Or, Why Not Just Burn the Whole Thing Down?
Interesting post, Myles. Your warning is definitely better heeded than not. As a fellow Christian pacifist (I think), I really enjoy reading Kaczynski. His approach was far from Christian, but his work was essentially predicted by Ellul as the inevitable response of a non-Christian awareness of the modern age. Much of Kaczynski's criticisms of the political left ring true as well.
This post is a gift Myles, providing necessary guardrails and warning signs against wrong and dangerous paths. I will be referring back to it a lot.
I think you have identified correctly the points of divergence between the Front Porch Republic style localism that Kingsnorth, I, and others would ascribe to and the dangerous ideologies of Kaczynski. I have seen people (none of whom you mention) dabble with Kaczynski and it has always made me very uneasy even if I, in theory, agree (v.)loosely with some of his critiques of the Machine. As I see it, Kingsnorth has always been very hesitant to suggest direct courses of action against the machine, rather advocating for carving out lives adjacent to it. And while I advocate for taking on big-agro directly, this is through political means/advocacy and primarily through changing our consumption patterns (thus starving the machine) rather than direct acts of 'Ludditesque' (semi)violence.
"For the Christian, this place technology cannot go is the soul: that which is not constrainable by technology, though its habits and desires can be altered by technology.
It is here that the point of resistance begins—not with piloting alternative living arrangements or economic systems for their own sake—but living in accordance with is needed for the soul to flourish. And by living in this way, we will find that we no longer need the Machine...
For at stake here is not first the kind of social conditions which make this or that life possible, but what kind of creatures we are interested in preserving. And for the Christian, the one worth preserving is one capable of sustaining the soul."
Yes, answering the question "To what end?" is quite clarifying. In addition to the distinction between natural chaos & ordered communities. Between unrestricted freedom & moderated freedom. Between wilderness for its own sake & a humane world cultivated with the soul in mind.
I'm showing my (young-ish) age because I did not know anything about the Unabomber, only having heard the name! A needed reminder that our ends and means should always be clarified. Our God is not one of confusion, but of peace.
Great essay, thank you.
Dang, Myles. This is such a helpful balance to localist discourse. Thanks for articulating it. I'd heard of the "Unabomber" before, but knew nothing of him except that epithet. This was really enlightening on that front.
Interestingly (and at the risk of tooting my own horn) I think what you've suggested is what I was grasping after in my composting essays, especially Shepherds of Decay (https://thebluescholar.substack.com/p/shepherds-of-decay?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2). To give away the punchline, I finish this particular piece thusly:
"We Christians, God as our helper, function as both the gardeners of Western civilization, cultivating its rise and enjoying its fruits and now amassing its remains in the compost pile, and its heap-dwelling microorganisms, responsible for taking the various bits and pieces of dead and dying culture and decomposing them into the precious stores of nutrients and energy that will become the fertile soil of a future crop and its harvest."
Your naming the *soul* as the orienting principle for which practices to conserve and which to build is a really helpful clarification. Very pastoral. And I think that's what localist thought ought to be guided by more than anything else: pastoral concern. Not preserving a way of life for its own sake, but preserving it because it allows for human flourishing.
Thanks Myles for this incisive, thoughtful post - "Resistance demands that we live in hope, raise families in faith, and commit ourselves to particular places." My husband Peco and I have recently written a long piece that echoes the recommendations that you raise here "The 3Rs of Unmachining: Guideposts for an Age of Technological Upheaval" https://schooloftheunconformed.substack.com/p/the-3rs-of-unmachining-guideposts. We will host a live, online discussion on the 3Rs this Saturday (with added reports from the FRP conference).
We also have another article coming up early next week that will expand on the form of resistance that you suggest.
I appreciated this. I conceptualized IG - the platform - as a narcissist at the beginning of this year. It’s tendency to devour and use people as a “supply” started to feel so familiar, but I think that it’s a wider pattern of the “Machine” as well. And the only thing you do indeed have control over with a true malignant Narcissist is your own interaction with them. Which I think is exactly what you’re getting at here. Yes, boundaries, yes removal and wise interactions, but at the core a preservation of your own self. Because if we respond with the same sense of annihilation, even if the reactionary mirror image, we’ve only succeeded in perpetuating the very same Machine in a new form.
Dude... this was such an amazing piece. I need to mull it over a bit more.
And as for your commenters referencing Ellul, this is why I love your Substack.
Thank you for unlocking this, Myles. What you’ve written is great and there’s nothing I disagree with per se, but when you say, “ For the Christian, this place technology cannot go is the soul,” I clench a little. You say immediately after this that the soul can be influenced/affected, but I wonder if this reckons sufficiently with subjectivity, that the soul is subject to forces beyond itself such that capture is indeed possible. I think the fear that drives Kingsnorth and others like him is based in how pervasive that influence can be such that persons seem entirely remade, too to bottom, out of the stock of ideology. I agree, however, that totalization is incorrect and that even in such instances of ideological capture that capture is not total, but decisive, at least for this particular time.