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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Selfies at Auschwitz – A Sign of a Dysfunctional Civilisation?

Recently in the news was an American teenager who took a selfie while visiting the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. People looking at the image of a smiling teenager standing in a place of mass industrialised slaughter, and reading her unrepentant words of explanation, may well ask if she is a sign of the dysfunctional nature of European based civilisations. Indeed one can ask whether a society that produces such dysfunctional behaviour is worth calling a civilisation. Ghandi also asked such a question many years ago. And perhaps such behaviour is such a sign, along with scientists arguing for optional convenience killings, which as I said last week is but a short step away from compulsory convenience killings – another Auschwitz.

While it is the case that this teenager’s actions represent a crass act, the bigger issue is the nature of a so-called civilisation, namely Europe, that Auschwitz is a product of, for European civilisation is indeed a highly dysfunctional one, and one that, no doubt, provides the fuel that justifies the similarly dysfunctional behaviour of those religious fanatics who wage war on European societies through acts of killing and destruction – killing in the name of God, which is yet just another manifestation of the same urges that lead people in Europe to argue for the killing of the terminally ill. Killing it seems is the final and easy solution to all humanities woes. The reality thought is that killing, in whatever form it may come forth, is our woe.

In the actions of Europeans over the ages, and that also includes the present age, dysfunctional behaviour can be found in most aspects of this so called civilisation, most notably in the institutions known as science, engineering and technology. And these institutions played a part in the creation of Auschwitz, and they will do once more, when the conditions become such that those who wish to kill gain the upper hand.

Here you might be thinking that I am referring to the application of production engineering and logistics principles that were used to design and operate Nazi death camps, and those appalling so-called medical experiments that were carried out on people. But actually what I am referring to is the underlying and largely hidden values and beliefs that form the ideologies that are science, engineering and technology, and the highly deluded nature of many people involved in these spheres of activity. It is these values and beliefs that were partly responsible for creating the social, economic and political conditions that made the horror of mass slaughter of human beings possible.

And these values and beliefs are still with us, and they will one day help to create a new Auschwitz. Of course it will not happen in the same way as before, but as long as the hidden values and beliefs of scientists, engineers and technologists remain as they are, a new Auschwitz is an inevitability. But is does not have to be so, for we can choose to walk a different path, based on different values and beliefs and different ways of undertaking scientific, engineering and technological endeavours. Yet I find no inclination among the bulk of people involved in these activities to admit that science, engineering and technology are no longer fit for purpose, and to suggest such is to be regarded as a heretic, which in itself should serve as a warning that all is not well. And so we move a step closer to the inevitable, which in effect is a point that I made last week when considering the matter of assisted suicide, otherwise known as convenience killing.

The fanatical extremist spouting forth words of evil is easy to spot, but a more insidious form of evil, one that is less easy to identify, comes in the form of that which we take for granted, that which is slowly normalised into our behaviour and values. This can be likened to story of the frog and the pan of boiling water. Put a frog into a pan of water that is too hot and it will seek to get out. Put a frog into a pan of water that is comfortable, then it has no motivation to move, and it will not notice, until too late, that someone has started to heat the water. This well represents that which is currently happening with science, engineering and technology. As I have said before, the madness of science, engineering and technology is at its greatest when people come forward speaking of using things to better humanity. And the reason for this lies in those hidden values and beliefs, what I call the Silent Narratives, and it is the exposure of these Silent Narratives, and their consequences, that you will find addressed in my books. But what you will not so easily see is the work that I have being doing over the last 30 years to reinvent science, engineering and technology. I will therefore be saying more about this in future blogs.

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