“A tormenting thought: as of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality.” -Elias Canetti, Nobel Laureate in literature
As more and more information is released via National Security Administration whistleblower Edward Snowden, many Americans drifting through each day blissfully unaware of what country they really live in have had the curtain pulled back just enough to be fed their first spoonful of reality…it’s a bitter taste.
The clip below is of a public service message warning the public on the growing use of technology and surveillance by government and corporations (though who can really tell the difference these days) to control our lives.
Sure, you say. We know all about that. Snowden has conclusively shown us with leaked documentation what our government is doing to us.
Ah. But the film was not made last week or even last decade; it was filmed in 1974.
Watch and listen. No, really listen. This message isn’t just to warn us about the coming technological surveillance state itself, but how its construct is to be used as a form of behavioral control on a mass scale.
Godfrey Reggio is best known for his artistic masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi, and its two follow-ups, films which show us the role of technology in modern society through the powerful sequence of images it conveys rather than with dialogue. Eerie and amazing time-lapse photography reveals the rhythms and mechanics of society, even as it is juxtaposed against the natural world and primitive cultures, as in the sequel Powaqqatsi.
Earlier in his career, Reggio helped create the Institute for Regional Education in 1974 which produced a series of public service messages that were perhaps even more foretelling of the system taking hold, if only for spelling it out in words we now recognize as, controversially, the real society we are living in every day.
In this clip, a literal “talking head” placed inside a television explains our modern society:
“Few if any of us can understand. Extensive information gathering on every American; human experiments with drugs and psycho-surgery; electronic surveillance; the era of the computer; invasion of privacy; growing government and corporate power over our lives. A people plagued by dehumanization, loneliness and violence.”
Godfrey Reggio was not simply warning about the coming era of public surveillance and the end of privacy — albeit in precise terms — but he was specifically criticizing, in dire terms, the dangerous embrace of technology as a way of life. According to the official website for Koyaanisqatsi describing the Institute for Regional Education:
“Is technology a new and comprehensive environment, the host of life, that has replaced the natural order? Is technology the new universal religion? Can faiths unquestioned become our prisons? Should we place blind faith in the techno-clergy of the new order?”
Regio also quotes from author Jacques Ellul, author of The Technological Society and Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes:
“…The crisis that we are approaching today is of yet another order. For it entails the transition, not from one form of society and power to another, but to a new environment…The present crisis…is a total crisis triggered by transition to a new and previously unknown environment, the technological environment….The present change of environment is much more fundamental than anything that the race has experienced for the last five thousand years.”
Snowden’s revelations should not be taken at face value. His leaks are snapshots of what our reality really is. This is what our society has become. The media dutifully bathes us in this information, legitimizing this power, all the while reassuring us the gaping maw of government that continuously inhales our ones and zereos can be boiled down to a basically harmless action only undertaken for our safety…and nothing more.
Now watch the clip above again and think. No, really think.
This isn’t just about keeping tabs on everyone. It never was. There’s a bigger picture here that’s floating right over the majority’s heads as they get wrapped up in the spying aspect, the email reading, the phone conversation eavesdropping, whatever juicy little tidbit the mainstream media mentions next.
Go beyond the data.
This is about controlling us.