Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tyrannies Young as the Morning

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebels attack a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true freethinker is he whose intellect is as free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.

--G.K Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World

As I read this quote, I was thinking about the hype about each new technology as it arises--it reminded me of the "tyrannies fresh as the morning" about which Chesterton speaks so eloquently. Then again, since every new technology for the last couple hundred years has the same kind of hype attached to it, it's ironically also pretty antiquated.

The same goes, ironically, for the outright rejection of new technology and the complaints that society is going downhill because of it--those are always new, yet also, as a genre, old as the hills (and as the metaphor "old as the hills").

Technologies are by no means perfect and the panacea for all ills, as the futurist hypers tend to claim. Nor are they the root of all evils as the dystopian futurists claim. As Chesterton suggests, it makes sense that we thoughtfully disengage from both of these potential "will bes" to consider what ought to be.

Not that it would be easy to find our way in the middle ground between these two viewpoints. I suspect it would be particularly hard to restrain ourselves from the utopian side, what with all the keeping up with the latest gadget or trend that's going on in our society. But it's worth the trying.

On that note, I think I'm going to listen to some music on my perfectly-good four-year-old iPod and read a book.

No comments: