Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Master Builder 2

One of our young readers writes to ask: "do you really think that as we master building we can't help but build masters? Are you scared of your computer and the robotic vacuum cleaner? And what DO you think is our central obligation to life?"

Actually, I didn't mean mastering building / building masters in a Sorcerer's-apprentice-runaway-technology sort of way, which I think is basically over-simplified sci fi paranoia. What I meant was that the vast extension of our reach through various achievements---technological and otherwise---leaves us, as a race, more dependent on the co-ordination provided by leaders than ever. And, in the vast abyss of ignorance which is the collective sum of the awareness of the masses, this all too often leads to various sorts of appalling idol worship or to an arrogant but ignorant insistence that one needs no master but oneself. But this latter sentiment is always an illusion, because what is the self, torn free of all of its influences and context? One is always led my somebody or some idea; what’s imperative is to choose well. As Bob Dylan says, "you gotta serve somebody."

As for central obligations, I think Ibsen’s right that they have to do with honouring the sort of person one believes it is best to be, but with the caveat that this must embrace the fullest manageable respect for the full continuum of life. In short, as much as Nietzsche may have been right to mock the tyranny of insipid mediocrity inherent in the emphasis on meek conformity to bourgeois morality, one's choice instead to assert oneself ought to be made with cognisance of and respect for all the many others whom one may effect. As we can see, to merely assert one's strength in pursuit of one's own satisfaction results, for instance, in leaving succeeding generations at the brink of ecological collapse.

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