There’s a remarkable correlation between the power of government that people tolerate and the kinds of technology they embrace. It is no coincidence that Americans are now overwhelmed with invasive laws and gadgets that diminish their individual freedoms. Welcome to the end of self.
Hillel, the great Jewish sage and originator of the Golden Rule, famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But, if I am only for myself, who am I?”
Fast-forward to the attitude of today’s entitlement culture, in which 50% of Americans pay no income tax and 14.1% of them are on food stamps: “If I am not for myself, my government will be for me. And, because I am only for myself, people will follow me on Twitter.”
A week ago, a new technology company, Color Labs, announced that it had raised $41M in first-round equity funding to build a service that broadcasts photos taken by each subscriber to the smartphone of every nearby subscriber, using proximity algorithms. Why does anyone want to receive strangers’ photos? We hate to receive them from our relatives! People are choosing to wave privacy and individuality to join a group.
The “open borders” lifestyle underscores the end of self, identity, and individuality. Accordingly, Sequoia Capital, which invested $25M in this startup, claims Color Labs is the hottest phenomenon since Google. Sequoia recognizes, accurately, that our culture has replaced the individual with the group. What happened to “I need my space”?
Color Labs is, in a way, akin to Foursquare, purveyor of “check-in” software. With their smartphones, subscribers can track the whereabouts of all their “friends,” no matter where they go. Ironically, survivors of the former Soviet Union risked their lives to escape the constant scrutiny to which these folks are voluntarily submitting themselves.
None of His Damn Business
I recall watching Johnny Carson relate an awkward encounter at a party he had hosted. A guest approached to ask the price he had paid for his beautiful home. Appalled, Johnny explained that he was raised in the Midwest, where people didn’t ask such questions. When the man reminded Carson that he could go to city hall to find the deed, which is public information, Johnny angrily invited him to do so while admonishing him that it was none of his damn business. Johnny’s attitude about self is so yesterday.
If he were alive today, Johnny Carson would find Foursquare and its ilk shocking and nonsensical. People have a natural yearning for freedom and privacy, but they also must work and fight to maintain both -- because Big Government, the lifestyle dictator, has a natural yearning, and objective, to erode and steal our freedom and privacy. That’s why our Founding Fathers fought to build this country.
“End of self” conditioning has periodically raised its ugly head, starting with Woodrow Wilson. Never, though, has it been more entrenched than today. It’s no accident, then, that people are increasingly choosing group-centric technologies and governments. Using “chicken/egg” analysis, Big Government -- such as FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society -- fashionably preceded Facebook and iPhones.
Technology, interestingly, has become a barometer of government power. As wimpiness, political correctness, and anti-capitalism insidiously pervade each successive generation, mostly through our federally controlled schools, all sense of self fades. Big Government then increases its fascistic power, and technology’s invasiveness adapts accordingly. The whole cycle is so evolutionary – progressive -- that few notice until it’s too late.
Reliably, technology -- socialism’s barometer -- symbolizes the populace’s willingness to be monitored and controlled. What Big Government leader doesn’t salivate over a more-pliable electorate and those who soon will join its ranks: students.
Ask any high-caliber schoolteacher about the contemporary classroom, and you’ll likely hear two sad trends: 1) the typical public school revolves around the worst student, not the best -- shrinking the smart kids to equal the slowest kid, thereby making the “group” uniformly mediocre; 2) kids, who know more about recycling than the Revolutionary War, are being indoctrinated with socialism and taught to accept, expect, and extol Big Government.
It’s not surprising, then, that anyone who attends one of our identity-shredding schools will happily and readily support overtaxing the rich and greening the planet while also sharing her schedule, location, and nude photos with friends -- and strangers. What a nice blend of socialism and socializing!
When a student gets his sheepskin and enters the real world, he’ll discover the end-of-self theme perpetuated as an extension of his school. If, for example, he wants to buy a 100-watt lightbulb for his apartment, Big Government will tell him that, to save the planet, he can’t. When he has to pay taxes while other members of “the group” don’t, he’ll hear that he must spread his wealth around.
If he’s not head-down, constantly texting his friends, our graduate may learn that, except for the
dictator leader, there’s no individual in socialism -- only the group. Given man’s natural quest for freedom, which he experienced in his rebellious teenage years, it might dawn on him that socialism (aka Marxism, fascism, communism, collectivism, Nazism) never succeeds and cannot exist without force or fiat: Obamacare is mandatory.
Finally, if our graduate discovers that fascism, which derives from the Italian word for bundle, is an oppressive, left-wing, invasive, wealth-redistributing system of government, he may even take another look at his Facebook page and resent his loss of self. Maybe.
The NoNonsense Bottom Line
Sequoia Capital, with its $25M investment in Color Labs, is bullish on the herd. Most technology companies -- with Facebook in the lead -- are following suit. The herd, the group, the bundle all signal societal submissiveness and voluntary exposure.
It’s not a stretch, either, to extrapolate that those who remove borders between people also believe in doing the same between countries. For example, Thomas Friedman, left-leaning author, promoted technology, in The World Is Flat, as a means to do just that.
Technology, like government, always has been, and always will be, a means to an end. The question is, what end? It’s disconcerting, at best, to see so many people actively and deliberately choosing the means to the end of self. Investors and socialists applaud.