My house is a shithole. A Haitian might find it lavish, but for a racist, middle class white, it’s abject. If I had the linguistic habits of a modern liberal, I’d call my house vibrant and developing. I would talk about the hopes and dreams of my hardworking house, about how it had been the victim of prejudice and hatred and only wanted to become a mansion.
I’ve been homeless for two weeks, staying with my parents, my boss, my girlfriend and the patriotic indian immigrants running a local Super 8 hotel. Yesterday my landlord finally fixed the furnace. When I got there last night the house was warm and smelled like fuel. The place was a dump, the sink was full of dirty dishes and the fridge was stuffed with rotting meat and produce, but I was happy to be back in my own bed.
4 hours later, a familiar high-pitched whine needled my ear drums. It was the same tormenting sound the furnace made before it broke. Like nails on sheet metal, piercing and inescapable. I lay in bed for another hour, pretending I couldn’t hear the demonic whir, trying to fall back asleep. It was impossible. As I’ve done so many time already, I got up and went to work early.
The dream of self-improvement is dead. I’ve given up on being healthy, on getting sleep, eating right and working out. I don’t care about my testosterone, the menstrual blood in my tap water or the manhood dissolving chemicals seeping into my scrotum. My diet is 50 percent cured organ meat, 25 percent buttery crust and 25 percent melted cheese. I will have gout, cancer and heart disease all at once. Grease and oil flow through my arteries, my skin is sallow like old wax paper, my hair is falling out and what remains is turning grey. When I look in the mirror, I can see my soul shrinking in the pit of my eyes.
I’m becoming a blob, restless but inactive. I have no use for a rippling physique. My body, like most bodies these days, has no practical purpose other than conveying my fingertips and eyeballs between various terminals and interfaces. Hands evolved for grasping have lost their grip; fingers exist to push buttons and glide across the surface of touchscreens.
My mind slumps towards Ted Kaczynski and his thoughts on surrogate activities and how industrial society deprives us of genuine fulfilment and then offers limitless opportunities for distraction. Technological organization and economic efficiency increase our comfort but undermine our confidence and shatter our communities. We pursue trivial goals in a fruitless effort to recapture a natural sense of power. These projects leave us frustrated because they don’t address our underlying dependence on an opaque system of control.
Back in prehistoric 1995, before smartphones and high speed internet, Kaczynski noticed that technological progress is also deterministic. What begins as a novelty becomes a necessity. The device that used to launch you forward now merely prevents you from falling behind. Within my blip of a lifetime, the phone went from being attached to a wall to fused to your forehead. Try to get by with a landline now.
Before digital mobs and doxing, Kaczynski was thinking about how an overpopulated, technologically determined surveillance society would necessarily constrict opinion and action. The system produces a type of person who is both hyper-conformist and uninhibited, permissive and intolerant, childishly naïve and wearily cynical, obsessed with consensus and desperate for distinction.
But Kaczynski was a white man in a hut in Montana who sent bombs through the mail. He was also a math professor who spent most of his life manipulating symbols in his head, another practice he came to see as unnatural. He’s a footnote now, a reminder that the real danger isn’t an automated social system that crushes the human spirit and devastates the environment, but rather angry white men who can’t stomach the rise of empowered minorities.
Second night in my own Unabomber style shack. The furnace stopped working again. If I’m going to be trapped on a treadmill chasing vain pleasures and meaningless achievements that won’t make me happy, then I should be able to enjoy some good old fashioned, centralized, industrial strength heat in the dead of winter. I might as well go join all the future micro surgeons in Haiti, where the high today is 88 degrees.