Why We Are So Impatient

24 12 2016

“Technique has penetrated the deepest recesses of the human being. The machine tends not only to create a new human environment, but also to modify man’s very essence. The milieu in which he lives is no longer his. He must adapt himself, as though the world were new, to a universe for which he was not created. He was made to go six kilometers an hour, and he goes a thousand. He was made to eat when he was hungry and to sleep when he was sleepy; instead, he obeys a clock. He was made to have contact with living things, and he lives in a world of stone. He was created with a certain essential unity, and he is fragmented by all the forces of the modern world.”

-Jacques Ellul in The Technological Society (1964)

We live in a world so connected, so fast, and so efficient. We live in a world where I can send encouraging messages halfway around the world to my church college students during their time of exams. We live in a world where we can order our coffee on our phone and it awaits us moments later on the counter of Starbucks, leaving to imagination, the who, when, how of its manufacture. We live in a world where the game of phone stack could be one of the hardest challenges faced. We live in a world where music is seen in increments of bits and the art of the album has been long buried in the past. We live in a world where in some parts of the globe it’s easier to access wifi than clean water. We live in a world where the appearance given to us by our parents are suggestions or the template for the surgical artisans to shape into their modern Mona Lisa’s.

results-1But technology is not the problem. Even Ellul, in the quote above, was not indicting technology, per se, but was speaking of “technique”. He defines it as “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.” To put concisely, Ellul is saying that “technique” has converted spontaneity and unreflective behavior into behaviors that are only deliberate and rationalized. We’ve become obsessed with results and our prime concern becomes the best way in our life direction. In other words, the technical eclipses the organic, if you will. Perhaps, we see this played out in the sliver of economic life in Goudzwaard’s assessment of capitalism’s obsession with progress.

Setting aside Ellul’s ‘technical’ analysis, all of us sense that this world is in a rush. Time is measured by the second, and waiting for a friend has become obsolete through the invention of the cell phone (or as Koreans endearingly say ‘handphone’). Life is faster and we don’t have to wait. We are impatient because our muscle for patience is unpracticed.

But along with time, there is also space. The technical affects the shape of the world we live in; it even molds the shape we are as humans with personalities, souls, and bodies. Could it be that we are also becoming more impatient because we are so practiced in molding our world rather than being molded by the world? Our desire for independence, autonomy, whatever you want to call it, lends our hearts toward impatience. When we cannot create the world we envision or strive to shape, we grow impatient, sometimes even angry. When encountering people who do not fit into the world that we have created for ourselves, we don’t have the patience to change our world to welcome them in. Rather we are agitated, and further, we ostracize. Our impatience wants to change the other instead.

Then, is it a matter of practicing our moldability muscles? Perhaps, but not entirely. The irony of Ellul’s quote is it is saying that we are controlled, that is, molded by technique. Our problem is not only that our will to change ourselves has atrophied. Ellul is alluding that we are always being molded, ourselves, our world. The question is ‘by what’ or ‘by whom?’

It’s Christmas tomorrow and, whether you are on the East or West of the Greenwich meridian,manger-cross at Christmas you tell the truth. Sorry, couldn’t help it. No, but seriously tell the truth to your loved ones, but in addition, enjoy extravagance. Not utility, not efficiency, nor progress, but sheer lavish extravagance. Waste time with your loved ones, don’t plan, don’t rush, but be among them. Further, be molded by one another’s desires, one another’s wills (within reason of course). Do what you may not prefer for the sake of the other. Mold your desires to another’s. Because at Christmas we remember lavish extravagance. God came to earth to give us eternal life, but he also molded himself, if you will, into a human baby. He molded his will and desires, to allow us to do the same for others.


Sex Trafficking on the Web

26 01 2012

Nicholas Kristof writes a column titled, “How Pimps Use the Web to Sell Girls“, concerning the greed of the executives of Backpage.com and their refusal to comply with the pleas of attorneys general and the community to prevent trafficking on their site. Technology is not in itself evil, but it is amazing how we humans can taints such things. As I wish all to read the entire column itself, I will not quote from it here.

Another horrible misuse of facebook reported on cbsnews.com.

Abortion Version 2.0

4 10 2011

I rarely like getting into a debate, let alone a discussion, about abortion, particularly in a political context. The discussion is usually misguided by both sides being so parochial and entrenched in their views that they fail to even pause to listen. But technology has developed so far that it has taken abortion discussion to a new level. Ruth Padawer writes her NY Times Magazine article titled, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” on the new option of “reducing” a multiple pregnancy to either twins or in some cases one, also called a singleton. The article explores the different circumstances and the motivations that parents struggle with in making such a decision. One parent’s motivation to undergo the reduction procedure was the following:

Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. “This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction. She and her husband worked out this moral calculation on their own, and they intend to never tell anyone about it. Jenny is certain that no one, not even her closest friends, would understand, and she doesn’t want to be the object of their curiosity or feel the sting of their judgment.

In a way, Jenny’s desires seem respectable, she wants to be a good parent. Sure, I guess you can even say that knowing your limitations is a good thing and being fiscally responsible is good. And many, particularly those against abortion, would ask, “But at what cost?” The answer to that question would not only be “A life” but also “at the cost of being a good parent”. Jenny would fail at her desire even before she begins if/when she has this fetal reduction. The essence of being a good parent, as the younger generations seem to have forgotten, is giving and sacrifice. And it is utter selfishness, covered in the guise of “wanting to be a good parent”. The fears of failing to be a good parent hidden behind a false morality. Later in the article Padawer points out:

What drives that decision is not just concern over the quality of life for the future child but also the emotional, financial or social difficulty for parents of having a child with extra needs. As with reducing two healthy fetuses to one, the underlying premise is the same: this is not what I want for my life.

“MY LIFE”…. The essence of morality is not in keeping the rules or breaking them. Sure, that is involved, but at the core is the phrase curvatus in se. Coined by St Augustine it means “turning in on oneself” and this is the essence of immorality, and anyone who gives “wanting to be a good parent” as a reason for fetal reduction, ultimately cares only for oneself and falls right into the category of immorality. For a more professional analysis of the morality here is Albert Mohler’s post on Padawer’s article.

Abortion, which is what this ‘reduction’ is, is never just an issue where one can pound the rights and wrongs into another person’s mind, and this ‘reduction’ issue is the same. Underneath all this discussion of ethics and morality is our view of choice that seems to fall outside of ethic or morality. This is where, in part, the root of the problem is. “Choice” to an American is sacred ground. That is our first folly and the beginning of this (and many other) slippery slope of morality. Padawer quotes Josephine Johnston, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center in NY,

In an environment where you can have so many choices, you own the outcome in a way that you wouldn’t have, had the choices not existed. If reduction didn’t exist, women wouldn’t worry that by not reducing, they’re at fault for making life more difficult for their existing kids. In an odd way, having more choices actually places a much greater burden on women, because we become the creators of our circumstance, whereas, before, we were the recipients of them. I’m not saying we should have less choices; I’m saying choices are not always as liberating and empowering as we hope they will be.

Not only does the increase of choices increase burden and stress, but we need to see what we are doing with our choices that is so ethically unacceptable. Included in selfishness and Augustine’s concept of curvatus in se is modern people looking to change our circumstance, through technology in this instance, instead of changing ourselves and our desires. Responsibility AND maturity involves knowing how to change oneself and not merely the circumstance (This is not to say that in vitro fertilization in itself is bad).  Irresponsible people never want to face the consequence of any of the circumstances they are in, regardless of whether it is welcomed or not, whereas, responsible people know that desires and wants fall under the rubric of ethics and morality. This frightening issue really begs one to wonder not just about the state of the American moral fabric, but the maturity level of the average American. It makes one wonder about the wisdom of cultures that had an extensive ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood instead of just getting a driver’s license. But to this whole situation, I believe there is a bit of a solution. A solution that is not easy to swallow or even to implement but one that satiates our desire to have children and can make the issue of abortion moot. That solution? Adoption. Think about it.

Revolutions…. Destinations… When the Dust Settles…

31 03 2011

It seems the media has ended its hiatus of Middle Eastern coverage, which was prompted by the unprecedented earthquake and nuclear disaster in the Far East. When one stops to ponder significance of the revolutionary (no pun intended) events unfolding in the Middle East, you cannot help but wonder where this will all end up. The successes in Egypt and Tunisia leave room in the mind of the Western observer a hint of optimistic hope, maybe not a hope for the right thing, but at least a hope that maybe these countries will be more similar to us in governmental organization (i.e. Democracy). And the Western observer also watches with fascination, especially with the role of technology and the recent events. But Simon Montefiore writes, “Every Revolution Is Revolutionary in Its Own Way“, in the NY Times, giving a sober analysis of the revolutions of the past, the short term effect of technology on revolutions, and the long term chaos and uncertainty that will precede any successful future:

No single American doctrine can or should fit this newly kaleidoscopic, multifaceted universe that is the Middle East from Iran to Morocco. We must realize this will be a long game, the grand tournament of the 21st century. We should protect innocent lives when we can — with limited airpower, not boots on the ground. We must analyze which countries matter to us strategically, and after the Facebook party dies down and the students exit the streets, figure out who is really controlling events in the places important to us.

Then he concludes using Lenin’s quote, “Who Whom?” that it’s all about who holds the power. It appears politics has been stuck in its juvenile Machiavellian mindset and has not matured enough to go one step further into considering the use of power as a giving away of power. Is it naive to hope for such a future?

The Power of the Press…

10 02 2011

… is now online.

Here’s an interesting article by Anne Alexander titled, “Internet role in Egypt’s protests.” A thought occurred while reading the article, concerning the difficulty of regulating political activism online. The quality of North Korean regulation upon online activism must, unfortunately, be quite impressive, having had and continuing to maintain a certain level of seclusion in this 21st century of cyber-technology. Of course, their system is not impeccable, as seen in the event of the twitter hack on the heir apparent Kim Jong-Eun’s birthday (found via: myfriendkimjongil.wordpress.com).

Alexander ends her article by reminding us that the media is only a medium in the Egyptian protests, and that hope is the true drive behind all activism. I am moved to agree with Alexander’s idealism, but in the case for North Korea, I would like to put my hope in the internet, that maybe its power can drive history to make the nickname of ‘Hermit Kingdom’ obsolete.

The Loneliest Country in the World?

17 12 2010

This is really, really sad… The South Korean developer, Nabix, has released an iPhone app for a virtual girlfriend:

Called “Honey It’s Me!” the $1.99 app provides a 20-something virtual girlfriend named Mina– one made of actual flesh and bone– that calls and leaves video messages four times a day. Mina will also shower the lonely heart with additional love messages– from a library of 100 clips recorded by the model– throughout the day including “Good night, sweet dreams” and “Are you sleeping? It’s time for breakfast!

I really hope the intention of the 80,000 downloaders (per day!?!?) are merely for entertainment or curiosity. But then who am I kidding. We are talking about the country that makes Christmas about couples as opposed to family. The land where the taboo on plastic surgery seems more and more obviated. The land that is technologically so advanced, that perhaps, real human interaction is being forgotten.

This is proof that never is supply and demand not morally charged. Just because there is a demand, does not mean that it should be filled. Our desires are often skewed and is in need of a remedy, not of satiation. In my bewilderment, there is only one thing left to say.

Men. Please…. grow a set.