The Technocratic Disease
Mihai Marinescu provides an analysis of the inner technocracy – something that would from traditional perspective be considered it’s true cause and nature – infecting even the sworn enemies of it’s outer form.
A little more than a year ago a tragic fire in a nightclub in Bucharest caused many deaths and left many wounded and traumatized lives. This very same tragedy was the primer for other changes within Romanian society, especially in the political spectrum.
To cut a long, and rather boring, story short mass protests that resulted in the days after the fire lead to the resignation of the then prime-minister of Romania along with his whole cabinet. The alleged motive behind protests was that people were fed-up with corruption (it was claimed that the nightclub had not met the safety conditions to run and so the fact that it was allowed to exist is a case of corruption).
In reality, of course, the whole emotional energy caused by the event was seized upon and directed by agitators from NGOs, segments of mass-media, and some other elements of “civil society”. Of course, all these elements did not run on their own and especially the NGO sector was of the type that received generous donations from everyone’s favorite oligarch George Sörös. The end of the whole episode was the current puppet president of our country confirming a puppet prime-minister in office, all this being a Western-run operation in securing an advanced post at the Black Sea against Russia. Unfortunately certain internal factors which I will not discuss made things all the easier for the Euro-atlantist front.
Whoever wants to research these events can find, I am sure, ample material on the internet. This is not, however, a political or geopolitical analysis. This article seeks something else. Namely: the government that was put in place here was, and still is, called “technocratic” or, as some enthusiasts like to put it, the Government of non-political experts and specialists, each confining himself to his respective field.
Globalist subversion aside, it is a reality that this “technocracy” found quite a favorable outlook within the population, especially among the young generation. To prove the point it is sufficient to mention that with the elections coming up this December, one of the major political parties (and a few of the lesser ones) have based their whole campaign on supporting the technocrats (even going so far as to organize public meetings to their support). In the age where PR is everything, one surely does not parade with something or someone unless they are sure that this would give a boost to their image.
Now: what causes people to actually believe in the technocratic “solution”?
Of course, in Romania the answer would be rather simple from a certain point of view: people are legitimately fed-up with the incompetent rule of robber-barons that have held central stage since the fall of communism in 1989. But this is not the whole story and just because the outrage is legitimate one cannot correct a wrong with another (perhaps greater) wrong, since two wrongs don’t make a right but simply add-up to the negative balance. And surely, this is not just a story in a corner of Eastern Europe, it is a omnipresent, global phenomenon.
The art of governing and education: two inversions
Especially in the alternative media one hears today quite a lot about the notion of “technocracy” which is given ample study in order to show all its serious and sinister implications, which is good, on face value. However, very few people are correctly tracing the roots and premises of technocracy and even fewer have the slightest intention to question the presence of something which could be called “inner technocracy”.
But let’s start from the beginning.
A proper history of the term, as well as tracing of its exact origins, is beyond the scope of this article.
However, it is possible to isolate some of its most basic assumptions with no great effort. As key terms, one can point out quite a bunch: empiricism, nominalism, materialism, scientism etc. We will focus at two key aspects which encompass all of the above and which underline the technocratic mentality. These two aspects are deviations and inversions of the classical or traditional view: both ancient pagan and Christian.
The first aspect is that of politics and of political system, as well as the relationship between human nature and governance.
From the classical perspective the way a state is governed and the justice – or lack thereof – of its laws are outer manifestations of the inner characters (ethos) or souls of not only those governing but of the population in general:
“There are as many types of men as there are types of constitutions. Do you believe that constitutions are born out of oak trees and stone rather than out of the characters of men- which when leaning towards one direction pull all the rest along with them?” (Plato, Republic, bk VIII, 544e)
St. John Chrysostom too sees the family and the monarchical state as being in a perfect analogy, the health of the social organism being dependent upon the health at the level of its organs and cells, while St. Paul warns Timothy that the election of a priest or bishop needs to take into account his performance in his private affairs (1 Tim. 3:4-5), because one whose own house is in disorder cannot be expected to administer a church. Aristotle also held a similar view in his Politics.
From this principle it follows that in order to have a well governed state with just laws you need to have well governed and just people.
The cultivation of the soul, the personal askesis, the acquiring of virtues – all of these are indispensable inner qualities without which the outward action cannot be anything more than disordered or outright vicious.
Indeed, it is considered a complete folly to expect that by issuing the correct laws a corrupt and degenerate state will miraculously change as long as its members continue indulging in corruption. Indeed, Plato himself likens this illusion to the one trying to kill the Hydra by cutting its heads, only to have them re-emerge from the same root which remains un-adressed. (see Republic bk IV, 426e).
Now, what follows from this premise is a corresponding conception of human nature and the role of man in relation to the political system. Namely, in the classical view, the central point of focus in this relationship was man. The political system, being an outer analogy of the inner life of the soul (as well as the workings of the cosmos) is only contingent and regarded as means to an end. The end is precisely the human person, the art of governing being responsible for providing an environment suitable and encouraging for development of virtue. This was the ideal of course, notwithstanding the inevitable deviations of fallen humanity.
While the classical view studied man and sought his perfection, drawing from within and from above the blueprint of the political state, beginning with the time of Enlightenment an inversion and inside-out conception of man and system jettisoned the traditional view.
In the mentality of the illuminists, man is fundamentally good and it is only because of corrupted systems and unjust laws that he becomes unjust and corrupted. In order to have good men we need to have good laws. The central point of focus became the system, while man was moved to the rim.
The question became: what can we do to perfect the system?
Because, they reasoned, a perfect system will inevitably lead to the perfect society and the perfect individuals. In reality, all the attention was moved to the system which became an end in itself, while the person a simple abstract entity in the impersonal system’s service.
This is best illustrated by Montesquieu who devised the so-called separation of forces in the state, which became the central banner of pride for the modern state. Its whole reason of existence was, from the start, the prevention of abuse of power.
One can notice that from the start the goal is wholly negative: there is no question to the positive acquiring of inner virtues, but of merely avoiding the vice by taking away its external means of manifestation. Secondly, as history has since then shown, this system is completely bankrupt because of the obvious reason that, whatever the arbitrary constitution (especially when it is divorced from any and all sacred and spiritual principles) and the limitations devised to avoid the abuse, when corrupt and power hungry people hold power they will find plenty of means to go around the abstract laws and even turn them into their favor.
The system of “check and balances” has been a downward curve of progressive degeneration, where each subsequent reform strives only to avoid a further step downwards, while the increasingly corrupt rulers find even more ingenious ways to ensure not one, but two steps even further.
Origin of technocracy
Not to lose ourselves in the details, it is here, this author believes, that the first pillar of the technocratic mentality has its base. Indeed, in the technocratic world-view there is not one single instance of posing the question of inner effort or inner reform. It is all about abstract legislative reforms and projects which are expected to provide the individual from the outside with what he is unwilling to fight for on the inside.
Among those who took to the streets last year in Bucharest, everybody was demanding an improved system and the extirpation of corruption, but no one ever thought for a second whether he himself, like everyone of us, was maybe part of the same corruption. No, the end of corruption can only come from the perfect system run by the most competent specialists.
And this brings us to the second point: education. Here one can say that a double deviation from classical standards took place.
First of all classical education was universal in scope. Its goal was making the student acquainted with the center, that is with the metaphysical principles that are the root of all particular manifestations.
The second point of this traditional view of education was that it (education) can never be regarded as some sort of abstraction external to the being of the one being educated, but it was supposed to be a real transforming force directly acting upon the soul. In a word: it had to be experienced. This means the theoretical side was just one aspect of it, the most important one being an actual praxis, an actualizing of the principles in the direct personal experience of the student.
This is an obvious feature which can be witnessed from the time of the pre-socratics onwards. In the Christian Church of the 3rd and 4th centuries, for instance, the time of preparation of the katehumen for Baptism lasted up to three years. The preparation received was not of an abstract theoretical character, but had mostly a practical side. The catehumen was to make himself acquainted with the embodied virtues of Christian living.
The goal of traditional education is to raise not an “expert” or a technician, or an economic agent, but a human being, harmoniously developed and in a constant relation to the Whole of existence, not just some minute part.
The modern education, on the other hand, has gradually lost all notion of universal principles as soon as the Center was denied. The two phenomena which followed were first of all a gradual abstraction of education and learning- corresponding to an abstracted perception and appreciation of the human being.
When the term “rational” was no longer understood as meaning “according to Reason” (Logos) and the faculty of reason came to be understood solely in terms of discursive thought (this being a source for many a misunderstanding when reading ancient and medieval authors) education itself came to be regarded as simply the acquiring of facts with no corresponding inner element or process.
To be educated, to have knowledge, to be wise came to be understood solely in relation to the discursive faculty and to the purposeless accumulation of exterior facts.
The second deviation is, of course, the increasingly rigid specialization which was accelerated in the later half of the nineteenth century.
This is a direct inversion of the classical ideal, because what we have here is a deliberate ignorance of any transcendent principle in favor of the small-minded expertise in the minute details of a particular field of knowledge, completely abstracted from the whole. The specialist cannot account for the underlying assumptions of his domain, he cannot offer any transcendent premise on which it is based (indeed he regards such questions meaningless), this meaning that he has lost the true measure of the domain in which he is acting.
The parallel of this latter point to the concept of technocracy is more than evident.
The reign of statistics
Having arrived at this point it is worth to say that specializing in a particular field is not at all bad in itself. Indeed, one who has reached the classical goal of education and has placed himself in relationship to the metaphysical principles can safely enter into the details of any particular domain, because by having knowledge of the Center he can have the right measure of all particular things. One can say that any particular field of knowledge or action can only have meaning when viewed in the light of metaphysics.
In the modern world, on the other hand, where the center has been jettisoned, what you get is a multiplicity of individual domains all flying around purposelessly, each claiming the right to be viewed as absolute in itself and to develop unchecked by any higher and transcendent standards.
This creates a situation where the whole of existence is seen as merely the arithmetic sum of its multiple parts and well-being or a good existence comes to be regarded as the development of each separate domain to its utmost.
In other words, when something can potentially be done, it simply has to be done.
It is precisely here that we reach the sinister side of the technocratic ideal: no moral consideration, no higher point of view can stand in the way of development of whatever chaotic, disordered and inhuman action it has in mind in any particular field- be it science, art, industry etc.
Of course from a traditional perspective all this is pure madness.
“Specialization develops only part of a man; a man partially developed is deformed and one so deformed is the last person to put in the position of ruler” (Richard Weaver Ideas have consequences, chapter 3).
In other words, the technocratic ideal puts into positions of power persons who have a fractured view on reality and who can never know the true measure of things, nor their limits, nor their legitimate sphere of action. It is an approach to reality that can only lead to abuse.
When we read Plutarh’s Parallel lives we see a historiography for which the inner formation and virtues of the historical characters are placed on an equal footing with their political or military achievements. In the world of technocracy character, formation and personal virtue are simply thrust aside. You could put the devil himself in office as long as he “is competent and gets things done”.
The achievements of technocracy are measured in the field of statistics. The illusion of statistics (as Rene Guenon calls it) holds a primary position because through it you can completely ignore any concrete situation of actually living persons and limit the whole thing to the “general well-being and progress of society”, measured by abstract polls of arbitrary indicators.
The technocrat celebrates his victory when citing a statistic that says that such and such an indicator has risen with such and such a percentage. The mental world of the technocrat is so aptly exposed in one of C.S. Lewis’ novels, when describing a mild surprise in one such character who discovered that, face-to-face, the “backward” peasant is somewhat far more agreeable than many of his “progressive” collegues:
“[…] but all this did not influence his sociological convictions, for his education has had the effect of making things he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laborers were the substance; any real ditcher, ploughman or farmer’s boy was the shadow. In his own way he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen”. (That hideous strength, ch. 4).
Perhaps this final phrase gives a valuable insight into the nature of technocracy: it is a de-contextualized and hence empty type of knowledge which gives rise to a parody version of wisdom.
In conclusion to all said above we can say that technocracy is about the following points:
1. All problems that exist can be empirically identified and each of them can be rigorously classified in a rigid system of classifications and fields of expertise.
2. Therefore to each problem there exists a technical solution to be taken according to the most advanced expertise possible within each particular field.
3. A technical solution means re-arranging the external circumstances according to an abstractly designed standardized-system.
4. There is no personal effort or inner work required to solve problems, the system once in place must function automatically and for this the personal influence of the ones within the system must be reduced to a minimum (and where possible completely obliterated)
Regarding this last point, anyone who has been subjected to corporate slang will know that “the weakest link in any system are the people involved”.
The technocratic paradise will be reached once each separate field of expertise will be driven to run at its utmost, since in this world-view unity and synthesis can only be achieved through the adding-up from the outside of inherently separate parts.
The technocratic soul
Having reached this point, it is time to take a peek on the inside and see what a technocratic soul looks like. We will proceed like this because, from the traditional point of view as mentioned above, the outside is only a sign and projection of what is inside.
We should picture a modern man raised in the dissolute climate of Modernity who has been taught to despise all traditional values as outdated mumbo-jumbo of the primitive and uncivilized past and who has been living according to the most momentarily and fleeting ego-driven passions.
Such a one discovers one day that his whole life is in a state of ruin: the inner robber-barons of the soul (the passions) have confiscated his life and inner wealth for their own benefit and scattered it all. He decides that this can no longer go on and that the reign of corrupt robber-barons must be brought to an end. He also feels the hunger for something else, perhaps for something higher.
But having once severed the links to Tradition he does not even want to take into account the world of “primitive superstitions” and so he takes another route, where basically the former governing Constitution of the soul still abides, but the ways in which it is applied are changed.
So he starts the organizing of his life according to pre-defined external classifications. There is his career (or professional life), his social life, his personal (or romantic) life, his hobbies and even his spiritual life. The first plus the second plus the third and so on constitute his life.
The cause of the current disorder is his ignorance of the most recent expertise and research in each of the above mentioned fields and categories and hence the application of bad “recipes”.
So he begins looking for “good recipes” for the most efficient organizing of each of the above mentioned categories. He makes goals and draws plans of career development, he improves his “interaction and social skills” so he can better his social life, he consults the most recent expert advise so he can have the “right and most up-to-date opinions” about everything and he pursues each and every interest according to what is most efficient, what serves in the advancement and betterment of his skills and abilities. Even hobbies and free time must be so organized and so chosen that they contribute to the creative re-fashioning of his life and “happiness”, where happiness is defined solely in biological and especially psychological terms.
Of course, for those who feel the need for a jewel on the crown of all this life-management there are plenty of offers in the field of “spirituality”- technocratic spirituality, that is the type of spirituality that has been purged of all structures and taboos of primitive, patriarchal societies. It is a depth-less type of “spirituality” in which technique is all that there is. You get visualization exercises, mandalas, yoga techniques and all that stuff designed to contribute to your “mental health” and overall psychological peacefulness and also to help you take out all the negative energy accumulated in some other field of your life where the heights of expertise and competence have not been reached yet (most typically: in a context of building a career).
Now sarcasm aside, there is of course a serious problem with a person who sees himself/herself as a sort of splintered glass which can be fashioned, re-fashioned and put together again according to some externally defined techniques and recipes: the self which is a sum-total of arbitrarily classified “skills and abilities” and whose improvement and “progress” can be reached by externally re-arranging all these external appearances, a re-arrangement which can be improved through increasingly developed research and techniques as outlined by self-defined experts and gurus.
What’s more, this sort of attitude teaches one to be another persona in each particular circumstance, with no overlapping of categories: one can hold one set of views when on job and a completely opposite when engaging hobbies. As long as everything remains in its own sphere, there is no problem to be seen.
It is a serious disease of the soul. We can clearly see the deviations outlined at the beginning: the technocratic man seeks perfection through exterior means, defined by all sorts of intellectual fashions, he does not have a transcendent principle to unify the empirically and socially defined categories and, finally, he experiences the self more and more as an abstraction, since modern education has cut him off both from metaphysical knowledge as well as from a concrete, spontaneous experience of the self. His idea of a good life is to transform himself into a mechanical system, where each and every aspect of life is rigidly organized according to rules and standards completely alien to the true depth of his being.
Since a picture is worth more than words, the technocratic soul can be more easily visualized with an analogy of a typically post-modern sport (though it is debatable if it can be called such), that is: body building. In body building, the body is not seen in synthesis, as a whole, but as a sum of parts, where each part is abstracted from the whole to be developed separately and in isolation. The movements are completely unnatural and far-removed from any actual physical activity of everyday life, while the development of each part to its utmost limit is seen as a good in itself; there is no harmony, nor measure, nor further purpose.
Our technocratic lives
Having outlined our technocratic man, we need only to take a small glance at our postmodern societies as well as inside our souls to see that probably no one can claim freedom from this disease, even though in some it is more advanced than in others.
The increasingly abstract character of our daily jobs, where virtualisation is the main ruling force renders us incapable of even some of the most basic human experiences.
We constantly see an invasion of corporate slang and corporate methods in all aspects of daily life, the higher degree of absurdity being reached when you have trainings, workshops and even compulsory courses in handling a child and changing his dippers. It is no longer up to family, grandparents, relatives etc. to teach such things- or to..tradition them- even these have become the domain of technocrats and specialists.
With very few exceptions, the idea of organic transmission from one generation to another has become completely obliterated and sometimes even forcefully so. Organic knowledge and personal mastery have been completely replaced by trainings and certifications- many of which being completely illusory.
As without so within: even people who struggle to live according to Tradition find it increasingly difficult to view their lives as unified. It has become almost like a second nature to see ourselves divided and compartmentalized and to see even the notion of tradition as yet another system among many.
But the worse of all this – and here we can close the circle begun with that passing allusion to alternative media – we find it ever more difficult to actually believe in anything else other than external action, whatever we theoretically claim to believe. Even the most well-meaning cannot completely escape the illusion that the only betterment of our present state can only be effected through political and external action.
Personal askesis, the inner struggle of the passions and of the subversive forces within oneself, the struggle in letting the higher principles of existence penetrate through the surface of our lives and of unifying our souls and orienting them according to that which is above us and Transcendent, all this is seen mostly as an interesting way to spice-up the outer struggle or the illusion of it, since most of this “struggle” is takes place in the virtual anyway. We resent the fact that we are not sufficiently important and don’t yield any worldly power.
In most of the alternative media what we see is the preaching of purely political and social “wakefulness”. To be awake, to be vigilent, to fight the globalist technocracy means to most people solely to be well informed and not be taken in by the mass-media spectacle. Other than that, the alternative given to all this is something very poor: it consists mostly of a further re-formation and re-interpretation of one and the same system. To achieve freedom is to replace the current system with yet another system, speaking both politically and mentally.
Just like the megalomaniac who rejects the giving of water and bread to the starving next door neighbor thinking instead of grand designs and global plans for the elimination of hunger, so most of the opponents of the technocratic system see personal askesis as no more than a useless hobby and instead dream of overthrowing the technocratic globalism through grand informational campaigns and “making people aware”.
Without denying the partial value of all this, we can confidently say that whoever sees technocracy as nothing more than a political system which only needs the right political action to be overthrown and who denies religion and transcendent knowledge as well as anything above the mere individual, is nothing other than a part of the very system he fights. It is quite astonishing to see all those opponents of the “system” preach individualism, empiricism and radical libertarianism (often reaching anarchism) and fail to see that it is precisely this sort of mentality which raised and fed that very system.
To wrap it all up, we shall conclude that technocracy is a mental disease (mind in the sense of nous) which gradually envelops the whole of the soul and one’s personal existence. Its outer and political manifestation emerges when the above mentioned human type become dominant throughout society.
The solution remains the same: the discarding of the illusion of self-importance (“you can make the change happen”, “the power is in your hands” etc) and the dreams of worldly and revolutionary power, the participation in the organic and liturgical life of your local parish, the everyday struggle in overcoming that which is “technocratic” and generally subversive within one’s own soul, the return to first principles both in theory and (especially) in the living of everyday life, to submit oneself to the discipline of obedience and hierarchy: inside one’s own family or to a father-confessor and in general the return to all that constitutes a sane and truly human existence, within possibilities.
If in addition to all that one finds in a position of power to effect some change in the political and social sphere, then so much the better- but with prudence.
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