Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
If I may dispense with the historical resonances prompted by observations of this kind, Nader pissed me off in 2000 because his party equivalence thesis was a damned and damaging deception -- even if the Democratic Party wasn't and isn't exactly love's young dream from my perspective as a democratic eco-socialist feminist anti-racist anti-militarist vegetarian atheist queer aesthete academic than it was and is for him. Nader certainly didn't piss me off for "losing Gore the election" because, as it happens, Gore won the election and Republican appointees to the Supreme Court stole the election for the utterly catastrophic George W. Bush.
Now, when I denigrate would-be radical Third Party political efforts I do want to be quite clear that my point is not to extol political moderation or diminish radicalism or deride ethical conviction. Radicalism invigorates public life and is a motor of necessary progressive change. The simple fact is that there is more to politics than partisan politics, of course. And quite apart from that, there is also more to doing good and making progress than politics -- there is making art, there is offering up support in communities, there is living ethically. And confining the focus on politics, I always say the partisan politics of problem solving, compromise and reform is indispensable but inadequate to sustain progress and the movement politics of education, agitation and organization to transform our sense of the possible and the important is just as indispensable and just as inadequate. Neither is adequate on their own, both are indispensable all the time.
You know, I truly respect people of conviction who don't have the stomach or the stamina for the fraught compromises and heartbreaking slowness and exhausting effort of partisan politics and decide to direct their energies elsewhere. In my own life I've moved in and out of movement politics -- my Queer Nation days and a few more recent moments of adjunct organizing are different from the times in my life that I've devoted myself to teaching and writing and the occasional editorial or candidate contribution. My convictions haven't diminished and I hope I never retreat from doing my measure of work to nudge us toward sustainable equity-in-diversity in whatever form -- but definitely I understand that sometimes partisan politics are quite demoralizing and feel too constrained and contaminated to bear. Even in such moments I must say that simply doing one's least part and voting for the best candidates or initiatives on offer doesn't take that much time or energy, after all, and figuring out who to vote for in this moment of utter Republican debasement isn't really that difficult.
What I find quite ridiculous, however, and even frankly contemptible, really, are those who seem to want to denigrate partisan politics while focusing on quixotic hijacking or sabotage efforts within... partisan politics. It is hard to imagine anything more frivolous than someone who wants to declare their radicalism, or even their revolutionary sentiments, who then directs all their attention into a party primary fight of all things. Every candidate is a politician, every politician has compromised, anybody who would seek the highest political offices has to have a touch of the sociopath in them, and nobody remotely plausibly electable (for the Democrats at any rate) will be as far to the left in office as are the radicals of their Base who grasp the real extent of injustice and real danger of climate catastrophe.
A nationally viable party in the wealthy insulated continent-scaled multiculture of the United States will never be a revolutionary organization. Even in the terrible days of DLC capitulation and GOP ascendance, and certainly ever more so as the Party has moved left in the aftermath of ruinous neoconservative war crimes and neoliberal privatization schemes, in the storm churn of Occupy and BlackLivesMatter and queer feminism and climate change activism -- the Democratic Party is a vast, diverse, dynamic, storied, and indispensable collective instrument for transmitting progressive history, addressing shared present problems, and pushing in the direction of sustainable equity-in-diversity. But partisan politics in the United States are not revolutionary, they are reformist. The landscape in which they operate is continent-scaled, resource rich, intersectional in its oppressions, multilateral in its powers. It is not to not concede any measure of righteousness to incumbent elites or reactionary communities that I recognize as viable parties must do their actually real power and actually shared existence in this country demands political compromises I nonetheless morally disapprove. Generations of radical activism and expression might alter culture in ways that bring present radicalisms into a prevalence a nationally viable party might well accommodate (this has repeatedly happened historically), but there are no short cuts for arriving at such accomplishments. People who pretend voting in a party primary are engaging in some kind of Revolutionary activity are mocking revolutionary politics no less than tech-talkers who declare bitcoin revolutionary or marketers who declare a soft drink is revolutionary are mocking revolutionary politics.
More extreme political factions -- the ones that agree with me about ideal social and environmental justice outcomes very much included -- are unable to build or maintain nationally viable parties. This is evident in our Libertarians and Greens, to return to the post's opening salvo. Nor will marginal radical or revolutionary factions be able to hijack a nationally viable party, as independent kinda-sorta-socialist Bernie Sanders has tried and failed to hijack the Democratic Party... Nor, I must add, even if doing so is adding insult to injury, would marginal factions be able to maintain control over a nationally viable party were they to manage a hijacking in a moment of crisis. Such a party hijacking either announces the dissolution and supersession of that party or more pragmatic and mainstream-legible authorities regain control and mobilize a working coalition within and through the party soon enough, as I would say Donald Trump will find to his cost if I thought Donald Trump actually cared one way or another about such a thing.
I daresay our present party duopoly is quite terrible in its way, especially given recent geographical and ideological sorting and consequent polarization, and I might say some sort of Parliamentary system would be more accountable and more efficacious if this were some genial thought experiment. Saying so looks to me just about as relevant as the Founders warning against factions rather than better checking their predictable pathologies in the Constitutional system. It seems to me that in pretty much every practically conceivable instance (for me, you no doubt are smarter and more imaginative than I am), the politics through which one would create and maintain a nationally viable party to accomplish some more radical policy outcome than is presently entertained within the confines of one of our present parties are incomparably more difficult and slow than would be the effort to bring one of those parties around to the effort through education, agitation, and organization. Nationally viable parties are coalitions and they are susceptible to change from within by clear-sighted long-dedicated well-organized forces within them, especially when these changes afford the party electoral advantages in a nation that is also changing. Running a protest candidate, by the way, can be a form of such activism -- but do be sure your protest candidate knows that using a campaign to do issue education is not going to look like a campaign that is trying to win an election. So long as it remains a better bet to work through than outside of parties when what one wants is specific legislative accomplishments, then third parties are going to remain at utterly marginal spoilers at the edges or highly personal settings for indulging in narcissistic purity cabaret.
That state of affairs doesn't exactly thrill me, but the simple truth is that there are far worse problems that demand our attention and that progressive change from movements on the ground and representatives in office is the struggle at hand. If you're not up for partisan politics -- just vote for the best available candidates by your lights and then do such good as is otherwise available to you. But don't expect those of us who know better to indulge the pretense that purity cabaret or hijack fantasies or this-time-it's-happening protest candidates amount either to real radicalism or real reformism. Such efforts are useless and confused and the proper province of pampered narcissists and mis-educated dupes.
Friday, May 27, 2016
In Fresno, Donald Trump says environmentalists are to blame for California's drought and he will solve it by "opening up the water." -- James Cook, BBC
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
"What Is Compelling? Argument, Reconciliation, Obligation"
Summer 2016, Session A, 2.30-5pm., Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 88 Dwinelle
Instructor, Dale Carrico: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
Course Blog: http://whatiscompelling.blogspot.com
Participation/Attendance/In-Class Activities, 20%; Reading Notebook, 20%; Precis, 2-3pp., 10%; Mid-Term Exam, 25%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 25%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)
This course provides students with tools they can use to make better, more compelling, arguments and also to read arguments in better, more critical, ways. We will draw the tools for our argumentative toolboxes from the long history of rhetoric, from sophistical dissoi logoi, to the Aristotelian appeals, to Quintilian's four master tropes, to the rich archive of formal and informal fallacies, to argument modeled on litigation via Toulmin's schema, to argument modeled on mediation via Rogerian synthesis, to the pragmatism of the ends of argument. All the while we are workshopping these technical skills we will also be reading and discussing a range of texts that tackle questions of the reach and forms of violence and nonviolence in historical struggle and in everyday life. These texts will likewise draw from a long history, from Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frantz Fanon and Hannah Arendt to Arundhati Roy, Judith Butler, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. We will also talk through a play by Euripides, an essay by Nietzsche, a novel by Octavia Butler, a film by Cronenberg… The crucial thing to understand about the course is that we will not be taking on two separate projects, one practical and another theoretical. This course proposes that there is an indispensable relation between the traditional focus of rhetoric as instruction in the art of making compelling arguments and the theoretical preoccupation of many rhetoricians with questions of what violence or compulsion ultimately consists. It is commonplace to see Persuasion offered up as an alternative to the violent adjudication of disputes or hear Argument idealized as a space "outside" of violence. But the truth is that many arguments rely on the acceptance of a violent status quo or depend on conventional assumptions that deny marginal testimonies to violation. Also, many arguments stealthily threaten violence while at once congratulating themselves on their peacefulness. Ultimately, the course proposes that it is rhetoric's definitive concern with the traffic between the literal and figurative dimensions of language and its situated understanding of truth-telling that connects the work of rhetoric with a project of reconciliation that resists violence even as we cannot help but risk it.
A Provisional Schedule of Meetings
May 24 SKILL SET: Key Definitions
 Rhetoric is the facilitation of efficacious discourse as well as an ongoing inquiry into the terms on the basis of which discourse comes to seem efficacious or not.
 A text is an event experienced as arising from intention, offered up to the hearing of an audience, and obligating a responsiveness equal to it.
 An argument is a claim supported by reasons and/or evidence.
Introductions: Rhetoric as occasional, interested, figurative; The literal as conventional, the figurative as deviant.
May 25 SKILL SET: Reading Critically/Writing Critically; Audience/Intentions -- Audiences: Sympathetic, Unsympathetic, Apathetic; Intentions: Interrogation, Conviction, Persuasion, Reconciliation
May 26 SKILL SET: Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Writing A Precis
Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose
May 31 SKILL SET: Four Habits of Argumentative Writing: 1. Formulate a Strong Thesis, 2. Define Your Terms, 3, Substantiate/Contextualize, 4, Anticipate Objections; Performativity
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
June 1 SKILL SET: The Toulmin Schema
William May, "Rising to the Occasion of Our Death" (In-Class Handout)
June 2 SKILL SET: Rogerian Rhetoric
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Precis should be posted to the blog by midnight, Saturday, June 4
June 7 SKILL SET: Debate
Randal Amster, Anarchism and Nonviolence: Time for a "Complementarity of Tactics"
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
George Ciccariello-Maher, Planet of Slums, Age of Riots
Mike Davis, Slum Ecology
Chris Hedges, Evidence of Things Not Seen
June 8 SKILL SET: Propositional Analysis; Enthymemes, Syllogisms, Formal Fallacies, Informal Fallacies
June 9 SKILL SET: Literal/Figurative Language; Figures, Tropes, Schemes; Four Master Tropes
Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense; Workshopping
June 14 Mid-Term Examination
June 15 Screening and Discussion of the Film, "A History of Violence," dir. Cronenberg
June 16 Correspondence of Tolstoy and Gandhi
Interview with Amitabh Pal
Louise Gray, Telegraph, Gene Sharp: How to Start a Revolution
Nick Cohen, Guardian, The Phantom Menace of Militant Atheism
Edward Oakes, First Things, Atheism and Violence
June 21 Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence from The Wretched of the Earth
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations
Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, The Role of Highways in American Poverty
Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute, From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government Sponsored Segregation
June 22 Hannah Arendt, Reflections On Violence, Preface from Between Past and Future, and "Must Eichmann Hang?" (In-Class Handout)
June 23 Workshopping Final Paper: Producing a Strong Thesis; Anticipating Objections; Providing Textual Support
June 28 Octavia Butler, Kindred (Purchase in time for class.)
June 29 Judith Butler, from Chapter One of Undoing Gender, "Beside Oneself," pp. 17-26, roughly, and the concluding chapter of Precarious Life, pp. 128-151.
June 30 Concluding Remarks. Final Paper Due
Monday, May 23, 2016
Sunday, May 22, 2016
The Usual Suspects: Ben from Ben & Jerry's, Susan Sarandon, Cornel West, and Tim Robbins for Nader in 2000
The point of posting this video is not the facile one which singularly blames Nader for Gore losing the 2000 election and unleashing unquestionably the worst most catastrophic Presidency of a generation. I say this because Gore didn't lose the election. Gore won the election and then Republican appointees on the Supreme Court abetted a putsch. The point is that these arguments were objectively wrong. They revealed an indifference to differences that make a difference that exposes privilege not righteousness. They mistake the clarity of logical advocacy or passionate agitation for an ideal position for the compromised work through which progress toward better policies are accomplished and maintained. They mis-educated and mislead millions of people about distinctions that urgently mattered and demoralized majorities about real possibilities for change when people organize and struggle, solving shared problems through legislation and pushing our sense of the possible and the important from movements on the ground. The stomach churning thing about this Nader video is not just that so many of the faces have not changed in the fauxvolutionary epoch of the Bernie Brigade but that, word for word, their arguments have not changed to reflect the evidence and experience of the collective disaster of the first decade of this century, a disaster from which the nation has not yet recovered, a failure to recover which leaves us as planetary peers radically unprepared for the challenge of climate catastrophe which is already reshaping the world and history in the image of disaster.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Friday, May 20, 2016
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Friday, May 13, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016
1 Now that political campaigns are becoming less and less about vetting candidates for key positions but opportunities for fandom enjoyment,— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 12, 2016
2 while self-promotional and marketing deceptions and hyperbole by celebrity tech-CEOs/VCs are replacing public criticism and deliberation,— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 12, 2016
3 it matters more than ever before that we grasp and critique the reality that celebrity culture is a celebration of sociopathy.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 12, 2016
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Bad "legalization" laws are a real problem. In CA, the AUMA is a disaster. And, people are mistaken in he claims it will "let you grow your own", when it will really permit local governments to flat out ban outdoor grows, and will permit "reasonable regulation" of your indoor grow (and most folks cannot grow indoors for many reasons). This thing is a huge conglomeration of litigation-ready employment for cops and lawyers. We can't let the crappy be the enemy of the decent law we know is out there. The trick seems to be convincing some moneybag like Parker to back something worthwhile, and to convince the "pro pot lobby" to demonstrate a modicum of selectivity with their endorsements. The incremental "is it ANY better than what we have now (somewhat subjective, I might add) is threadbare at best, and probably harmful. We are not beggars. Demographics are shifting fast. We don't need to settle for a crap sandwich.To which I reply (perhaps a bit intemperately, but I've already had it up to here with purity cabaret from the BS Brigade this last few months):
That you would prefer any facet of the present racist war on drugs and prohibition over an imperfect legalization of recreational use seems to me a revoltingly selfish and privileged position to take. How glibly you declare "somewhat subjective" the premise that life would be better and fairer for people who would NOT have their lives ruined by costly unjust disruptive drug busts based in palpably false assumptions of social harm that would cease to exist! It is truly hard for me to restrain the rage with which I greet your airy purity cabaret! You need not "educate" me on the issue -- this is the not the ballot initiative I preferred, I am not unaware of its problems, I am not indifferent to the compromised institutional conditions under which it has been promoted... and I fully embrace the better as the better that it is, I fully recognize the nature of political reform, I fully embrace the need to continue the struggle to build on imperfect reform to eliminate problems and keep on working for progress. Compromise doesn't make you a beggar it makes you a real activist and progressive citizen. Nobody embraces "incrementalism" as a doctrine, one simply recognizes that anti-incrementalism in a world shared by an actual diversity of stakeholders is a recipe for stasis and reaction masquerading as righteousness. It's complete bullshit. From the standpoint of purity cabaret politics is all crap sandwiches all the time all the way down. If you can't deal with that and still want to make the world a better place I suggest you try art or charity -- you may honestly lack the strength, patience, clarity, and character for real world politics.
1 Make no mistake:— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 9, 2016
2 Every declaration that an artifact is intelligent,— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 9, 2016
3 every reduction of evolutionary dynamism or historical struggle to computation,— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 9, 2016
4 every proposal that culture is literally genetic or figuratively memetic— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 9, 2016
5 expresses a damaged and dangerous hostility to the reality and real dignity of embodied human life, consciousness and history.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 9, 2016
Monday, May 09, 2016
Sunday, May 08, 2016
1 Notice -- @FrankPasquale -- the perverse inversions playing out in Thought Leaders of our current neoliberal tech-discourse on job crises:— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
2 Rather than a crisis in available care -- whether health, education, social services -- to be addressed by living wage/expanded welfare...— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
3 we are told "roboticization" -- figured as some natural, inevitable, autonomous modernizing technological force -- *causes* job crises.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
4 Then, assuming the guise of utopian historical protagonists, tech-talkers & CEOs insist "roboticization" be compensated by Basic Income.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
5 Not incidentally, Basic Income advocacy is usually coupled to welfare elimination/"simplification" schemes in tech discourse.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
6 In the aftermath of libertopian equity dismantlement incumbent elites are free to define "Basic" income for dis-empowered majorities...— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
7 as precarious "bare life" securing plutocratic re-feudalization already emerging in algorithmic governance & shar(ecropp)ing economy.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
8 And so, the perverse inversions announced at the outset... The futurological roboticization thesis on job crises propounds:— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
9 one -- a false history decoupling automation from the context of successful attacks on organized labor to understand job crises;— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
10 two -- a false diagnosis of job crises as demanding more roboticization to provide (cheap, substandard versions) of needed services;— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
11 three -- a false proposal of vacuous abundance coupled to equity-dismantlement, the usual tech liberty of radical precarization;...— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
12 ...all to promote profitable substandard automated service provision, the arrival of AI singularity in universal artificial imbecillence.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 7, 2016
Saturday, May 07, 2016
1 I am a Hillary supporter, but because I am to Hillary's left I expect to complain about her and probably protest her for eight years.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
2 What annoys me about too many Hillary-haters is not that they criticize her (after all, I have my own criticisms)…— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
3 but that so many urgent critiques are now pitched in facile terms of the alternative of Hillary or Bernie in ways that trivialize them…— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
4 since so often Bernie's positions are no better than Hillary's (or worse, as I believe is true on regulation of financial misconduct)…— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
5 or when the issues are deeper than can be addressed simply by the choice of a President (as is obviously true of US militarism).— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
6 One can argue pros and cons of their differing positions relating the ACA to expanding healthcare or how to pay for debt-free college...— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
7 but deflecting radical critiques of unsustainable society, white supremacy, militarism onto celebrity fandom or purity cabaret is awful.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
8 HRC doesn't claim to be a revolutionary but a thoroughly compromised, compromising progressive pressured by movements to legislate change.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
9 Even as someone who agrees radical transformations are necessary in the face of environmental catastrophe and social injustice…— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
10 I think it is worse to misrepresent radicalism as Sanders does than affirm as Clinton does being a tool in a toolbox useful for progress.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
Friday, May 06, 2016
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Robots will take our jobs. This is what we should do about it https://t.co/bf37EsfczD #work pic.twitter.com/J95zLyJ0ax— World Economic Forum (@wef) May 5, 2016
@wef please spare us the faux-solidarity of "we." WEF invitees are from the class that owns & will own the robots cc @dalecarrico— Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) May 5, 2016
The relevant passage:@FrankPasquale @wef Article concludes with a right-wing boilerplate diatribe blaming "lazy" and "inflexible" workers for unemployment. 1— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
[I]t is true that since 1967, the share of men aged 25–54 without work has more than tripled, from five percent to 16 percent. But the reasons they’re not working have less to do with the rise of the machines than we’re being led to believe. According to a New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of Americans without jobs, 44 percent of men surveyed said there were jobs in their area they think they could obtain but weren’t willing to take them. [Those lazy workers!--d] In addition, around a third of those surveyed (including women) indicated that a spouse, food stamps or disability benefits provided another source of income. [Ah, the "welfare class of dependency," a right-wing bit of vaudeville so old it's got whiskers on it!--d] An unwillingness to relocate geographically may also help explain the decline in labor force participation. In a 2014 survey of unemployed individuals, 60 percent said that they were “not at all willing” to move to another state. [Man, those unworthy poors!--d] These findings suggest that while the U.S. boasts the most job openings since the government began tracking them nationwide (5.6 million), many of those without work don’t want to apply for one reason or another. [Useless mouths with their crazy thug reasons for resisting wholesome austerity!--d] It’s not man versus machine yet. [It never is: It is rich men against the rest of us, using machines to concentrate their wealth and authority. Ask the Luddites.--d] These figures and polls paint a very different picture of the actual problem. [Don't you just love a picture that shows you exactly what you want to see?--d] In addition to geography constraints along with spousal and government income supports contributing to fewer people wanting to work. [Get in line, crappy poors, and take it when we treat you like robots or we'll replace you with robots! Serially failed austerity and wealth concentration is the only answer -- how else will we meritocratic point-oh-one-percenters afford our bubble dome protection zones in the aftermath of the climate change pandemic apocalypse we're profited from now? Don't worry, if you are photogenic we'll scoop some of you up for a few years as sexslaves unless we get the Holodeck brothels online before then. The Future is gonna be awesome!--d]
@FrankPasquale @wef Essay purports to express elite concern over job crises but truly just threatens unruly masses with robotic replacement.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
@FrankPasquale @wef "Robots Will Take [Y]Our Jobs" is a threat -- you can be sure WEF incumbents feel no such peril for their own positions.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
@FrankPasquale @wef As usual, futurological discourse rationalizes status-quo amplification as change: another demand for failed austerity.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
@dalecarrico @wef Yes! Why don't these articles anticipate "threat" of robot CEOs? https://t.co/A9QoKt4Xhy https://t.co/hC4xTnlDml— Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) May 5, 2016
@FrankPasquale & what happens when you kick aside futurological shiny objects? What if the RELEVANT artifacts were unions, co-ops, commons?— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) May 5, 2016
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Sunday, May 01, 2016
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Friday, April 29, 2016
"And if we're going to have a new world, let's have it be one where the grandmothers lead us." -- Starhawk
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers,axes, swords, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get others to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working withtheir own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far. -- J. R. R. Tolkien, from "Over Hill and Under Hill," The Annotated Hobbit (revised and expanded edition, Douglas A. Anderson), pp. 108-109I've been re-reading Tolkien sporadically in pockets of free time since I got back from the hospital. The reassurance of well-worn paths, I suppose. This passage is of course quintessentially Tolkienian and no surprise philosophically, but I was surprised nonetheless at the bluntness and force of its critique of facile techno-modernism in a story so unambiguously for children.