VJMP Reads: Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto IV

This reading carries on from here.

The next chapter in Industrial Society and Its Future is ‘Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society’. Here Kaczynski expounds at length what appears to be the central thesis of the manifesto.

Modern man is strapped down by a number of rules and regulations that have been laid down on him by faceless people far away and who he cannot hope to influence. Kaczynski contends that this is not because bureaucrats are malicious or because the system is yet to be perfected – this is the nature of technological society. Generally speaking, our lives have to be closely regulated by large organisations in order for society to function. Human lives have to be modified to fit the system.

This close regulation happens even to children. The system needs people educated in a particular manner in order to run its machines, and so children have to be forced to study things that they don’t really care about. This social pressure creates a lot of dysfunction in the form of dropouts and mentally ill people. The system uses propaganda to try to induce people to want what the system is doing to them. This is a complicated and dishonest process.

In ‘The Bad Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the Good Parts’ Kaczynski argues that technology is a double-edged sword. Not only does advanced medical treatment require an entire industrial society to maintain, but it also removes the natural selection pressure that is, in many ways, keeping the human race healthy. The only solution to this is either eugenics or massive genetic engineering. Kaczynski contends that this genetic engineering is inevitable owing to the good things it promises.

The next chapter is ‘Technology is a More Powerful Social Force Than the Aspiration For Freedom’. Freedom is continually forced to compromise to technology, and after many repeated instances of this, all freedom is gone. The motor vehicle is a great example: when first introduced, they took no freedom away from the walking man, but society has been forced to adapt to accommodate them, and now walking in many places is impossible. Moreover, regulations such as driver’s licences and insurance have tied people down.

New technology changes society in a way that people are forced to use it. Each new advance, taken by itself, is desirable, but the cumulative effect is to lose freedom to people far away. Technology always advances, but can never be rolled back without a collapse of the system. This means that reform is impossible, which in turn means that any resisters effectively have to be revolutionaries. History shows that social arrangements are temporary, but technological advances are more or less permanent.

The last two chapters in this section are ‘Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable’ and ‘Revolution is Easier than Reform’. These contain a summary of the main statements made so far. Humans have proven themselves incapable of dealing with much easier problems than resisting technology, and therefore cannot succeed without a revolution that destroys the entire industrial system. Kaczynski points out here that we have already left massive environmental problems to our grandchildren merely for the sake of convenience now.

Revolution will not be as difficult as it seems, because the prospect of revolution is capable of inspiring powerful emotions in people. By contrast, the prospect of reform can only inspire lukewarm emotions at best. It is not necessary for a majority of people to become revolutionaries, just enough so that the system is incapacitated.

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