“We would be wise not to plan on supernatural forces or human inventions to save us from ourselves. It is unlikely that we will be delivered to a promised land by divine or technological intervention.”1
– Robert Jensen
The ancient Greeks had a theatrical term, deus ex machina (theos ek mēkhanēs), meaning “god out of / from the machine.” It is a “plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.” The Greek tragedy employed a crane which “was used to lower actors playing gods onto the stage.”2
In today’s so-called modern world, many look to technology as a techno-savior that is constantly upgrading, a kind of Second-Coming-2.1. But the scary part is that this “ex machina” solution mentality is lacking deus, spirit, Christ-consciousness, fill in the blank with your favorite metaphysical energy form.
“With, without. And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about.”3
Without “deus” the gadgets are reduced to mere bits of plastic, metals, etc. They become slave-like objects, performing deeds at our finger-pushing demand. That’s fine for making our immediate lives easier (fast brew for the morning’s first cup of coffee is nice), but there’s a bigger picture.
With “deus” the gadgets become children (or products) of the Mother Earth. Consider quartz; a mineral with enough energy to enable us, via computers, to connect and communicate around the world. That quartz is “the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s continental crust, after feldspar”4 tells us that quartz has already been connecting around the world long before we started imitating one of its uses.
|"With 'deus' the gadgets become children (or products) of the Mother Earth."
Quartz crystal is “a slice of quartz ground to a prescribed thickness that vibrates at a steady frequency when stimulated by electricity. The tiny crystal, about 1/20th by 1/5th of an inch, creates the computer’s heartbeat. Without the quartz crystal, there would be no computers as we know them today!”5
Imagine what quartz is doing for the Earth! And, boys and girls, the moral of the story is: if you want a computer, play nice-nice with The Mother!
Persona Ex Rock
A rock can be a spiritual symbol of steadfastness and imperturbability. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Although the church is not everyone’s cup of tea, the overall reference alludes to a persona IN the object, which there must be in order to have deus coming OUT of the machine. Substituting “quartz” for “Peter” presents variations on the theme. Either a devotion to the care of quartz et al as an aspect of living in harmony with the Earth, or, worshipping the Church of Purchase, where many of the buy-products of the techno-savior are created by mindless corporate mining along with insult to injury toxic landfills as an end result. Taking from the Earth then dumping back the remains is biting the hand that feeds you.
|"Taking from the Earth then dumping back the remains is biting the hand that feeds you."
Along with quartz and rocks, also stretching around the globe is food.
In a recent article, “Fair Shares of Food,” Stan Cox cites “The Age of Plenty,” a report published in June by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The report explains various agricultural technologies:
| “‘precision agriculture’ techniques made possible by global positioning system (GPS) technology: satellite-guided row- and seed-spacing; fertilizer application that gets seed and fertilizer into the same groove; tractor autosteering; and others."
He adds that (in reference to Africa),
|“All that’s needed, according to IEEE, are big doses of high technology and a strong export market. And, it is noted, that’s already happening, as ‘global prices for African cocoa, cotton, and even green beans are at or near historic highs.’”6
However, Cox states that this “techno-capitalism” is at the expense of healthy “soils, waters, and ecosystems”— a clear case of ex machina sans deus, not to mention the many impoverished African Peoples struggling to eat and survive.
The Military-Industrial-Surveillance-Complex, with over 1 billion surve(illance)d, is another flavor of the techno-capitalist savior. After the 9-11-2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere, airport scanners were pitched as a means to nab evil-doers. Granted, they may nab some but with fear twisting the emotional state of the gestalt, this type of obeisance to a machine turns it into a techno-savior, which also nets a pretty penny to the gadget makers—some of them being government employees with “stakes in airport companies.”7
The Crossroads of Technology and Human Nature
Over the years, perhaps not much has actually changed with a small portion of humanity wanting to control everything and everyone but nowadays the tools are more sophisticated and powerful. As nasty and deadly as fascism and supremacist wars have already been historically, the latest technologies in the hands of global neo-fascists makes their machinations more pervasive and potentially more dangerous.
If instead of all the time and money spent on surveillance and national security gadgets we applied much of that energy to fixing dire environmental areas and to preventing more toxicity (a surveillance camera on every oil tanker and in the boardroom of every bank), we would more quickly begin to solve the deeper problems.
|"a surveillance camera on every oil tanker and in the boardroom of every bank"
In a wonderful book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World, Paul Hawken writes:
|“Technologically, Western culture dances to preeminence with an iPod plugged in both ears. When it comes to innovation, literature, and creativity it is dazzling. The ability to go deep into the ocean or as far as the moon is spectacular, but as Robert Oppenheimer reminded us, being blessed with technological insight does not confer self-insight. If we measure Western culture by how it has treated people of different ethnicity and race, it is anathema. If we judge it by the treatment of its own people, including children, the elderly, and the poor, it is an embarrassment. And if we try to calibrate American superiority by its treatment of the environment, the United States is one of the least intelligent civilizations in the history of the planet.”
While surveillance issues currently dominate the news, fixation on such is a distraction from issues of basic human survival and comfort.
Latin America continues to be one of the best role models for caring for the poor and struggling:
On the One Hand
|“The country of Peru is looking to provide free electricity to over 2 million of its poorest citizens by harvesting energy from the sun. Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino said that the National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program will provide electricity to poor households through the installation of photovoltaic panels. . . . Speaking to the Latin America Herald Tribune, Merino said: ‘This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health. If Peru can do this for its people, it makes you wonder why more prosperous countries can’t do the same.’”8
“Meanwhile, in the United States, Americans for Prosperity – a political lobbying group founded by billionaire fossil fuel industrialists Charles and David Koch — is currently lobbying the Georgia state legislature to reject a plan requiring Georgia Power, one of the largest energy utilities in the American Southeast, to buy more solar energy.”9
We may not know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but billions of people hold a potential deus ex machina in their hands. Though various protests and revolutions may not have borne fruit, social networking gadgets are already enabling masses of people to, far more quickly than ever before, peacefully assemble and bring about positive change.
|"We can each do our part and be like ancient Greek actors, putting ourselves onto the world stage"
If Buddha were to upgrade the eightfold-path (Buddha-2.1), adding to “Right speech,” “Right action,” “Right livelihood,” etc. would be: Right use of technology.
Whomever or whatever you might be waiting for, you can begin to attune to Earth-wisdom by respecting and caring for the machines you use, plus utilizing them wisely.
We can each do our part and be like ancient Greek actors, putting ourselves onto the world stage, whether to help protect the remaining pristine, sacred sites where many Indigenous Peoples (and water, minerals, etc.) live, inventing a new energy-saving device, installing one that already exists, or simply doing anything that helps the cause.
Ultimately, to paraphrase the Hopi elders of Oraibi:10 We are the deus ex machinas for which we have been waiting.