The human spirit is enslaved, but “creatives” are no abolitionists

richard_floridaDon’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!

The Great Dictator

I know now that this was Florida’s true genius: He took our anx­i­ety about place and turned it into a prod­uct. He found a way to cap­i­tal­ize on our nag­ging sense that there is always some­where out there more cre­ative, more fun, more diverse, more gay, and just plain bet­ter than the one where we hap­pen to be. But I’ve been down that road, and I know where it goes. I know that it leads both every­where and nowhere. I know you could go down it for­ever and never quite arrive. And I know now that it may be wiser to try to cre­ate the place you want to live, rather than to keep try­ing to find it.

Frank Bures

Haskell Moore: There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This [abolitionist] movement will never survive; if you join them, you and your entire family will be shunned. At best, you will exist a pariah to be spat at and beaten-at worst, to be lynched or crucified. And for what? For what? No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.

Adam Ewing: What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?

Cloud Atlas, 2012

Lord Howarth of Newport (Labour): I wonder whether the Minister would reconsider the language habitually used by DWP. When he talks of a stockpile he is referring to human beings in very anxious circumstances who are waiting for their cases to be considered. Does not this language rather dehumanise them?

Freud (Conservative):The noble Lord makes the same point as JRR Tolkien, who did not think that “growth” was the right way to refer to hobbits at Bilbo Baggins’s birthday party. If the noble Lord can think of a better word than stockpile, I will happily use it. I cannot think of one off the top of my head. If the noble Lord finds that offensive-

Lord Touhig (Labour): Does the Minister think that “people” is a good word?

A transcript from Hansard of a debate in the House of Lords

Transhumanists, extropians, neo-eugenicists and fashionable thinkers such as Richard Florida (Se l’Italia innova come Trento ce la fa, Linkiesta, 25 july 2011) are somehow persuaded that the stratification of the human species and biosocial evolution have given rise to a new class (caste, race, subspecies) of human beings, variously called “Creative Class” or “Alpha Thinkers”, the technophile-hipster equivalent of New Age’s Indigo Children.

Accordingly, the best hope for policy makers would be to make their city, region, nation attractive to these Übermenschen making up a crucial “supercreative core” of natural, medical and social scientists, academicians, engineers, architects, managers, as well as artists and designers (crafters are out of the picture).

cartooncreatclassThis thesis has already been empirically and methodologically disproven multiple times (cf. Stefan Krätke, Creative Cities’ and the Rise of the Dealer Class: A Critique of Richard Florida’s Approach to Urban Theory, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2010; Frank Bures, The Fall of the Cre­ative Class, thirty two magazine, 2012; Alec MacGillis, The Ruse of the Creative Class, Prospect, 18 December 2009; Ian David Moss, Deconstructing Richard Florida, createquity, 27 April 2009; Richard Malanga, The Curse of the Creative Class, City Journal, 2004).

Aside from the unsupported social-Darwinist assumptions that, without a “superhuman” intervention from the outside, certain communities are not going to make it anyway and that unrestrained competition is what really drives evolution in a creative economy (Rustom Bharucha, Creativity: Alternate Paradigms to the ‘Creative Economy’, 2009), Florida got the causality reversed: creative people go where they can find employment, growth poten­tial and social capital, not the other way round – Berlin being a case in point (Richard Florida Is Wrong About Creative Cities, Forbes, 23 May 2012; Still Falling: On Chick­ens and Eggs, Cause and Effect and the Real Prob­lem with the Cre­ative Class, thirty two, July 2012).

Nevertheless, he remains en vogue, mostly because a massively materialistic society sees culture as economic fuel (Frank Bures, The price of everything, 20 July 2012) and because his core beliefs, in spite of a pretty significant recantation of his original views (Richard Florida, More Losers Than Winners in America’s New Economic Geography, the Atlantic, 30 January 2013; Richard Florida, Mr. Creative Class, Is Now Mr. Rust Belt, New Republic, 18 December 2013), do not contribute to social change, but to the preservation of the status quo.

In his worldview, eco-“friendly”, denser cities and creative, flexible, nomadic tech-oriented yuppies, that is to say, spoiled high achievers who live to work, are driving human evolution. Wilderness, local communities, family, the elderly and creative and skilled manual workers with no fixation with monetizing their skills for the sake of it are, on the contrary, seen as increasingly redundant.

This disturbing trend, sustained by real estate speculation is, to a large extent, naturophobic and, even more alarmingly, biophobic (How robots are revolutionising our world, Guardian, 19 October 2014), and frustrates attempts to bridge the cleavage between civilization and nature. It proves, once again, that many people are so alienated from the erratic character of wilderness that they just can’t allow themselves to trust their material natures.

christianity-transhumanismThis is the fate of transhumanism, a secular, biotech theology.

Transhumanists claim that humans should be allowed to metamorphose themselves, engineer their progeny and extend their lives indefinitely through cryonics, robotics, nanotechnology, cloning, human germ-line engineering.

Like Florida’s heroes, they are mostly white, relatively young, highly educated, upper class, males:

More than one outsider I corresponded with compared the meeting to a support group. I was struck more by its religious overtones. The transhumanists have their sacred texts, The Engines of Creation and Mind Children among them. They have communal gatherings, which usually occur online. They have a set of beliefs about resurrection and the afterlife, couched in the language of cryonics and computers. They divide the world into believers and infidels (the “bio-Luddites”), and they call on one another to evangelize—or, as they often put it, “spread our memes.” Many transhumanists believe that we’re approaching an apocalyptic end-time they call “The Singularity,” a convergence of technological developments that will push the rate of change so dramatically that the world could be transformed beyond recognition. The WTA states that if The Singularity comes, it will probably be caused by the creation of self-enhancing, superintelligent beings.

Carl Elliott, Humanity 2.0, Wilson Quarterly (2003)

It is by looking back at eugenics and social Darwinism that we can better understand visions such as the ones outlined in Remaking Eden: cloning and beyond in a brave new world (1998), Redesigning Humans. Our inevitable genetic future (2002), Human Enhancement (2011), Humanity Enhanced (2014) and Superintelligence (2014).

2616fainjpg_00000001819Briefly, they assume that one of the most likely scenarios of technological progress (?) will be the emergence of a class of genetic aristocrats bound to rule the planet. For Gregory Stock our descendants will see our age as the beginning of a new bio-historical stage of human evolution in which artificial diversification would bring with it a richer variety of species. Most of these neo-eugenicists display a rather alarming lack of sensitivity and concern for the fate of democracy, equality, fairness, social justice, dignity, solidarity, cooperation, and free will.

Cloud Atlas - Papa Song (Nea So Copros)

Cloud Atlas – Papa Song (Nea So Copros)

As I see it, that would be the age of the Underground Man, of greedy, exploitative, licentious, scapegoat-seeking, despotic, resentful, hubristic, self-solicitous and ultimately self-enslaving individuals, obsessed with their own survival at the expense of anything else (The weak are meat, and the strong do eat, Cloud Atlas), incapable of true love and more than eager to genetically tame nature, in order to allay their existential anxieties.

Cloud_zma0010_dmp_webSo, where would these avant-garde uncreative self-creators (Miltonian fallen angels) end up, if not in a Pandemonium (a parody of Creation) like Nea So Copros, further along an entropic path toward self-annihilation?

Nea So Copros is poisoning itself to death. Its soil is polluted, its rivers lifeless, its air toxloaded, its food supplies riddled with rogue genes. The downstrata can’t buy the drugs necessary to counter these privations. Melanoma and malaria belts advance northwards at forty kilometres per year. Those Production Zones of Africa and Indonesia that supply Consumer Zones’ demands are sixty per cent uninhabitable. Plutocracy’s legitimacy, its wealth, is drying up; the Juche’s Enrichment Laws are mere sticking plasters on haemorrhages and amputations. Its only other response is that strategy beloved of all bankrupt ideologues: denial. Downstrata purebloods fall into the üntermensch sinks; xecs parrot Catechism Seven, ‘A Soul’s Value is the Dollars Therein.’

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Existence turned against itself.

Now, true abolitionists, could you please raise your hands?

‘cause we might need your help to make it off the Titanic before it sinks…

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One thought on “The human spirit is enslaved, but “creatives” are no abolitionists

  1. Pingback: Mo Bobos, Mo Problems: Looking Back at David Brooks’s Bobos in Paradise 15 Years Later – Tropics of Meta

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