Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

CULTURE OF THE GHOSTS, COGs, Triumph of the Abstract Life

Historical anthropologists tell us that before television people spent most oftheir lives talking to each other, even when they were running around hunting and gathering. Before the technological age with its great wealth, most people spent most of their lives being with each other, helping each other get by. Humans celebrated their successes and grieved their looses together. They ceremonialized the times of their lives. Life was built of an elaborate web of family, clan and tribal relations, an organic arrangement that supported, actually enabled, the evolution of the human mind. During these millions of years, peoples lives might be described as `interpersonal'.

Now everything is different. Impersonal machines are replacing interpersonal process, more every year. Machines have interjected themselves between human beings. The content of human interaction is becoming `abstracted' - `dragged away' from the organic human relationships based on proximity and sensory verification. Culture is driven toward modern abstract life moderated by machines, driven from real people to TV personalities, from family process to sit-coms. Literacy started the problem, allowing people to experience vicariously, but modern media accelerate the process.

This compulsion to the abstract life, CAL, resulting in modern abstract culture, MAC, continues in every person and every culture. MAC makes a virtue of the dissociation of image from reality, mind from body, work from production, emotion from action, motion from interaction.

The abstract life is enabled but not compelled by technology. Consider the progression toward impersonality in approaching a persons home. From the beginning, simple shelters shut out cold and carnivores, but also the sight and smell of approaching friends. The invention of the door shut out the sound, abstracting the rich tones of the human voice to a cold knock. The doorbell displaced the minimal variations of a personal knock with a series of rings. Chimes replace the ring pattern with its robot tune. The system comes full circle with video camera security entrances.

Television is a major step toward the ghostly life, isolating human emotion from interpersonal process. As Jerry *Mander points out in FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ABOLITION OF TELEVISION, the person seems to be experiencing the emotions of life, but passively without physical response, and more seriously without interpersonal process, like a ghost. As time and technology proceed, the actual amount of interpersonal communication, or interpersonal `being there', is increasingly replaced by the abstract media. What is left of the family sits around the TV, watching the Cosbys or the Simpsons watching TV on TV. The intimacy of interpersonal encounter, such as meeting someone on the path, is long gone, replaced by dangerous strangers. People seem trapped in their cars, cages of glass and metal. Some assume that human experience and emotions will survive this robotization. Not so, they become ghosts living cliched lives through media.

The telephone has made it almost impossible to drop in on someone. Fax machines and E-mail, abstract both time and voice from interpersonal conversation. As jobs and life become more abstract, there is less to talk about since less is going on, though people seem to fill their lives somehow. Our physical support systems, once the content of much human communication, is now managed by machines with a minimum input from lonely operators.

Human vigor and vitality is deprived of its original function, deformed, and perverted by what might be called Technological ABuse, TAB. The human organism is ill suited to endure this dissociation of mind from body. We have every reason to expect that the growing information superhighway and virtual reality will increase this dissociation, unless human ecology clarifies the problem and culture design remedies it.

The desperate need for exercise, combined with taboo on sweat, leads people to secrete exercycles in their homes, even though they rarely use them because they are so dull and lonely. A recent rage is the stair-step for exercise for those people condemned to live in ranch style one story homes. Some interpersonal impulse drives them to spas where people go to spend money exercising on useless machines, but they are barely able to hustle. Even the stroll has been displaced by its most abstractly ritualized form, GOLF.

The consequences of the decline of organic cultural life are disastrous. Those few interpersonal relationships that survive are poisoned with a detachment, a withdrawal, even a taboo that few resist. Much pop-psych discourse on the subject promotes, even compels, independence, separation and aloneness. Marriage therapists often function as divorce therapists. The vast repertoire of human feelings that once enriched the lives of homo sapiens are displaced from their origins in interpersonal process into the ghostly mental environment of technological media and the physical environment of couch and car. This shrinking of human interaction drives the personality structure into narcissistic indulgence of the ego, the tyranny of the self, the wanting of wants. For many, the struggle to reconnect with organic life compels a repertoire of strange and desperate behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse, violence, gambling and skiing.

So versatile is homo sapiens that many adjust to this impersonal life as if they were evolved for it. The residue of longing for family process is displaced to television, economic survival and professional success. Those ghosts who misbehave or become maladjusted are often severely punished. Deprived of interpersonal support which sustained their evolution, humans crack up and fall into prisons and mental hospitals, POP p. 140.

To alleviate these problems, substitutes for family process are professionalized and institutionalized.

On the higher levels, psychotherapy focuses on Adlerian self esteem and its power-derived alienation, another push for the ego's victory over the great subconscious life, and over that interpersonal bonding and security that supports what little remains of mental health. If the task is the adjustment to modern abstract culture, the therapists may actually assist. But the task of adjusting the human to a sick society is painful in itself, and holds dubious prospects. Nevertheless, the feeling of being in charge, that triumph of the will, is often attained with the help of the therapist, whistling in the dark.

Health has never been better, except for widespread obesity and depression, alcoholism and homicide. People helplessly displace their attention to toxins in the environment while their children drink and smoke. The government spends billions on the Drug War, while most people suffer iatrogenic disease from their prescriptions. Many people live out their lives wading in the shallows of the culture of ghosts.

Pity the victims of dying culture. Spiritless by withdrawal from the Medieval church, itself long degraded by the psychosis of belief - depraved by the neo-puritan denial of the greater self - enslaved by the ethic of control, over self, over body, over family, over money - deprived by forced alienation from real work, that manifestation of harmony with man and nature damaged by the JOB - terrorized by an ex-organic culture falling deeper into competition, each citizen a victim of every other - misruled by a ruling class whose noblesse oblige has degraded to an elite of clerks gone mad - lost from self by finding only the narrow consciousness of inane self concept and counseled in a soup of psychobabble. Pity the dying culture, abandoned to their headlong rush to omnicide.

Technology enables, but does not compel, the compulsion to the abstract life toward modern abstract culture. COGs loose the human contact of organic social life and become autonomous individuals largely uncomprehending and devoid of the interpersonal experience that once filled human life, finally adjusting to the culture of the ghosts, like COGs in the machine.

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