Sunday, April 14, 2013

If I Only Had a Heart

The cybernetic man is almost exclusively cerebrally oriented: he is a monocerebral man. His approach to the world around him - and to himself - is intellectual; he wants to know what things are, how they function and how they can be constructed or manipulated. 
This approach has been fostered by science, and it has become dominate since the end of the middle ages. It is the very essence of modern progress, the basis of the technical domination of the world and of mass consumption. 
Is there anything ominous about this orientation? Indeed it might seem that this aspect of 'progress' is not ominous, were it not for some worrisome facts. 
In the first place this "monocerebral" orientation is by no means only to be found in those who are engaged in scientific work; it is common to a vast part of the population: clerical workers, salesmen, engineers, physicians, managers and especially many intellectuals and artists - in fact, one may surmise, to most of the urban population. They all approach the world as a conglomerate of things to be understood in order to be used effectively. 
Second, and not less important, this cerebral-intellectual approach goes together with the absence of an affective response. One might say feelings have withered, rather than that they are repressed; inasmuch as they are alive they are not cultivated, and are relatively crude; they take on the form of passions, such as the passion to win, to prove superior to others, to destroy, or the excitement in sex, speed, and noise. 
One further factor must be added. The monocerebral man is characterized by another very significant feature: a special kind of narcissism that has as its object itself - his body and his skill - in brief, himself as an instrument of success. The monocerebral man is so much a part of the machinery he has built, that his machines are just as much the object of his narcissism as he is himself; in fact, between the two exist a kind of symbiotic relationship: the union of one individual self with another (or any other power outside of the own self) in such a way as to make each lose the integrity of its own self and to make them dependent on each other. In a symbolic sense it is not nature any more that is man's mother but the "second nature" he has built, the machines that nourish and protect him. 
Another feature of the cybernetic man - his tendancy to behave in a routinized, stereotyped, and unspontaneous manner - is to be found in a more drastic form in many schizophrenic obsessional stereotypes.

-- Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

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