NEW SCARE CITY

It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Overgrowth

We are pleased, today, to share with readers our transcription of a talk Ivan Illich gave in 1971 or 1972, evidently in New York. It is an apparently off-the-cuff ramble through his thinking at that moment, with Deschooling Society having been published and read widely and the ideas that would soon appear in Tools for Conviviality still being formulated.

A friend provided us with a recording of this talk with the title "Overgrowth," and that, indeed, is its main theme -- the "cancerous" overgrowth of institutions and "our toolkit," as Illich calls it. He analyzes this unbalance along six dimensions: pollution, monopoly, addiction, polarization, lawlessness, and dysfunctionality.

He starts off, though, by discussing schooling, and he pushes his argument well beyond what he had laid out in Deschooling Society. Many people discussing that book, at least as seen on the Web these days, fail to recognize that Illich's analysis of education continued to deepen well after the book's publication in 1970. It wasn't long before he'd come to realize, with help from discussing things with Wolfgang Sachs and other students, that as compulsory school was losing its legitimacy, the educational establishment, or industry, was scrambling to find other ways of plying its services -- of keeping itself in business, essentially. As he states here, his fear was that "more subtle ways of education can be financed and become acceptable. For instance, teachers can escape the classroom and bother us like mosquitos all during our lifetimes, just as doctors now can tell us all day long what we have to do." By 1976, Illich had co-authored a book titled Imprisoned in the Global Classroom.

As we see it, one misunderstanding of Deschooling Society is particularly widespread. Many people dwell heavily, and even to the exclusion of other ideas in the book, on Illich's description of "learning webs" that would help learners and teachers to identify and meet with each other -- perhaps over coffee somewhere, or even in a formal classroom setting. It's an attractive proposal, an easily-grasped alternative to traditional schooling. The obvious extrapolation, made by many people writing on the Web, is to move not only the arrangement of such teaching sessions but the sessions themselves to the Internet. And even more attractive to those enamored of using technology to re-vivify education is to have computers do as much of the instruction as possible. Sure enough, right now, online education is turning into a big business, with many corporations, including established textbook publishers and myriad venture-capital backed startup companies, along with many universities, rushing to cash in.

But here, Illich makes it quite clear that he was not seeking simply to reform education, to fix it by finding new, more efficient and effective methods of instruction. No, he had a quite radical idea in mind: "My concern was, how can we de-school … society," we hear him saying in 1971-72. "That is, destroy within society the need for education."

Clearly, such destruction would call for a thorough reordering of society, notably along the lines he sketched out in Tools for Conviviality. In fact, we've long recommended that anyone wishing to fully understand Illich's analysis of education ought to read the Tools book, in addition to Deschooling Society itself. It's clear, no?, that society as it exists today, with its heavy and increasing dependence on technology would be quite unable to reproduce itself without massive investments in education. And this is especially true as information technology remakes seemingly every kind of tool and institution, the availability of its fundamental elements, computer power and communications bandwidth, steadily growing by leaps and bounds, with no end in sight.

In this talk, Illich describes what he called over-programming and "drugging." And his analysis, albeit brief, strikes us as particularly relevant to the situation we see today. Politicians, educational theorists, businesspeople like Bill Gates, and the general public are all clamoring to make schooling more effective, mainly to help the nation "be more competitive in the global economy." Students need especially to do much better in math and science, many of these people argue, so as to foster more engineering talent. The remedies these people propose range from myriad computer-based schemes to standardized testing of both children and teachers to keeping children in school for more hours of the day and for more days of the year than is already the case.

The assumption underlying all this is that the nation and economy's future -- and now, according to some pundits, even the planet's future -- increasingly depends on the invention and mastery of new, ever-higher intensity technologies. "There's an app for that," people often say in jest, referring to the hundreds of thousands of software products, many of them downright silly, now available for smartphones. But that phrase might just as easily describe the generally held belief that information technology stands ready to solve all sorts of large-scale problems, too, from skyrocketing medical expenses to highway traffic jams to a failing educational system. In short, there's increasing acceptance of a world that is increasingly "technologized," with seemingly every thing, including the human body, wired with sensors that will feed data to computers "in the cloud" so that not only business processes, starting with marketing and advertising, but an increasing portion of everyday life may be "optimized." (A particularly good book about all this has recently been published, To Save Everything, Click Here, by Eugene Morozov. Among the many thinkers he cites is Illich, but that's not what makes the book so compelling.)

Remarkably, Illich saw the perils of this kind of thinking, that any attempt to remodel people to fit into such a technology-driven world is doomed. "We know," he says in the "Overgrowth" talk, "that the cost of programming men for a complex environment grows much faster than the cost of producing such an environment or than the productivity -- in terms of GNP, of classical economics -- of the nation. That is, wherever you want to educate people for a modern world, the cost of education rises faster than either the cost of making the world which requires such education or the speed at which the whole economy grows thanks to an input of education.

"I therefore believe that simply from an economic point of view, under present circumstances, the programming of men for increasingly larger sized, more complex, more specialized tools, becomes impossible." (If we can say anything about today's tools is that they are incredibly specialized.)

And this realization, he notes, gives rise to the fear of a "forcible de-schooling of the education system in favor of much more efficient ways of programming." What's more, there's "the evidence … that people from whom one demands higher and higher consumption of programs, input of programs in order to make them able to live in their environment, very soon become violent, take recourse to drugs, or try to program and manipulate themselves internally through different forms of machinery -- drugs, again."

Illich, here, addresses another assumption that's widely held today, namely that the change society and everyday life are constantly experiencing are inevitable and necessary. Anyone who has been in the job market lately knows only too well the frequently-heard suggestion that you "reinvent yourself" and invest in retraining and "lifelong education," just to keep up with the changes, most of the driven by information technology, going on in the workplace. Yesterday's skills start losing their value almost as quickly as they are acquired.

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and esteemed Internet booster ad re-gurgitator of mainstream thinking), gushes over it all: "More things seem to be changing in my world than ever before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, let alone know how to adapt. … What’s exciting is that this platform [the Web, smartphones, social media, and so forth] empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all on-line. But this huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all these things comes with one big difference: more now rests on you."

Illich, on the other hand, saw the perils of such a world:

By definition, once you have an economy in which you depend on things made by others, there will be, in a modern, industrial world, new tools available, new things available. When that rate of change begins to grow, you develop a class society in which all people are graded according to the age of the bill of goods which they consume -- first in decades, measured in decades, then measured in years, and finally measured in months within a year. [emphasis added]

Evidently, any attempt at the creation of an egalitarian society becomes impossible when we have both a world market and a constant output of new products which are defined by everybody as desirable.



Accelerating change even affects the law, Illich says:

… [One] are in which the breakdown … the growth or the size or rate of change in tools can destroy society refers to law. Law under which we live, the way we conceive a lawful society, is a society in which law is developed by retrospective judgement of men who are considered prudent men on what are circumstances which usually occur and how prudent men act in circumstances which usually occur.

When the rate of change increases beyond a certain point, inevitably you cannot judge anymore about circumstances which usually occur. Or, you have to render vulgar these circumstances. They are increasingly less significant circumstances.



[…]

the making of law or judgement on precedent at a certain point becomes impossible. While increasingly men have to be judged on the basis of the education which they have received, education here meaning programming for their fitness to work within a plan which planners or engineers develop.

It is inevitable that with a high rate of change we pass from a lawful society into an educational society, where the educator makes us fit for what will happen tomorrow rather than the judge evaluating how we behaved as prudent men in relation to circumstances which are customary.

These are ideas that are not only intriguing but ones we've not encountered elsewhere in Illich's writings -- though we're glad to hear from anyone who knows different. And that, specifically, is why we've made the effort to publish this talk for others who are interested in this man and his thoughts and challenges.

Here, then, is our transcription. We've tried our best in adding punctuation and identifying the people Illich mentions; some still elude us and we'd be grateful to hear from readers who might know more:

OVERGROWTH, a talk by Ivan Illich

Schools are losing their legitimacy. Economically, they are infeasible. Politically, it is evident that competition in climbing up an endless ladder does not increase, in any way, equality. And, it turns out that school is one more of those overgrown modern institutions … after a certain point, people become more stupid, both those who go to school and those who are outside of school.
I mean, there are very simple examples anywhere in the world where educational expenditures per-capita on the grammar school level have risen beyond $350, that very year, more or less, it was discovered that 20 percent of high school students didn’t know how to read.

A couple of years ago in France, I was told this can happen in the United States but not in France -- and this year, they had it.

Also, with the increase of high school graduates everywhere in the world the per-capita number of books read by high school graduates goes down very fast. In the United States, you have reached the lowest levels anywhere in the world, but also with this transformation of learning into education -- or studies, as this morning, Mr. [Ronald] Gross said, I should say, into education -- but [also] of health into consumption of medical services, not only terminal torture increases immensely but also in the lower half of the population in the United States, in the lower 20 percent, all indicators used internationally to define satisfactory health care shoot up, so that in the lower 20 percent of the U.S. population you now have now reached not Latin American but Asiatic levels of infant mortality, when you break it down according to income group.

School is losing its legitimacy. The very great danger about which we finally now get a lot of people to consent with us that it exists is, that we seek new devices for education. There is an enthusiasm, a recognition, a first early recognition that the school system as it stands doesn’t work, … uh, five, six years ago, seven years ago, and people rushed out to find other ways of schooling up their neighbors.

I’m using that word because in a black community, once, somebody said, “Yeah, school, yeah, you’re right, school is made to school us.” And I understood that school is made to school us. So, in the afternoon, I understood what they had said when they all showed up with buttons, ”School you.”

Now, people rush out …”

[Illich chuckles and there is much laughter from the audience.]

Excuse me, this is just what happened … that’s the reason why “Deschooling Society” has really a different meaning and I am really surprised that nobody caught it. But Bob Silver of the NY Review of Books crossed out that line. I usually don’t allow an editor to touch my manuscript, but when it comes to good taste I defer to Bob Silver.

[Illich chuckles again.]

Now, the real danger at this moment is that we seek new ways of educating people for an environment in which school has lost its legitimacy, therefore more effective, more efficient, more subtle ways of education can be financed and become acceptable. For instance, teachers can escape the classroom and bother us like mosquitos all during our lifetimes, just as doctors now can tell us all day long what we have to do.

The real danger is that we do not recognize -- as again, I understood, I read Dr. Pollock (sp?) -- that education itself is a very vulgar, recent invention. People didn’t know that such a thing existed, that people needed to consume the output of a programmed institution before they could be citizens of society. People did not know that everybody … in the Middle Ages, they knew that everybody was born in original sin and needed baptism to participate in the Spanish state. But only afterwards did they learn that people are born stupid until certified educated. And to be legitimate citizens, it makes no difference how you educate them, through schools or other means.

And at a meeting of the AMA, at a principal meeting of the pediatric group, the main speaker made the statement that went unchallenged in a huge room that a baby’s doctor -- a pediatrics doctor [pediatrician] -- must understand that it is his ethical responsibility to consider each newborn his patient until the day when he can certify him healthy.

And we live under the U.S. Constitution!

You’re presumed in need of treatment, some kind of locking away by which you will be improved before you can become a citizen.

Now, the real challenge at this moment, therefore, is, how can we reach consensus, speak about the necessity of unhooking ourselves from increasing demand for institutional outputs, non-tangible commodities called education. Because when I spoke about, when I accepted the ??? suggestion and called it Deschooling Society, I purposely didn’t say “de-schooling the educational system.” That’s happening anyway, about that we don’t have to talk. We just have to observe what’s happening.

My concern was, how can we de-school -- if I can find a better word, now, I would say it -- society. That is, destroy within society the need for education.
How to say this, I learned from somebody I’m very happy he’s here, David Barkin, when he brought to my attention something which I later on found reformulated by Dr. Jack Seeley. [sp?] Poverty in our type of society means, precisely, differential ability of people to command events. And in a society in which we make schools necessary, we define people as having differential access to those levers of knowledge or of action which command events who have not consumed certain levels of institutional outputs. That is, by definition, we define everybody as born poor, some people with the right, with the ability to gain more knowledge capital, to become a higher-level knowledge capitalist than others and therefore have a differential access to the levels of power.

This has something to do -- and that’s what makes it so terribly difficult to speak about it, as Erich Fromm pointed out -- with a new paradigm for anal attitudes. Capitalism, the heap at a certain moment is high enough, grows by itself and pushes you upwards and now, the heap is the output of our brain. Knowledge capital.

With this I would like to conclude my discussion about education, de-schooling or questioning the value of a society in which we will depend more and more on education, and speak about what I would consider one type of necessary action to achieve the reordering of the environment. I do believe, I mean all of us I should say general agreement [sic] that society must be reconstructed, because the present society reduces men increasingly to consumers, to consumers of goods and to consumers of non-tangible commodities which transform activities, freedoms, into result of consumption.


Once you transform study into the result of any kind of process which is prescribed, studied by somebody else, you become unable to study just as when you redefine mobility as access to transportation systems, he who can only walk doesn’t have mobility.

Restructuring

I do believe that we must find a way of speaking about the restructuring of society. I do believe that restructuring of society basically means four things.

One, analyze our tools. The tools of society -- screwdrivers, cars, electric power stations, and such huge, worldwide tools as the school system or the medical profession acting through the hospital-drug-insurance alliance, all over the world -- analyze our tools and discover that at literally any cost we must scale them down. Because present tools are so constructed that they render men either programmed producers in a very special little place, or, and at the same time, multiply-programmed for highly complex forms of consumption.
Present society is guided by the ideology of maximizing output. I do believe that the society which we want to live in is not one guided by this ideal of maximum productivity of tools but outputs in which the largest factor possible is the result of autonomous, free, independent input of human work, activity, and fantasy. This inevitably requires very much scaled-down tools of an entirely new type.

Conviviality

Now, the idea of a transition from society organized under the ideology of productivity to one of what I would call conviviality -- I know that convivial in English means tipsy get-together; in French, it was introduced into the language by the greatest of cooks who ever wrote, namely Monsieur [Jean Anthelme] Brillat-Savarin -- Savirin coffee. I don’t want to make publicity for them. In Spanish, of course, it’s convivencia. [… ??? …muy rico], it means something very rich, very full. [Here, Illich says something in Spanish that we’re unable to catch, except that it ends in the words “muy rico.”]

The transition from a society in which the toolkit is organized for the purpose of maximizing the effectiveness of tools at the cost of the effectiveness of individuals, the possibility of using fantasy, the possibility of living in an anarchic way to a society in which we are truly convivial cannot be achieved on the basis simply of stating that such a society would be more desirable.

Six dimensions

Philosophically, I could go on describing it for you. But nobody will impose on himself the sacrifices needed in order to live in a society which is philosophically described as more desirable. I do believe that one of the greatest powers we have at this moment politically is to define dimensions in which the present growth of tools, as I defined them a few minutes ago, is becoming destructive of society as a whole.

I will try to outline to you six major dimensions arbitrarily chosen as a proposal for us to think about how we should speak about this matter, six dimensions in which the growth, the size of tools has already reached levels at which they endanger the possibility of surviving as human beings.
And therefore, and in each case, ask myself, what are the society’s still-accepted principles in the name of which one could gain majority consensus, not necessarily political action, on the necessity of scaling down tools?

The six dimensions which I’ll mention are pollution, monopoly, addiction, polarization, lawlessness, and dysfunctionality. Each of these dimensions of overgrowth, of cancerous growth, in our toolkit in my opinion defines another dimension of homeostasis of human society in which it’s been broken through a cancer in the environment.

Pollution

For pollution, I don’t have to explain that what I’m seeking is public research -- I mean research in which the researcher is responsible to public inquest groups, to political groups who order and demand and for whom such research and for whom it is made because it’s pretty clear that we are threatening the world by depletion and much more even by pollution and we do not know when the moment will arrive in which some form of synergy in the biosphere might make suddenly the entire biosphere turn and go dead - as lakes or even the sea can absorb huge amounts of sewage and then suddenly reach a point which makes them irreversibly die, and very fast.

The homeostasis to which I refer by speaking about overgrowth of institutions which threaten through pollution is that between nature and culture -- culture products, if you want. There’s evidently only a limited possibility for the world to survive and that limit can be reached at a certain moment man can transform [a] rich, many-purposed, living biosphere into durable junk and suddenly that homeostasis between culture and nature -- nature as an environment -- can be broken.

Radical monopoly

The second dimension in which I would like to discuss overgrowth is what I would call radical monopoly. When one speaks about monopoly one usually thinks about Chrysler vs. Ford, or perhaps even vs. Volkswagen. When I speak about radical monopoly I do not speak simply about the dominance of one brand over another, or one, … the producer controlled by one group of people against the producer controlled by another group of people, but I am speaking about what happens when cars shape a city, when doctors make medicines unavailable.

I was very much surprised last time I was in New York. I had to come up to talk with your people and had a terrible flu and I stayed at the house of a doctor, he was working downstairs and so, I asked his wife, would you get me a prescription for anti-histamines.

“Yes, we’ll send the boy to pick them up.”

"No, give me the prescription and I go and get it myself in the pharmacy, I am leaving anyway."

I went to the pharmacist and said what is it what you gave me, now. He said, “I have no .. I cannot tell you, it would be against the law unless you bring me a written permission, permit from your doctor to tell you what’s in the medicine he has prescribed you.” And on the bottle is written, for Ivan Illich, twice a day, and then a very long number.

I am speaking here, again, about radical monopoly. We speak about radical monopoly when school does not simply have a monopoly over programming people, as I would have spoken about the monopoly of school two years ago, when I didn’t see this clearly as yet, but when school has a monopoly over all tools which people need in order to learn, when libraries are practically inaccessible.

I speak about radical monopoly when one type of staple, such as cars, or even better, speedy transportation, which is even more radical than cars, renders walking impossible or irrelevant, or makes men who can only walk powerless -- or when a profession limits men’s ability to care for each other in some way.

Over-programming

The third dimension of overgrowth which I think I can identify is that which I would call drugging, over-programming, but now listening to Dr. Pollock (?) I would even call it better destruction or institutionalization of fantasy.

All over the world, we know that the cost of programming men for a complex environment grows much faster than the cost of producing such an environment or than the productivity -- in terms of GNP, of classical economics -- of the nation. That is, wherever you want to educate people for a modern world, the cost of education rises faster than either the cost of making the world which requires such education or the speed at which the whole economy grows thanks to an input of education.

I therefore believe that simply from an economic point of view, under present circumstances, the programming of men for increasingly larger sized, more complex, more specialized tools, becomes impossible.

I am very much afraid of the insight which this raises, namely the forcible de-schooling of the education system in favor of much more efficient ways of programming. The danger of being thrown together with Mr. Nixon, when either you or I claim that educators will have to find out that schools are no way of educating, is very great because you can say this either in the name of a desire to produce human programming a la Skinner -- who’s most vulgar of present-day idols, I think; forgive me this outbreak but I mean there are things about which one has … pompous men and stupid sycophants about whom one can only speak in guts terms rather than honoring them with intellectual analysis -- who would say there are better ways to organize the programming of men for the ability of living in a complex environment. You can take our criticism of the breakdown of the legitimacy in the school system as a breakdown in faith in original stupidity of man.

(I am speaking here to the theologians who know how the breakdown of ... how the controversies about original sin evolved during the 14th, 15th, and 16th century.)

But when I speak about over-programming, I do not speak only about the evidence which comes to us from economics but also from the evidence which we receive increasingly that people from whom one demands higher and higher consumption of programs, input of programs in order to make them able to live in their environment, very soon become violent, take recourse to drugs, or try to program and manipulate themselves internally through different forms of machinery -- drugs, again.

I spoke about the breaking of the homeostasis between physical culture and living nature. I spoke about the breakdown of a balanced relationship between tools which increase men’s ability to move and the natural ability of man to move himself, which can reach a point at which natural ability to move de facto is decreased in favor of making man subservient to consuming transportation.
The third balance of which I spoke is the balance between an environment in which men have incorporated their knowledge about the universe and about themselves to a point where it requires more and more information being available about that environment and the break of that homeostatic relationship between man’s institutional programming and his planned environment reaching the point where you reach such extraordinary low levels of universal education as we have reached, now, in New York.

If I do define a desirable level of knowledge by men about their environment one in which most people most of the time have access to most of the facts and tools by which they are controlled or dominated, certainly neolithic societies had a much higher level of universal education than modern Mexico, but a level of total ignorance about most of the things about which you daily get in contact with which you have reached in New York, such a level of disorientation has never been conceived of in the world

.

I am speaking about my fourth homeostasis, the fourth dimension in which institutions can become destructive of the whole of society, that is the rate of change at which they put new models of goods or services on the market.

By definition, once you have an economy in which you depend on things made by others, there will be, in a modern, industrial world, new tools available, new things available. When that rate of change begins to grow, you develop a class society in which all people are graded according to the age of the bill of goods which they consume -- first in decades, measured in decades, then measured in years, and finally measured in months within a year.

Evidently, any attempt at the creation of an egalitarian society becomes impossible when we have both a world market and a constant output of new products which are defined by everybody as desirable.

Law

The fifth area in which the breakdown, … the growth or the size or rate of change in tools can destroy society refers to law. Law under which we live, the way we conceive a lawful society, is a society in which law is developed by retrospective judgement of men who are considered prudent men on what are circumstances which usually occur and how prudent men act in circumstances which usually occur.

When the rate of change increases beyond a certain point, inevitably you cannot judge anymore about circumstances which usually occur. Or, you have to render vulgar these circumstances. They are increasingly less significant circumstances

.

Therefore the making of law or judgement on precedent at a certain point becomes impossible. While increasingly men have to be judged on the basis of the education which they have received, education here meaning programming for their fitness to work within a plan which planners or engineers develop.

It is inevitable that with a high rate of change we pass from a lawful society into an educational society, where the educator makes us fit for what will happen tomorrow rather than the judge evaluating how we behaved as prudent men in relation to circumstances which are customary.

Dysfunctionality

The fifth area I would call internal dis-functionality to a given system. I am working at this moment with some friends on a diachronic research, that is research comparing different times, five or ten-year period, points five or ten years distant in various societies, and it seems that our original intuition is correct. Nowhere in the world have tools for moving people been developed, private cars or public transportation systems, which go much faster than 20 miles without obligating everybody … I cannot say everybody -- the median person in society, to travel for a longer part of his lifetime, for more hours, and work harder in order to make such transportation possible.

Therefore, whenever you increase transportation ... speeds of vehicles, now some people claim there is nothing theoretical to it, I do believe there is a theoretical relationship between man’s size and man’s lifespan and the globe. And the possibility of specializing space, which is involved here, using up of space, as [?] says … transportation becomes counter-productive in terms of desirable locomotion when it becomes faster than a certain point. The same thing is true for medicine.

You have it as this moment in this country, this extraordinary situation in which people consider themselves radical when they demand new delivery systems for health care. This is just as radical as free school movements in the sense in which we had it two or three years ago. It means nothing else but demanding some public controls on the market in Western countries and in Eastern countries, or in the socialist countries, public ownership of the means of production.

Now, of course I’m for both of these but I don’t think they can be radically enough understood unless we begin to speak about public control of the products which in a given society are considered good, good enough for everybody over a long period of time and such that we will not permit their further increase before we can make sure that we can increase it for everybody who wants to use it at a given moment, at any moment in his lifetime.

Now, in front of these six forms of overgrowth, of destructive overgrowth of our institutions -- I’m sorry, I’ll go over by 5 or 10 minutes -- palliatives are usually recommended. In the case of pollution, I don’t have to speak of the palliatives, they are anti-pollution devices, which either render the products which now are polluting more costly so that they be at the service of fewer people … because if you increased less-polluting cars by a certain factor, you would get again the same pollution you have now. Or, another device which is particularly dangerous for us in Latin America, the relocation of factories which are poisonous for the environment from the United States to South America. It’s a problem we have in Mexico we have at this moment, and this you call, “cleaning up the environment.” It means, really, saying we can continue to over-eat and over-shit -- excuse me, or have diarrhea, or whatever you call it -- and there are devices with which one can put the excrement under the rug or overseas.

Evidently, we cannot discuss serious anti-pollution policies unless we are willing to consider radical reduction of physical production and consumption .. no matter how we at the same time also have to change technology.
Now, what is important to remember is what happens always … Richard Neuhaus has started -- I know him particularly well -- is very vocal in a very responsible way of putting … it looks as if anti-pollution could be used as an establishment argument to get popular support for very regressive policies.

This is true and this is not true. Of course it’s true, every one of the policies of which I am speaking is a highly ambiguous matter but … let me give you two examples. We have three or four times already, five or six years ago, groups of black people from the United States meeting in Cuernavaca to scheme something of their own and every time a very serious crisis because a group of North American blacks are, of course, profoundly shocked when they find out that in a world of Mexicans they are just so many more American negroes, gringos of a special color who live on an entirely different level, though they are in utter poverty, than any Mexican and beyond that, demand further increase of North American exploitation of Latin America in order to be able to reach consumption levels and participation levels defined by them which would meet North American standards of what is desirable or minimally necessary.

Let me give you another example to show you how difficult the question of overgrowth of our institutions in the dimension of pollution is. Chileans, on a per-capita level, today, deplete and pollute the environment in as privileged a manner as only another 25% of humanity. Therefore, when you discuss the necessity of allocation of per-capita, of national pollution and depletion allowances, over a 100-year period, calculated on a per-capita basis, Chile already would have very seriously to reduce its present levels of depletion and pollution.
Just look it up, I mean, uh, take any study available on this subject.

Inevitably, we will be led by thinking about pollution to a very serious scaling down, to a much more labor-intensive society.

Three palliatives

Second, in the field of radical monopoly, there are three palliatives are offered. Whenever I speak about Nader, I am very ambiguous because I admire and respect Ralph Nader himself but, of course, he has been radically co-opted by the North American consumer -- something about which people can say about me. So, when I talk about Naderism, I don’t want to refer to Ralph Nader. But the first palliative by which one suggests to reduce radical monopoly is consumer control. Now, safer cars, better tooled, cheaper, or longer-lasting on straighter roads will only permit more Americans to spend more time traveling from one point to another.

This has nothing to do with the protection of those who do ... who are inevitably -- and this is each one of us -- human beings made for walking.

The second way, the second palliative in the field of radical monopoly is the purely ideological claim, if only our schools or our transportation systems were publicly operated they would be less monopolizing than if, as long as they are in private hands. I have no evidence for this. I do accept the public ownership of means of production may reach a certain scale is inevitable in order to come to public control of the product, which is what I stand for. But the simple transition from private ownership to public ownership renders -- without control of the product -- renders radical monopoly much more effective.

The third answer or palliative usually given to radical monopoly is the Swedish solution, of consumer controlled consumer cooperatives. But they neither protect the non-consumer nor, usually, the most important areas of consumption which are the areas of service consumption in a world which produces will have to because of pollution to produce less and less physical goods and, if it stays stuck with classical economics, will try to increase more and more the production of non-palpable commodities, namely services -- the transformation of personal care into services.

So again, against radical monopoly, only a scaling down of the attempt at production, especially service production, is the only answer.

In the field of over-programming, I do think we have already made some very interesting steps in the United States. They might not work in our present political situation but the two court decisions which I refer to here are ... I am very proud and happy to be able to speak about them in principle … [with?] people living in an entirely different political circumstances. As an example, one is the Griggs vs. Duke Power company where Mr. Berger, chief justice, speaking for unanimous court, decides that Duke Power Co. cannot discriminate against Mr. Griggs, a black man who wants to be transferred from the coal-shoveling department to the secretarial department on the simple grounds that Mr. Griggs lacks a high school diploma, unless Duke Power Co. can show that a high school diploma, in the case of Mr. Griggs, is job-related.

Of course, this can open the way for two different approaches. One, a new professional sociologist -- those of you who seek work in that field can probably find it because [?] sociologists work to be had -- to prove in the name of companies that schooling is job-related as a new device for discrimination. Or, it can lead in the direction of getting to disestablish schools, because schools derive most of their power to keep established by the fact that one cannot gain admission to professions and exercise activities without showing one has consumed this particular curriculum.

I think here again of a girl who impressed me very much a year ago, it was in Cuernavaca, 16 or 17, and black from the midwest, who had midwest school and 3 months later was hauled into court. And I had to get involved in her case because she had given to 119 high school colleagues syphilis treatments by having learned how to make the tests somewhere in her kitchen and the case was then shoved under, … made to disappear, how do you call it? … dismissed on a technicality because the doctors whom we got to testify for her showed that nowhere in the United States has a public health district been able to make a re-examination, a second blood examination, after treatment for 100% of all patients treated. And all the patients she was accused of treating, she had also provided a follow-up exam.

I am saying this here simply to indicate that the radical monopoly is being broken and this has something to do with our reaction against over-programming.

Another way of protecting ourselves in this country against over-programming I think goes along the lines of the Serano case, the California school case. It’s a first step, in my opinion, when Jack Koons (?) introduced that case, or the Amish case which is just now -- I don’t know if it has already been decided by the Supreme Court or not because it must have happened in the last week -- but these cases do work on the assumption of North Americans that school, that the consumption of schooling is a desirable privilege but at the same time prove that it is a privilege much too costly for Americans to afford. And therefore, they do present some possibility for rhetoric and political action aimed against programming, but again, a very ambiguous one.

Fourth, I said polarization. I want to call to your attention that simple taxation or even very radical income equalization is not a way by which one can really radically approach the problem of polarization of who gets everything and most only get ideas of what they want in a society oriented towards productivity. Because, even if you equalize incomes radically, by this alone, without a scaling down, an institutional scaling down, a diminution of progress -- you only give privilege not into the hands of an individual to spend by himself the way he wants, but you connect privilege -- as we say, the executive club or the dacha -- with a man’s position in the production system. You provide him with jet flights, tape recorders, or business dinners because he’s more productive during the working hours rather than providing him with privileges at home.

Law

The fifth area is self-evident. Law cannot apply when precedents cease to be meaningful.

Counter-productivity

And the sixth area requires research on our institutions and public discussion about the point at which they become counter-productive in a way which becomes intolerable to people. Therefore, it’s a basically debunking of the idea that greater speeds mean greater transportation.

I have over-stepped my time limit which I set myself so I also over-produced.

In my opinion, we cannot begin seriously challenging the need for education -- not simply for schooling, but for programming of people for a modern world -- unless we conceive the modern world which is not simply hyper-industrial, as so many people would want it to be, with institutions on an increasingly larger scale and more productive, in order to move into a world of abundance commodities. We can speak about the decreasing need of modern man for programming by institutional processes only when we move to a post-industrial world in which we use science to create tools which are simple, self-explanatory, increase the ability of each man to care for himself and for others, small enough to be used by emergent, transient groups of people who get together to get something done.
The question of simplification, of alternate use of scientific knowledge, is deeply connected with the question of disestablishment of the ideology of education or debunking of the ideology of producing ... you mention Bloch. [Ernst] Bloch was the one who got me to attend to Amos Comenius ... ars mania [?], the great alchemic art … omnibus omnia acendi [?], to everybody everything, by making it cheaper, better, and faster. John Amos Comenius, in the service industry, was the man who started production lines theoretically much before either Taylor or Ford.

We can question the need for increased programming, no matter if it’s done by schools or other devices only, once we have accepted the fact that in many dimensions any further growth leads to Armageddon within our generation, or perhaps in new generation.

I still might die before it arrives. But probably I will not die before it arrives -- I am now 45 -- unless we begin not only a stopping process but a scaling-down process in the fields of pollution, radical monopoly, programming or hooking, polarization, lawlessness, and internal dis-economy.

This is just a setup for discussion for this afternoon.

[Applause]

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Moi

Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.