Baby Boomers

Posted by on Dec 10, 2009 in Futurism, Philosophy, Transhumanism, WAR

From a recent paper on technology and post-World War II youth.

The concern of young people with twentieth-century technology, particularly its use in the conduct of war as well as the civilian applications of such technology, deserve renewed attention. The specter of what Jacques Ellul in the early sixties called “biocracy”—the complete assimilation of people into a technocratic, efficiency-oriented society—provided but one point in a growing discourse about possible futures for the first postwar generation. More realistic, if equally unsettling, was the technological fact into which that generation had been born. If humans created a weapon powerful enough to kill everyone on earth practically overnight, they also created a need to live with that fact, however disturbing or absurd. It is hard to estimate the effects such a fact produces on the psyche—how the young imagination forms under a desk or during a civil defense film. It would be equally hard to explain exactly how young people sought meaning in such a world or why some became enamored, fairly early on, with one or another idea about what to do with that technology; or why others came for a time, in extraordinary numbers, to completely distrust authority. But these things happened. It does not seem necessary at this point to explain exactly why a frank discussion of this topic would be of utmost importance.



  1. globatron
    December 10, 2009

    I think he makes some valid points and I do see how technology has stripped us of our psychological freedom. The Duck and Cover movie is a perfect example of that. I can’t imagine growing up with that in the back of my mind at all times. We did a few of those drills when I was a kid but only a handful and I was too young to really get it.

    I have a friend in his late fifties who said the paranoia of the bomb really changed him and that he constantly lived in a state of fear from that period and the threat of the bomb. It didn’t help that his older brother used to say if he wakes up glowing green that he’s dead. Older brothers will always try to find a way to have fun with something even if it’s death and the atomic bomb.

    I do believe that humans are willing to give away their freedom for many reasons. Laziness being the first but I think now many, including myself, see technology as a way for humanity to evolve and possibly save itself. I don’t think we have many more options at the moment but now I’m living under the fear of climate change which is similar to the fears of the Duck and Cover generation but I think even more compounded and more realistic. Who knows?

    As the Duck and Cover generation began to grow up I would suppose that the realization that they were brain washed to believe that ducking and covering was going to save them from something as horrific as an atomic blast must have been quite disheartening. I would suppose that that would be one of the awakenings that began to develop the subculture of rebellion and distrust of government on both the politica left and the right as your paper implies. Does it or is that a misinterpretation? Thanks for sharing it by the way.

    Duck and Cover, has turned into:

    Conserve and recycle.

    or soon to be:

    Swim and Shoot.

  2. globatron
    December 10, 2009

    The Duck and Cover video also makes me more sensitive of how the older generations would be more cynical of another doom and gloom scenario.

    Follow that up with Y2K and I can see many who just don’t want to believe the sky is falling because they’ve heard false reports one to many times.

  3. Logocentric
    December 10, 2009

    that’s a good point about the cynicism of our age. from my observations, our elders–across the spectra of education, region, race, gender, class and “political” orientation–seem to cherish their cynicism. it’s as though they’ve earned their right to it, and strangely it serves as a bond. of course, we youngsters are not immune to it. we had very little choice that it would be part of our psychological makeup. still, it can be much more useful than believing something just because a well-dressed person on the television says it’s so. on the other hand, that cynicism is undoubtedly a factor sustaining the divisions we call the ‘culture wars.’ it’s one of those things that are hard to quantify and produce evidence for, but it’s definitely something that we notice and that we have to struggle with. great point.

    to answer your question, obviously it was a complex time to try and interpret, but yes, i think the tactics that authorities used to ‘educate’ the people were at once very effective and evocative of a great deal of skepticism. i think this took place most visibly, and predictably, in youth culture–meaning not only the marketplace of film and literature, but also in the political orientations that grew out of new social experiences, on college campuses, for example. there was, i think despite the gloom of postwar propaganda–but also because of it–a sophistication among many young people around the early sixties. there was a conversation that was developing in popular literature, among the beats, and in new and growing youth organizations, about the depersonalizing features of their culture. and i think a good number of people took seriously the desire to find authentic means to combat that. in many ways it was expressive, artistic, etc. in others, it had to do with forming alternatives to the existing culture. in still others it had to do with radically reforming (though not dismantling) existing institutions, for example by participating in the Civil Rights Movement and thereby supporting the model it provided of profoundly depersonalized people taking responsibility for their own freedom in a terroristic, conformist society. that didn’t go so smoothly, and along with the Vietnam War it deeply divided a generation. what i am interested in are the initial impulses that brought about the awareness of a need for an explicit, authentically politicized (meaning organized around philosophic principles) discussion about the brutalizing, dehumanizing culture of postwar america. but i’m interested in including the early New Right, which in the early 60s was not hell-bent on denying equal rights to African Americans and which in many ways was leading the discussion about these themes. the point being that prior to about 1964, the generation in which we now recognize cynicism and the wear-and-tear of a lifetime of disillusionment showed a striking amount of agreement about the social situation at home. i’m interested in what produced and sustained the sense of agreement about the problem of conformity/consensus and the techniques/processes by which that agreement became divided, fragmented, and cast as utopian or even forgotten.

  4. Akbar Lightning
    December 10, 2009

    in a dysfunctional marriage, the fights can sometimes act as a defense against intimacy. in other words, the fight allows for emotional engagement, a sense of meaning that takes place outside one’s center, and therefore one lives engaged, although in conflict.

    this reminds me of that. a bipolar society allows people a conflict but one nonetheless that creates a stalemate, so that no actual work has to be done. it is a cooperative detachment from responsibility.

    i loved the Ellul video and i think he is dead on, with one exception. repeatedly he claims that we have given up our freedom, our independence for dependence upon a mechanical system. i think this is an argument that excites, inspires us to resist this, which is a good intention, but i think it is a faulty argument nonetheless.

    i think that the automaton society removes personal responsibility from people, and personal responsibility is a hard sell, but as regards above, i think this is why leftists, rightists, like each other as opponents, because their war is keeping them from cooperative engagement in progress, as progress is the real enemy of the machine, progress of human happiness, since human happiness will result when machines take a more subordinate role. the human/machine war is already possible, even though machines are not conscious, it would take a great revolution, one that will feature mega-violence and destruction, to make such a movement. i am against violence, you understand, but the reality is that if we tried to encourage people to return to personal responsibility, not liberation, but a return to the burden of community, there would be a violent backlash.

    some thoughts.

    this is a great provocative post, great work logocentric



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