent full of terrorized potential slaves on your hands, colonialism (currently administered with international “debt instruments” and “structural adjustment programs”) may be one way to accomplish that. If you want a natural world full of terrorized slave-nonhumans on your hands, our entire industrial civilized way of life may be one way to accomplish that. You just have to not mind turning yourself into a machine (and, if you have difficulty ignoring the harmful consequences of your actions—that is, difficulty remaining a machine—you just have to remember to grab some of those “morning-after pills for regret” from the nearby übersoldiers1).

To make this slightly more specific: If your goal is to maximize profits for a major corporation, all you need to do is ignore all considerations other than that. If your goal is to maximize gross national product (that is, the rate at which the world is converted into products), then all you need to do is ignore everything that might stand in the way of production.

As we see.

1 From p. 48 of Welcome to the Machine: The last of [her/his] humanity can then be made to disappear forever whenever a soldier pops a pill—also being developed—that can, to quote the same journalist, “over the course of two weeks, immunize him against a lifetime of crushing remorse,” that is, a pill that medicates away one’s conscience. (Dr. Leon Kass, chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, calls this “the morning-after pill for just about anything that produces regret, remorse, pain, or guilt.”)