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Rape of the Mind - Chapter 12 - Technology Invades our Minds THE RAPE OF THE MIND: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, by Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D., Instructor in Psychiatry, Columbia University Lecturer in Social Psychology, New School for Social Research, Former Chief, Psychological Department, Netherlands Forces, published in 1956, World Publishing Company. (Out of Print)


Technology Invades Our Minds

It is rather difficult to describe the onslaught on our minds made by the intrusion of technical thinking. This is so because technology has such contrasting influences. The influence can be a blessing, making us more independent of threatening forces of nature; but at the same time the tool and the machine can dominate us. This inner antinomy of technization we must master-will we not otherwise be dragged down into the maelstrom of ever-increasing technical development to final atomic catastrophe! The peculiar paradox of technology lies in this: gradually the well-being of the machine (autocar, factory) assumes greater importance and value than the well-being of man and mankind.

The growth of technology, of the manifold mechanical instruments in the services of our fantasies, has thrown mankind back to an infantile dream of unlimited power. There he sits, the little man, in his room with various gadgets around him. Just pushing a button changes the world for him. What might! And what still further power he envisions! Yet what mental danger.

The growth of technology may confuse man's struggle for mental maturity. The practical application of science and tools originally were meant to give man more security against outside physical forces. It safeguarded his inner world; it freed time and energy for meditation, concentration, play, and creative thinking. Gradually the very tools man made took possession of him and pushed him back into serfdom instead of toward liberation. Man became drunk with technical skill; he became a technology addict. Technology calls forth from people, unknown to themselves, an infantile, servile attitude. We have nearly all become slaves of our cars. Technical security paradoxically may increase cowardice. There is almost no challenge any more to face the forces of nature outside us and the forces of instinct within us. Because the very technical world has become for us that magical challenge which nature originally afforded.

It is the very subservience to technology that constitutes an attack on thinking. The child that is confronted from early youth with all modern devices and gadgets of technology-the radio, the motor, the television set, the film-is unwittingly conditioned to millions of associations, sounds, pictures, movements, in which he takes no part. He has no need to think about them. They are too directly connected with his senses. Modern technology teaches man to take for granted the world he is looking at; he takes no time to retreat and reflect. Technology lures him on, dropping him into its wheels and movements. No rest, no meditation, no reflection, no conversation-the senses are continually overloaded with stimuli. The child doesn't learn to question his world any more; the screen offers him answers-ready-made. Even his books offer him no human encounter-nobody reads to him; the screen people tell him their story in their way. Technical knowledge forced upon him in this way makes no demand that he think about what he sees and hears. Conversation is becoming a lost art. The machine age rushes on, leaving no time for quiet reading and encounter with the creative arts. We do see a countercurrent, however, in the do-it-yourself movement. Here we probably see a resurgence of the creative spirit and a challenge to the engineer who creates the robot.

In an overtechnical world, body and mind no longer exist. Life becomes only a part of a greater technical and chemical thought process. Mathematical equations intrude into human relations. We learn, for example, through the doctrine of guilt by association, the simple equation that the enemies of our enemies have to be our friends and that the friends of our enemies have to be our enemies-as if only simple addition of positive and negative signs exist by which to evaluate human beings.

The Creeping Coercion by Technology

Radio and television catch the mind directly, leaving children no time for calm, dialectic conversation with their books. The view from the screen doesn't allow for the freedom-arousing mutuality of communication and discussion. Conversation is the lost art. These inventions steal time and steal self-awareness. What technology gives with one hand-easiness and physical security-it takes away with the other. It has taken away affectionate relationships between men. The depersonalized Christmas card with its printed signature, the form letter, the very typewriter are examples of mechanical proxies. Technical intrusion usurps human relationships, as if people no longer had to give one another attention and love any more. The bottle replaces Mother's breast, the nickel in the automat replaces Mother's preparation of sandwiches. The impersonal machine replaces human gesture and mutuality. Children educated in this way prefer to be alone, with fantasies to escape into and gadgets to play with. Mechanization pushes them into mental withdrawal.

Technology suggests and creates the feeling of man's omnipotence on the one hand, but on the other, the smallness of man, his weakness and inferiority compared with the might of machinery. The power of man's creative mind is disguised behind dreams of social machines and world mechanics. Mechanics in political maneuverings are overestimated and go beyond reason. We use intelligence and counterintelligence, trickery and political machines, forgetting the "emotional reasons" which underlie human brilliance and stupidity. There exists a relationship between naive belief in technology only and a naive belief in human intelligence, logic, and innocence that was part of the optimistic liberalist feeling prevalent in the nineteenth century. We see in both beliefs the denial of the irrational depths of the mind.

What is the ultimate result of technical progress? Does it drive people more and more to the fear and despair brought on by a loveempty push-button world? Does it create a megalomaniac happiness won by remote control of other people? Does it deliver people to the unsatisfying emptiness of leisure hours filled with boredom? Is the ultimate result living by proxy, experiencing the world only

from the movie or television screen, instead of living and laboring and creating one's own?

In cases of television addiction, I observed the following points:

1. The television fascination is a real addiction; that is to say, television can become habit-forming, the influence of which cannot be stopped without active therapeutic interference.

2. It arouses precociously sexual and emotional turmoil, seducing children to peep again and again, though at the same time they are confused about what they see.

3. It continuously provides satisfaction for aggressive fantasies (western scenes, crime scenes) with subsequent guilt feelingssince the child unconsciously tends to identify with the criminal, despite all the heroic avengers.

4. It is a stealer of time.

5. Preoccupation with television prevents active inner creativitychildren and adults merely sit and watch the pseudo-world of the screen instead of confronting their own difficulties. If there is a conflict with parents who have no time for their youngsters, the children surrender all the more willingly to the screen. The screen talks to them, plays with them, takes them into a world of magic fantasies. For them, television takes the place of a grownup and is forever patient. This the child translates into love.

As in all mass media, we have to be aware of the hypnotizing, seductive action of any all-penetrating form of communication. People become fascinated even when they do not want to look on. We must keep in mind that every step in personal growth needs isolation, needs inner conversation and deliberation and a reviewing with the self. Television hampers this process and prepares the mind more easily for collectivization and cliche thinking. It persuades onlookers to think in terms of mass values. It intrudes into family life and cuts off the more subtle interfamilial communication

The world of tomorrow will witness a tremendous battle between technology and psychology. It will be a fight of technology versus nature, of systematic conditioning versus creative spontaneity. The veneration of the machine implies the turning of mechanical knowledge into power, into push-button power. Mechanical instruments of destruction such as the H-bomb have translated the primitive human urge for destruction into large-scale scientific killing. Now, this destructive potential may become an easy tool for any potentate crazy for power. Driven by technology, our own world has become more interdependent, and through our dependence on technical knowledge and devices, we ourselves are in danger of delivering our people to the more brutal totalitarians. This is the actual dilemma of our civilization. The machine that became a tool of human organization and made possible the conquest of nature, has acquired a dictatorial position. It has forced people into automatic responses, into rigid patterns and destructive habits.

The machine has aroused an ever-increasing yearning for speed, for frenzied accomplishments. There exists a psychological relationship between speedomania (frenzied swiftness) and ruthlessness. Behind the wheel in a fast car, a driver becomes drunk with power. Here again we see the denial of the concept of natural, steady growth. Ideas and methods need time to mature. The machine forces results prematurely: evolution is turned into revolution of wheels. The machine is the denial that progress has to grow within us before it can be realized outside ourselves. Mechanization takes away the belief in mental struggle, the belief that problemsolving needs time and repeated attempts. Without such beliefs, the platitude will take over, the digest and the hasty memorandum. A mechanized world believes only in condensation of problems and not in a continuous dialectic struggle between man and the questions he construes.

One of the fallacies of modern technique is its direction toward greater efficiency. With less energy, more has to be produced. This principle may be right for the machine, but is not true for the human organism. In order to become strong and to remain strong, man has to learn to overcome resistances, to face challenges, and to test himself again and again. Luxury causes mental and physical atrophy.

The devaluation of the individual human brain, replacing it by mechanical computers, also suggests the totalitarian system for which its citizens are compelled to become more and more the servile tools. The inhuman "system" becomes the aim, a system that is the product of technocracy and dehumanization and which

may result in organized brutality and the crushing of any personal morality. In a mechanical society a set of values are forcibly imprinted on the unconscious mind, the way Pavlov conditioned his dogs. Our brains then no longer need to serve us or develop the thinking process; machines will do this for us. In technocracy, emphasis is on behavior free of emotions and creativity. We speak of "electric brains," forgetting that actually creative minds are behind these brains and their frailties. For some engineers, minds have become no more than electric lamps in a totalitarian laboratory. Between man and his fellow man there has been interposed a tremendous, cold, paper force, a nameless bureaucracy of rules and tools. Mechanization has brought into being the mysterious "pimp" in human relations, the man in between, the mechanical bureaucrat, who is powerful but impersonal. He has become a new source of magic fear.

In a technocratic world every moral problem gets repressed and is displaced by a technical or statistical evaluation. The problems of sound and speedy mathematics serve to overthrow ethics. If, for instance, one investigates the inner life of the guards of the concentration camps and their inner troubles and tribulations, one understands why those jailers gave so much thought to the technical problem of how to get the murdered corpses of their victims out of the gas chambers as soon as possible. The words "clean" and "practical" and "pure" acquired for them a different dimension than our usual one. They thought in chemical and statistical terms -and stuck to them-in order not to be aware of their deeper moral guilt.

The mind regarded as a computing machine is the result of compulsive rationalization and generalization of the world. This has been so since the time of early Greek thinkers. This concept implies denial or minimization of emotional life and of the value of marginal experiences. In such a philosophy, spontaneity is never understood-nor creativity and historical coincidence, nor the miracles of human communication as revealed by telepathy. Technology based on this concept is cold and without moral standards of living, without faith and "feeling at home" in our own world. It continually stimulates new dissatisfaction and the production of new luxury without knowing why. It stimulates greediness and laziness without emphasizing restraint and the art of living. Indeed, technology as a goal instead of a means gives us the fiction of simple equality instead of the continual pursuit of freedom, diversity, and human dignity. Technology disregards the fact that our scientific view of the world is only a gradual correction of our mythical and prescientific view. Technology, once a product of courageous fantasy and vision, threatens to kill that same vision, without which no human progress is possible. The idol, technology, must become a tool again and not the omnipotent magician per se, who drags us into the abyss.

The industrial development in our Western culture created a new problem, that of making man more distant from the rhythm of nature. First industrial man was tied to factory and engine, and then technological progress increased leisure time, bringing a new question: leisure for what?

The increased growth of time, and time space, and of the sizes of towns, and the reduction of distance through the increased means of transport affected deeply the roots of our feelings of belonging and security. The family-the atom of society-often became disrupted, and sometimes even deteriorated. The raving frenzy of the family car on Sunday replaced the quiet being together of family groups in mutual exchanges of affection and wisdom.

Only when man learns to be mentally independent of technology -that means when he learns to do without-will he also learn not to be overwhelmed and swept away by it. People have to become lonely Robinson Crusoes first, before they can really use and appreciate the advantages of technology.

Our education has to learn to present simple, natural challenges and needs to the child in order to immunize him against the paralyzing and lazy-making tendencies of our technicized epoch. The Paradox of Technology

Paradoxically enough, technical security may increase cowardice. The technical world we ourselves have created has replaced the very real challenge which nature originally afforded man's imagination, and man is no longer compelled to face the forces of nature outside himself and the forces of instinct within him. Our luxurious habits and complicated civilization have a tendency to appeal more to our mental passivity than to our spiritual alertness. Mentally passive people, without basic morals and philosophy, are easily lured into political adventures which are in conflict with the ethics of a free, democratic society.

The assembly line alienates man from his work, from the product of his own labor. No longer does man produce the things man needs; the machine produces for him. Engineers and scientists tell us that in the near future automation-running factories without human help-will become a reality, and human labor and the human being himself will become almost completely superfluous. How can man have self-esteem when he becomes the most expendable part of his world? The ethical and moral values which are the foundation of the democratic society are based on the view that human life and human welfare are the earth's greatest good. But in a society in which the machine takes over completely, all our traditional values can be destroyed. In venerating the machine, we denigrate ourselves; we begin to believe that might makes right, that the human being has no intrinsic worth, and that life itself is only a part of a greater technical and chemical thought process.

Man's progressive retreat toward a mechanized, push-button world is best illustrated by his love for automobiles and other machines. The moment he can retreat to his car seat and direct the world by remote control, he dreams an old, long-forgotten childhood dream of tremendous omnipotence. Man's servility to his automobile and other machines takes something away from his individuality. We are hypnotized by the idea of remote control. The wheels and the push-buttons give us a false sense of freedom. Yet, at the same time, the creative part of man resists the machine's cold, mechanical intrusion into his inner freedom.

As I drive, every time I pass something beautiful along the road, be it an exhilarating view, a museum, a river, a tall tree, at that very moment a kind of tense conflict is aroused in me. Shall I stop the car and drink in the beauty around me or shall I give in to my machine and keep racing along?

For the psychologist and biologist such behavior raises important questions. How will it end? Will man's tendency to become more and more an immobile technological embryo finally get the better of

him and his civilization? The Dutch anatomist Bolk-one of my teachers-long ago described the regressive retardation in growth characteristic of human beings as compared to the rapid development of the higher primates. As a result of the fetalization and anatomical retardation of man, he acquired his erect posture, the use of his grasping and verifying hands, the possibility of speech. This long youth made it possible for him to learn, and to build up his own thought world.

Since the Renaissance and the advent of modern science, the scientist himself has been forced to retreat more and more to his technological womb-his laboratory, his study, his armchair. He has done this for the sake of greater intellectual concentration, but as a result he gradually became more isolated from living people-unobtrusively. Only in the last decades has the scientist begun to come in contact with social problems more and more, partly forced to do so by the growth of social science.

From his magic corner, the scientist has learned how to control the world with his inventions and mental dictates. Increasingly the population has been seduced by the idea of remote control. The arsenal of buttons and gadgets leads us into the magic dream world of omnipotent power. Our technical civilization gives us greater ease, but it is challenge and uneasiness that make for character and strength.

The repeated outlet in work, through which we not only sublimate our aggressions but also refine and recondition our instinctual aims, is grossly endangered by technical automatization. There exists an intimate relation between the rhythm of work and the rhythm of creation. In a world of mere leisure and no work discipline, our unleashed instincts would gain again. It is the alternating rhythm of work and leisure time that refines our enjoyment of leisure.

A conference in New Haven sponsored by the Society for Applied Anthropology on the effects of automation on the workers* was told that the chief complaint of the workers was that increasing mental tension supplanted muscular fatigue. The strain of watching and controlling machines makes man jumpy, he develops gradually the feeling that the machine controls him instead of he * The New York Times, December 29, 1955.

the machine. Several of my patients looked at machines as something alive, dangerously alive because machines had no love or other feelings for the man who used them.

The dangerous paradox in the boost of living standards is that in promoting ease, it promotes idleness, and laziness. If the mind is not prepared to fill leisure time with new challenges and new endeavors, new initiative and new activities, the mind falls asleep and becomes an automaton. The god Automation devours its own children. It can make highly specialized primitives out of us.

Just as we are gradually replacing human labor by machines, so we are gradually replacing the human brain by mechanical computers, and thus increasing man's sense of unworthiness. We begin to picture the mind itself as a computing machine, as a set of electrochemical impulses and actions. The brain is an organ of the body; its structure and its actions can be studied and examined. But the mind is a very different thing. It is not merely the sum of the physiological processes in the brain; it is the unique, creative aspect of the human personality.

Unless we watch ourselves, unless we become more aware of the serious problems our technology has brought us, our entire society could turn into a kind of superautomatized state. Any breakdown of moral awareness and of the individual's sense of his own worth makes all of us more vulnerable to mental coercion. Nazi Germany gave us the frightful example of the complete breakdown of all moral evaluations. In the S. S. society, racial persecution and murder became a kind of moral rule.

All this may sound extreme. But the fact remains that any influence-overt or concealed, well- or ill-intentioned-which reduces our alertness, our capacity to face reality, our desire to live as active, acting individuals, to assume responsibility and to face up to danger, takes from us some part of our essential human-ness, the quality in us which strives toward freedom and democratic maturity. The enforced mental intervention practiced by the totalitarians is deliberate and politically inspired, but mental intervention is a serious danger even when its purpose is nonpolitical. Any influence which tends to rob man of his free mind can reduce him to robotism.

Any influence which destroys the individual can destroy the whole society.

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