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Beware of the technocratic ideology

October 22, 2009

PHENOMENA like young men and even women already taking beer at 6 in the morning in convenience stores, seminarians engrossed in Facebook but cannot master the Latin declensions even after one year of classes, etc., are getting rampant these days.

They indicate a big, worrying shift not only in behavior but also of attitudes and values that is now asking to be regulated properly. This is a challenge for everyone. Of course, the elders and those in authority – parents, teachers, clergy, public officials – should take the lead.

Those call center workers are inverting their days and nights. To some extent this can be done and is necessary. But identifying the limits, and respecting basic, unchangeable values can be a tricky problem. They tend to invert things indiscriminately.

Those young seminarians remiss in their academic requirements while immersed in cyberdistractions are just a thumbnail image of a widening problem besetting our youth today. Obviously, the computers and the internet can stimulate their thinking, but they can also stimulate other unwelcome practices in them.

The predicament actually has deeper causes and needs to be framed within a wider perspective. Pope Benedict hits it bull’s eye when he said in his encyclical “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in the truth):

“Technological development can give rise to the idea that technology is self-sufficient when too much attention is given to the ‘how’ questions, and not enough to the many ‘why’ questions underlying human activity.” (70)

This is the problem we have to tackle. We are slowly being lulled and intoxicated by the many wonders of the technological potentials. We are being detached from our true human foundation as we are slowly being made into slaves, victims and preys of the predatory side of our increasingly technocratic culture.

With this frame of mind, our grip of reality hardly goes beyond what is instantly practical, pleasurable, popular. We get hooked to a knee-jerk, Pavlovian way of reacting, without giving any thought to long-range effects.

We get restricted to the material and sensual aspects of our life, forgetting the spiritual and supernatural. We find it harder nowadays to pray, to find leisure time with family and friends, etc. We get prodded to act without giving due attention to thinking and planning.

In its wake, we can find the debris of disorder not only in the physical and external order, but also and more seriously in the internal side, since our sense of values and priorities are pressured to go haywire.

In short, we are being emptied of our substance as persons and as children of God, and are massaged to become hollow automatons, reacting only to external or mechanical stimuli, and not anymore acting from a soul.

For sure, technology offers us a lot of advantages. As the Pope says, technology “draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon.” But we have to make sure that technology is used properly, that is, directed by a solid sense of moral responsibility on our part.

It should not just be allowed to fascinate us with its many possibilities. The immense sense of freedom that it gives should be accompanied by a well-grounded sense of responsibility.

Therefore, we have to work out a program of formation on the “ethically responsible use of technology.” This obviously will require an interdisciplinary approach, since the requirements of our spiritual and material dimensions, of faith and science should be met.

There can be the usual learning-curve involved here, where the beginning of the process would involve a lot of effort, investments, the mess of the trial-and-error or the experimentation stage, etc. But the basic principles and goals should be made clear.

Technology should serve us in our objective needs, and not the other way around. It should make us better persons, better parents and children, better workers and students.

Most of all, it should make us better children of God, who know how to live the fullness of charity in the very midst of our mundane and temporal affairs that now rely a lot on technology.

The program of formation should focus on how virtues can be pursued and continually developed amid many competing values. The skill of discernment should be enhanced. When to say, yes and go, and when to say, no and stop and reject, should be learned.

Again for Christians, the ultimate test is whether the use of technology will make us be more like Christ! Short of that, we open ourselves to danger.