Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman. Stoner-like riffs (some of which are better than others) on various aspects of American culture, from time machines to Nirvana to Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto.
Page 259, (from the first edition Scribner paperback):
The Unabomber writes that society evolves irrationally, which is probably how he justified mailing people bombs. But what would a rational society look like? He never explains that part.
When it’s warm out, I like to sit inside air-conditioned rooms. This feels rational to me. It seems rational to want to be comfortable. But is it rational to expect to be cool when the outside temperature is 95 degrees? I suppose it isn’t. But why would it be irrational to build and use a machine that makes things cooler? Here again, that seems rational.
Yet what am I giving up in order to have a 70-degree living room in July?
Nothing that’s particularly important to me.
For the air conditioner to work, I need to live in a building that has electricity, so I have to be connected to the rest of society. That’s fine. That’s no problem. Of course, to be accepted by that society, I have to accept the rules and laws of community living. That’s fine, too. Now, to thrive and flourish and afford my electric bill, I will also have to earn money. But that’s okay — most jobs are social and many are enriching and unnecessary. However, the only way to earn money is to do something (or provide something) that is valued by other people. And since I don’t get to decide what other people value, what I do to make a living is not really my decision. So — in order to have air-conditioning — I will agree to live a in a specific place with other people, following whatever rules happen to exist there, all while working at a job that was constructed by someone else for their benefit.
In order to have a 70-degree living room, I give up almost everything.
Yet nothing that’s particularly important to me.
When Kaczynski wrote, “Technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom,” I assume this is what he meant.