in post

Coping in the modern world

It's charming to read, in The One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka's frustration with Japanese officialdom. He's the epitome of the crazy genius nobody understands, the idealist who makes everyone else feel uncomfortable. I knew a man like that, Toma Schuck, who counseled me in my successful attempt to avoid military service as a conscientious objector. By the time we'd finished, the military understood that I wasn't exactly the material they were looking for.

Since that time, the world has grown ever more rigid in the formality of its structures, even as it simultaneously grows more fragile. The dystopian experience I had recently in Moscow airport highlights this trend. Masses of people held up and missing their flights because they have to be forced through the bottleneck of security scanners that nobody was paying any attention to and no one could. The baggage scanner was just a conveyor belt through which objects were rapidly passed. I think I could have gotten through with a miniature hydrogen bomb. Then the airline wouldn't pay up for lost flights because an hour was supposed to be enough to get through. The formal structures were maintained, but inside a theater of the absurd.

The material world is increasingly complicated to negotiate; whether it's getting through an airport or getting a job. In China they're introducing their social credit system, in India they're tying information in the Aadhar. There have been brilliant documentaries and feature films about people who fall through the cracks of our increasingly complex systems. I, Daniel Blake of British director Ken Loach comes to mind.

Sometimes I too feel like I can't or won't cope with all this. I'm relatively good with technologies, but slow and inarticulate in many human interactions. Yet I'm still in the normal range. What of other who are old and senile, or damaged by drugs, traumatized by wars and violence? Human beings cannot be forced into a straight jacket of formal structures. It's preferable to live on the fringes of the monstrous civilization we have created, and simply not have to deal with it.