Tag Archives: computers

Adam Curtis and “Who cleans the toilets on the Enterprise?”

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving GraceNo longer having a TV means that I sometimes come across quality programmes well after they have been screened and only after they can be accessed by some of the video sharing sites.

I have been a big fan of Adam Curtis ever since seeing Century of the Self, my first Adam Curtis documentary and the one I came across recently,  All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (aired earlier in 2011) did not disappoint. His views on modern society speak volumes to me and his latest BBC documentary did likewise.

The three part series can be found on vimeo at the following links:
1. http://vimeo.com/29865018
2. http://vimeo.com/29875053
3. http://vimeo.com/30107451

This article from the Guardian discusses the series with Curtis
http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/may/06/adam-curtis-computers-documentary
and this quote from the end of the article crystalises everything for me
“… the modern world is all about me, me, me … have we really given up on the hope of changing the world in our lifetimes? Or is that in itself an idea worth fighting for?”

There is an interesting blog entry by Adam Curtis covering Occupy Wall Street, 60s BritArt, Marcuse, Michael X on his blog at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/10/dream_on.html

My favourite extract from a comment towards the bottom of the page…
“There’s a question that is asked by trekkies over the long years that the Star Trek franchise has been active: Who cleans the toilets on the Enterprise? Marcuse and other philosophers never really ask this question. But the philosophers, pundits and professors know one thing for sure. It’s not them.”

This prompted an interesting exchange with a good friend about philosophy which went along the following lines.

Me: I took the Trekkie quote simply as a question of whether those who philosophise on states of mind, society etc take into account such practicalities of cleaning the bogs. If Nietzsche’s definition of work/slavery is not having two-thirds of the day to yourself, that’s a bit of a cop-out as that is relatively easy to achieve.

Equally interesting is his reference to “the Greek philosophers who went through life feeling secretly that…everybody who was not a philosopher was a slave.” He cops out again by not really defining philosophy cos I’m sure that those who clean the bogs definitely have some views on society, mind and life! Of course, Nietzsche may also have enjoyed cleaning the bogs whilst philosophising.

He also refers to “active men” – so if a banker considers that he has his 16 hour working day to himself as BLISSful enJOYment, he is not a slave? He is still however a C.U.Next.Tuesday in my eyes but in Nietzsche’s….?

I was just googling some stuff as I go along so I probably missed a lot of Nietzsche’s meat but it is probably all in the mind about “getting busy living or getting busy dying”.

Friend: Speaking of cop-outs, I’m bound to misrepresent the ideas of Nietzsche (or any philosopher). What I can say with confidence is what it is that I take from them. The first thing is that I don’t need Nietzsche to define the condition of slavery. What he distinguishes so powerfully for me is the differing moralities of master and slave. I should have made it clear that my bliss and joy are about perfect happiness at home, not at all like the example of the banker. Nietzsche’s ideas seem to have a lot in common with Kierkegaard’s and Ayn Rand’s; I love the former’s Fear and Trembling and the latter’s The Fountainhead. All three are obnoxious crypto-fascist totalitarians (especially Ayn Rand), but their ideas speak to me and inspire me to take great strides where I would otherwise faff and dither.