As one who has given up her smartphone, eliminated Wi-Fi in the home, and opted out of a smart meter, I’ve wondered how to characterize my concern with technology. Now I know: I’m a loving resistance fighter.
In his 1992 book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman defines Technopoly as “progress without limits, rights without responsibilities, and technology without cost.”
Postman acknowledges that he is more a critic than a problem solver, but offers help for the individual who wishes to defend himself “against the worst effects of the American Technopoly.”
Technopoly and the Loving Resistance Fighter
Excerpted from Chapter 11 of Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman
By “loving,” I mean that, in spite of the confusion, errors, and stupidities you see around you, you must always keep close to your heart the narratives and symbols that once made the United States the hope of the world and that may yet have enough vitality to do so again. . . . Which brings me to the “resistance fighter” part of my principle.
Those who resist the American Technopoly are people:
- who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked, and why;
- who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;
- who have freed themselves from the belief in the magical powers of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;
- who refuse to allow psychology or any “social science” to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense;
- who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding;
- who do not regard the aged as irrelevant;
- who take seriously the meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they “reach out and touch someone,” expect that person to be in the same room;
- who take the great narratives of religion seriously and who do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth;
- who know the difference between the sacred and the profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity’s sake;
- who admire technological ingenuity but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement.
A resistance fighter understands that technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, that every technology—from an IQ test to an automobile to a television set to a computer—is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore require scrutiny, criticism, and control. In short, a technological resistance fighter maintains a epistemological and psychic distance from any technology, so that it always appears somewhat strange, never inevitable, never natural.
Postman described the technological resistance fighter well before the wireless revolution and the mass exposure of children to cell phones and tablets. He died in 2003, leaving a legacy of wisdom that no doubt will speak to individuals like myself for years to come.