Sunday, June 4

small obvious not quite ironies

I have a stack of five books on the floor by my desk. Four of them are Learning Perl, Programming Perl, Linux in a Nutshell, and Ruby in a Nutshell. The fifth is an anthology called Questioning Technology, edited by John Zerzan and Alice Carnes.

This last book is an appealing object. It does not have a nineteenth century woodcut of an animal on its yellow cover, but the design is simple and striking. On the front it says READ ON: MANY HANDS PRESENT THE OTHER SIDE and UNPLUG FROM THE SYSTEMS AND SWITCH ON YOURSELF. Along one edge of the back, it says This cover done with two fingers in two hours by Rufus Segar on a Macintosh Plus with Pagemaker but the machine can't draw pictures.

There is a poetry to all of this.

Inside, we have Russell Means:

The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of "legitimate" thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken.

And Morris Berman:

The view of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were all seen as wondrous, alive, and human beings felt at home in this environment. The cosmos, in short, was a place of belonging. A member of this cosmos was not an alienated observer of it but a direct participant in its drama. His personal destiny was bound up with its destiny, and this relationship gave meaning to his life. This type of consciousness ... bespeaks a psychic wholeness that has long since passed from the scene.

There is also a poetry to this sort of writing. Its special quality may just be that of being almost (but not quite) entirely wrong in a very literate way. Possibly something more than that is going on. Superficially, at least, I'd be hard put to think of a set of ideas more perfectly contradicted by their own expression — which adds a special flavor to the whole enterprise. Anyway, it's all kind of fascinating.