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A conversation between Kalle Lasn and Adbusters long time benefactor Douglas Tompkins who died in a kayaking accident in Patagonia in 2015. Founder of The North Face and Espirit clothing companies, Tompkins’ lifelong conservation efforts recently culminated in the creation of a vast 10 million-acre national park system in Chile, which is three times the size of the Yosemite and Yellowstone parks combined.

 

Hey Doug,

 

delightful to hear from you! I just surfaced from Adbusters #111 deadline . . .

 

our last many issues have been all about this Singularity/Nightfall dilemma humanity is now faced with . . . even after 25 years of trying, I must admit, I still don’t quite know how to deal with it. I don’t think you have the solution either with your strident anti-tech position . . . seems to me that we humans have never been able to collectively back away from our technological breakthroughs . . . (reminds me of this story I know so well from my young days: how the Japanese tried but were not able to back away from the gun and keep their beautiful samurai ethic flowing).

 Ya, so I think you’re barking up the wrong tree . . . I think it’s a wonderful thing to aspire towards . . . like Jerry Mander’s four arguments for the elimination of television . . . and indeed, all the young people in my office were quite moved awhile ago by your deep green stance in a recent article.

 

 But you know Doug, if we going to actually get beyond the debates and arguments and never ending back & forths and actually do something transformative in this world, then we’ll probably have to use television, the smart phone, the internet and all the new ways that people are now communicating with each other . . . you know Occupy Wall Street would never have happened without some of this technology . . . nor the Arab Spring . . . nor I suspect, given where humanity is at right now, will any revolution of the future happen without some of this technology. Maybe this old bit of wisdom is right after all: Don’t blame the technology, blame the way that people use it.

 

So here’s my proposal . . . let’s get together one more time . . . let’s have another crack at the whip . . . if you can’t make it to Vancouver, then maybe I can make it to San Francisco . . . if you have the bucks then I have one more righteous burst of energy in me . . . let me know . . . love to cook up something truly transformative with you.

 

In the meantime for sure, please let me know your current snail address so I can send you our latest #111 mindbomb we just sent to the printer and also, in case you have not already seen it, our most recent book: Meme Wars – The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics

 

 for the wild, Kalle

Hi Kalle,

 

Long time and many moons.
I got this a few weeks ago and have been away on a trip, still am actually heading home tonight and thought I would throw you just a quick line.

 

Over the years you have heard from me about what I have considered your rather unbridled enthusiasm for the technological. Here again I would have to say that your email I reread now is the same thing that I was talking with you nigh on twenty years ago. It seems that there is a major lack of a deep systemic critique of how mega-technology which you somehow seem to think will be the road to liberation from the oppressions of capitalism and power structures.

 

Without taking lots of time, I see nothing but machine metaphors in your writing here. The trillion dollars of financial transactions around the world each day are the results of the mega-technologies that enable them. Your inference to the use of the mega-tech itself as a liberating device that will break the juggernaut and its grip of power and oppression to all of us simple citizens does not square with the facts. The corporations and their handmaidens in government are using the internet 24/7 and it increases THEIR power and vice grip over all of us by 20-1. They benefit far more than we do. I think it is worthless to be thinking or acting or wishing or projecting that there is a revolution afoot. Perhaps a collapse by a systemic “machine” that has begun spinning too fast for its weight and strength of construction that like a giant flywheel it is beginning to fly apart (please excuse my own machine metaphor, but I use it since this has been the mode of expression you like !)

 

I really plead with you to rethink this and I do not hold hope at all for any kind of exit from the ‘crisis of culture’ that is underway until the technological analysis is made. For me this is the weakest feature of the present critique by the social movements of our package of current crises.

 

A critical discussion of mega-tech is entirely absent from the social or political discourse, it is a non issue because everyone is looking in the wrong direction. It is indicative itself of the grip and fascination that the social movements are locked on to with the internet, satellite communications, mesmerized by advertising and social pressures, the cell phone trance and all the other technological rapture that especially besets this present young generation. They LOVE their cell phones! The next generations and a great deal of our ‘brothers/sisters-in-arms’ in the social movements now (all of them: social justice, peace, environmental, feminist, conservation) are drug addicted to their mega-tech apparatuses and comforts and I do not hold much hope, actually no hope, of a world constructed with mega-tech of any kind.

 

You can not get to where you think the world should be by these means, it is a vicious circle you can not get out of. Worse, it is a vicious downward circle ending in collapse and crash. As a little quick test, you can just hold your cell phone in your hand for 30 seconds and stare at it and let your mind roll back through all the processes that got it to your hand to get a dimension of the problem, and think if that is the kind of civilization you wish to live in? … OR that if this kind of techno-industial civilization in all its dimension has any kind of future?

 

Could nature ever survive it? Cell phones are like guns, they can not be reformed. There is no way out, you either have them and all they come with, or you throw them into the dustbin of history. If you reflect on that, and on the theory of “autonomous technology” developed by Langdon Winner’s technology critique, you will understand the core of the problems we are confronting.

 

Until this deep systemic critique is made and understood, we are paralyzed to move forward and put in a kind of world view hammerlock that prohibits the rethinking of civilization that will be required to begin the long unwinding of techno-inudstrial culture that has put us into the face of global collapse. You might think also that what we have here is a mega-tech civilization whose perfect expression, its purest expression is global climate change and the extinction crisis. That has what the cell phone, internet, social networks have wrought when it all comes down to it. Only fools would vote to continue this course of development if they understood the way it is actually working. Right now we don’t even have a one eyed person in the land of the blind.

 

Sorry but I have to run, but this gives you a little idea of where my own thinking is on all of the issues you outline in the article you sent.

All the best, and hopefully one day we will cross paths and carry on this conversation in more depth. Jerry has a lot to say about these issues as well, let us see what he says too.

 

Your, Doug

 

 

From issue #137
A Spiritual Crisis
of Meaning