The Tortoise and the Hare

One of our esteemed and heartwarming fables which is in need of being resurrected amidst the current economic, political, and social climate is the fable known as “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Given the speed with which everything is moving in this day and age, perhaps the best thing to do would be to resurrect and internalize this classic fable and thus slow everything down from the systemic level all the way down to the individual level; that is if such a measure is even possible.

But relaxing and taking it slow is often interpreted as a sign of “laziness.” As René Guénon wrote:

“the modern West cannot tolerate that men should prefer to work less and be content to live on little; as it is only quantity that counts, and as everything that escapes the senses is held to be non-existent, it is taken for granted that anyone who is not in a state of agitation, and who does not produce much in a material way must be ‘lazy.’”

What is then lost amidst this aforementioned “state of agitation” and senseless consumption and production are the basic experiences which make us human. As Hannah Arendt wrote:

“If we compare the modern world with that of the past, the loss of human experience…is extraordinarily striking. It is not only and not even primarily contemplation which has become an entirely meaningless experience. Thought itself, when it became ‘reckoning with consequences,’ became a function of the brain, with the result that electronic instruments are found to fulfill these functions much better than we ever could.”

Arendt added:

“Action was soon and still is almost exclusively understood in terms of making and fabricating, only that making, because of its worldliness and inherent indifference to life, was now regarded as but another form of laboring, a more complicated but not a more mysterious function of the life process.”

“Historical Materialism” – in addition to “Social Darwinism” – is the predominant social theory of modern times, and the core assumption of “Historical Materialism” is that economic factors “decide almost everything that occurs in the social sphere.” In turn, and to borrow from Pankaj Mishra, the pervasiveness and ubiquity of this social theory or weltanschauung means that

“individuals with very different pasts find themselves herded by capitalism and technology into a common present, where grossly unequal distributions of wealth and power have created humiliating new hierarchies.”

Thus, the “Technological Determinism” of Karl Marx comes into play, despite the inclination of many to dismiss or disregard Marx as being invalid because of what played out in the Cold War. However, and as Martin Heidegger argued: “Technology is not the equivalent to the essence of technology.” Technology, as with almost everything else in life, is intended to be a means to an end. This requires fostering the right relationship with technology, so that technology does not become the end rather than the means. Yet, the end or purpose has been lost as a result of the means to a certain extent, and the confusion stemming from this reversal is now manifest in a number of ways. As Heidegger wrote in very lofty terms, the essence of technology is “enframing,” and “enframing” means “destining” or “ordering.” In turn, this “destining” or “ordering” of technology will “endanger man in his relationship to himself and to everything that is.” As Heidegger wrote:

“The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already afflicted man in his essence. The rule of enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth.”

And when technology denies mankind the opportunity to experience “the call of a more primal truth,” it follows that “there is danger in the highest sense.” But as Heidegger argued, with the danger comes a “saving power,” namely, art and aesthetics, and in turn, “the more questioningly we ponder the essence of technology, the more mysterious the essence of art becomes.”

Another consequence of the speed by which capital and technology is moving and in turn is stringing along everyone for the ride is the issue of organizational failure on a variety of levels. Many are familiar with the novel phenomenon known as “The Great Resignation,” whereby recently, almost 50 million people in America have quit their jobs within a short time span. One of the factors contributing to “The Great Resignation” is the burnout of individuals. However, one can legitimately argue that burnout is not something associated solely with the individual. Rather, burnout is associated largely with the organizational failure of many corporations and political institutions as a result of the basic nature of capital and “Technological Determinism.” But on a positive note, with the fostering of the “saving power” which is a direct consequence of “Technological Determinism,” it follows that future circumstances have the potential to develop in a good way.

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