When reading the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the UNABomber, currently serving eight life sentences in a supermax prison in Colorado, he comes off as surprisingly sane. This is troubling, because one has to ask the question why a sane person would spend 17 years mailing bombs all around the country, claiming three lives and wounding 23.
Through my close reading of his work and original published manifesto, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a fanatic. It is not that he is divorced from reality in a medical way, but in an ideological one. The crux of his ideology is that the industrial revolution was a disaster for mankind: technology is destroying the natural world, and robs humanity of its autonomy. To cope with the crippling personal effect of technology we increasingly turn to it as our salvation, the cycle continues, et cetera, et cetera.
Written in 1995, the manifesto does strike a certain chord in me. As someone who has lived in cities for the past decade, I have felt the effects of urbanization and a complete alienation with the natural.
What interests me, however, is the increasing sense of an urbanization of the mind. With the leaps forward in technology, we are increasingly surrounded by ever more hysterical media apparatus, that exists not to push an ideology as conspiracy theorists would have us believe, but for our attention.
We’ve become the nation of Patty Hearst, all trapped in the closet with the megaphone blaring the ragged mantra over and over: “Keep watching.” The neon hurricane is ever present, and the eye is fixed on us. It’s no wonder everyone is trapped in their own echo chambers politically, no wonder there is so much fear and loathing in a country where there is no great war or depression.
Most damaging is the painful truth that the urbanization of the mind has led to a loss of identity en masse. Some retreat to the old answers of tribalism (both the right and the left). We do not know who we are anymore: culture, our connection to the land- all of it has been painfully stripped away by our modern life, a life that only exists because of technology. Entertainment is the only “culture” left, given more importance than ever before because of the crucial release it provides. Because it is all we are left with, it alone reverberates with the anxieties we share- a democratization of fear. All of our science fiction asks the question “what does it mean to be human”. The very question we desperately seek an answer to.