The world is a factory. The world is a death camp. The world is a machine. The world has been a machine for a long time now. The world will remain a machine for a long time to come. But what is our position within the machine ñ how do you live in a mechanical universe?
The most intelligent of us fall into the same traps as everyone else. In fact the most intelligent fall into them more readily, because it was this very intelligence that made the world a machine in the first place ñ or more fairly allowed us to recognise it as such. For the most intelligent were the ones who noticed the patterns and the movements behind our lives ñ the shapes and mechanisms, the cogs and springs. And they found cogs and springs in everything ñ from clocks to mice, sand and stars.
Intelligence can confuse function for point ñ and in a world where we cease to notice point, then what’s there to confuse? Function is everything ñ the function of the machine, the function of the machines within machines, the function of the machines that comprise the machines within the machines. Efficiency is important. Robustness is important. The system becomes everything and the component replaceable.
I spoke to a man tonight about what was wrong with the world. And he thought that what was wrong with the world was that people were attempting to make everyone the same – that we denied obvious differences in ability and usefulness between people in the name of “equality”. The same man believed that there were people who wanted rights without responsibilities, that people complained because they wanted to be treated as more equal ñ more similar ñ than they actually were, and that the most functional were forced to compromise their abilities and aspirations to support the less functional. And he felt strongly that these were the things that were wrong with the world.
These things are not what’s wrong with the world. These things are what would be wrong with the world if the world was a machine. A perpetual motion machine with no function or goal save its own extension. A machine with people inside it whose only function was to act as cogs or wheels ñ moving smoothly against one another, at peak efficiency.
It makes no sense in a machine world to deny differences in ability and usefulness between its components. If one piece functions better than another for a function, then the old piece should be disposed of. The new piece should be installed. It makes no sense in a machine world to waste care and concern on ill-fitting components when you could replace them with something that fits perfectly and works immediately. It makes no sense in a machine world to limit the functionality of perfect components so that imperfect components don’t wear out or break ñ certainly not if you can replace them.
But what’s the point of this machine? What’s it doing? What’s it making? Who is it for?
Our world works as if it were a machine. People work individually, or collectively to make and produce things for other people. Companies employ people individually or collectively to make and produce things for other people. Companies are owned, individually or collectively by people who wish to make and produce things for other people.
But the heart of this process can’t be the endless replication of the machine mindlessly, cancerously expanding to fill the universe around it ñ the machine has to be revealed to be a mechanism built for the people who live within it. And those people have to be free to diverge from the prescribed motions as set by the machine. Otherwise we are nothing but automata. Robots. Hopeless. Already dead.
The machine is there for all of us ñ and so it is has to work reasonably well. The better it works the more all of us benefit. And yet the machine can be made to work even better than it does by discarding those people who don’t fit into the most efficient mechanisms of its functioning. A balance must be struck. But it must be struck with people in the centre, not the machine.
A world in which we have prescribed and proscribed roles given to us by the machine, with each name connoting a range of functions and tasks (with some given power and some without) – MAN, WOMAN, ENGLISH, FOREIGN, STRAIGHT, GAY. This is a world in which everyone’s the same – a constricted world without choice or change. And it’s a world that denies people even the most basic ability to even be human ñ because with our paths justified by science, we become machines ourselves ñ comprised of cogs and springs that say, “this is a man ñ he fucks and hunts”, “this is a woman, she crafts and gives birth”. And anything or anyone outside this system is an anomaly to be removed.
A world in which decisions can be made about individual’s lives as if they were car parts – this is a dehumanising world of robots and slaves. A world in which people can’t campaign for rights, or prove their ability to do tasks traditionally done by other ‘classes’ of people ñ this is a world which limits freedom in the name of the functioning of the machine. It’s a world where nothing matters but bottom-lines ñ where money and products are more important than everything else. It’s a world as a conveyor belt, an assembly line, a death camp of people oiling the cogs because they have to and dropping dead when they’re not needed any more and when they’ve produced another generation to keep the machine going.
A world in which women and men can do the same jobs or not, where people with large amounts of money help support those without, where people can all vote, marry, sleep with one another, walk down streets without fear of being attacked or discriminated against for who or what they are ñ this is a much more complicated world, a much more varied world ñ a world with greater capacity for wonder and change – and the world that I want to live in.
This fairly long piece was written at 2am in the morning ñ contains none of the horror of my earlier thoughts on the subject and is almost certainly ill-conceived in places.