Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The success of hyperbole

Writing in 1981, Callenbach's predictions of the future have been mostly accurate. Whether he was talking about the future economics of the auto industry:

"Federal funds shored up failing automobile corporations--which had proved unable to compete with Japanese firms in producing gas-efficient cars--instead of diverting them toward production of buses, trains, and other low-energy means of transportation" (10). 

Or tax evasion and the Tea Party

"Tax evasion became a national sport, and organized tax revolts broke out frequently" (44). 

Or even the military

"the military became largely a mercenary operation" (44). 

Callenbach seemed to have fairly accurate premonitions. While I don't think the ridiculous parable of the char will ever become reality (though what can be more ridiculous than bottled water as illustrated here or here or here or here or here?), American culture continues to plunge toward new "labor saving" measures. In my opinion, every time we invent something that performs an action we are capable of, we are taking steps to diminish our ability to perform that action, like the char disabled people from the ability to walk. 

Take spell check for instance. I was always terrible at spelling, but since people no longer need to know how to spell, they're getting worse at it. Even Plato said, "Writing was the downfall of the human mind," in reference to the fact that, after writing, people didn't need to memorize anymore because they could "write it down." Hence, the ability to memorize was greatly diminished.

My hand-crank ice cream maker is a great example of how "labor saving" can ruin an experience. Electrical ice cream makers are so loud you can't hear yourself think much less enjoy the experience. My hand-crank on the other hand, purrs along quietly while I chat it up with my buddies. Here's Tommy doing his part:

So, while Callenbach's char may not be the next thing you see in a commercial, the trend toward disabling ourselves is certainly active.

Below is a short interview with Callenbach that talks more about his books and the practical steps he suggests in our move toward ecological coherence. 

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