05 November 2005


Perhaps it needs to be propounded as a law of philosophy that any assessment of the human condition seems utterly unsustainable. In recent months I keep stumbling across self-identified "anarchists" who believe the entire human experience with technology since the before the development of language, is a mistake that ought to be swept away. To my inaugust mind, the fact that humans have dilligently chased after technology for 40,000 years, is prima facie evidence that humans like it. The fact that humans have pursued technology as diligently as we have, suggests that preference for it plays an organic role in human will. The only state to reject technology on a significant scale was that of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. And even there, qualifications abound. The KR movement was, so far from being an anarchist one, the most coercive and intrusive totalitarian society to exist in history.

This is an endemic problem of anarchist movements; the anarcho-primitivist one, for example, argues that the only real freedom is freedom from human order. There are obvious ironies to some philosopher praising a preter-linguistic, preter-social world from a blog, but I'm hoping I needn't spend too much time on that.

Instead, I'll talk a little bit about the painting above. It's of a mythological figure, Deianira. This woman was the bride of Herakles (Hercules); after their marriage, they came to a river and were greeted by Herakles' friend, Nessus, who lost his head with desire for Deianira when he was carrying her across. So, instead of returning for the groom, he instead ran off with the bride. Herakles shot the centaur with an arrow and he was slain. As he lay dying, with Herakles struggling to swim across the river, Nessus gasped his remorse to Deianira. He told her that his blood had magical properties, and that if she ever though Herakles' love for her was subsiding, she could win him back by having him wear a cloak dipped in it.

Deianira, like so many women of ancient civilizations, was quite enthusiastic about this amazing new technology. The notorious dangers of men losing interest in their post-adolescent wives was no frivolous matter to the female residents of a preter-technological society. In ancient Greece, women were considered to have reached sexual obsolescence past the age of about 30, if we are to believe Aeschylus. Without stern social constraints on men deserting their wives, men of an ambitious character often did. I can only speculate on how Nessus must have felt as Deianira pragmatically yanked the arrow shaft from his neck and cradled his weakened upper body to drain into some receptacle. Did he still ache with love for a woman harvesting his life to make a philtre? Did Deianira hesitate? Did she dab up the blood discreetly, or was she blatant about it? If it worked, it no doubt would spawn an industry of herding and slaughtering centaurs, and make Deianira into a tycoon.

(part 2)

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