The Destructive Effects Of Living In Traditional And Modern Societies

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Most of the time when I discuss the destructive effects of living in a modern technological society, I focus primarily on one aspect, namely the experiential vacuum and the sensation of numbness that comes from it.  The understimulation that comes from the increasing frictionlessness of modern life that, in turn, is a result of the growing use of modern technological devices.

Actually, there is another destructive effect that I don’t discuss as much: namely the overstimulation stemming from what I call tension-pockets. The waste products of abrasive stimuli that result from people trying to protect themselves from extreme flowing blendable continual organic stimuli by setting themselves up in an experiential vacuum.  Such waste products as noise pollution, air pollution, plastics pollution in our water and our food, overcrowding that, among other reasons, is the result of our capacity to build taller and taller buildings, visual pollution from unsightly large garbage dumps as well as smell pollution from the odors of exposed garbage from those dumps are all problems that have been discussed by many others for a long time.  This is why I would rather focus more on understimulation and numbness which haven’t been as thoroughly scrutinized by others.

Anyway, understimulation is created through, among other means, alternate worlds of screen reality.  This is a reality that the person immersed in it has considerable control over, unlike the primary experience of external world reality.  With screen reality, I am talking about movie screens, television, video games, computers, smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, there are the non-screen sources of understimulation such as the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, virtual reality and A I or artificial intelligence.  All of these provide ways of living in which a person exerts very little effort in order to survive and feel minimally alive.  But ultimately this effortless living leads to a push to move away from the numbness associated with it.  A person does this push through the use of sensory distortion created by the alternation of understimulation and overstimulation generated by everything from loud electric guitar driven music to speeding race cars and motor boats to different kinds of illegal drugs in one’s daily life.  In other words, the overstimulation from tension-pockets begins to manifest itself not only as an accidental bye-product stemming from the human search for the perfect frictionless living environment.  As people immerse themselves deeper and deeper into an experiential vacuum, the overstimulation from the tension-pockets, rather than being something that is onerous, becomes something that is part of a desirable stimulus system. It becomes something that people are drawn to rather than something that they try to avoid.  The stimulus system consists of going back and forth between understimulation and overstimulation to create an average level of stimulation that approximates the level of stimulation that one would get from organic stimulation living in a traditional natural living environment.  It’s stimulation that is very different in quality from organic stimulation but similar in intensity.  And because of the similarity in intensity, it allows a person to function, even though the person is not living a very vibrant life.

Now traditional natural living environments create a totally different kind of destructive effect for people.  It is the result of too much organic stimuli rather than too little.  Here a person is forced to confront wild animals, poisonous plants, droughts, famines, floods, excessive heat, excessive cold, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches, mudslides and many other different kinds of tempestuous weather events.  As well as simply living in an environment where the potential for many of these different explosive natural phenomena actually exists.

In a modern technological society, the way that a person primarily identifies himself is through his outlines or borders.  He identifies himself through the component of himself that defends him against other free-floating figures in the experiential vacuum in which he is living.   In other words, he identifies himself primarily through self-definition.  Self-definition is created through attaching together a lot of defined discrete stimuli and thus forming a clearly delineated whole.  The stimuli can relate to where he was born, who his parents and other family members were, where he went to school, who his friends were and are, where he went for advanced studies – college or trade school – what kind of work he went into and does today, did he get married and if so, to whom, where he lives today.  Defined discrete stimuli are facts that tell us specific concrete things about a person.  They are very different from the flowing blendable continual stimuli that are the foundation of traditional natural living environments.

The stimuli that predominate in traditional natural living environments are much more oriented towards creating impressions rather than showing sharp facts.  People in traditional natural living environments identify themselves primarily according to what holds them together, their coherence.  And their coherence is based on the nature of their flowing blendable continual organic stimuli.  In modern technological society, what identifies people are primarily those categories that separate them from others.  In traditional natural society, what identifies people are primarily those aspects of their natures that bond them to other people.  Their relationships to members of their family and their community.

Finally, it is important to understand that the word “primarily” is very important in terms of understanding how people identify themselves.  A person who identifies himself solely in terms of defined discrete stimuli ends up becoming a bundle of data that can easily fall apart out of numbness.  A person who identifies himself solely in terms of flowing blendable continual stimuli ends up becoming an undifferentiated bunch of merging preconscious dreams.

© 2024 Laurence Mesirow

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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