Monday, August 23, 2010

The posthuman and the subhuman

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This from "Why dogs go after mail carriers," by Garret Keizer, Harper's magazine, September 2010, pp. 6-9.

It is a brilliant defense of our U.S. postal system.

"One looks for the questions that define one's times. Perhaps the key question of our own, a question that applies both politically and environmentally and which, oddly enough, seem related to the fate of the post office, is this: Do we want to be angels, or do we want to be human beings?"

"People who talk about our 'materialistic society" and about getting back to "spiritual values" strike me as having a right sense of indignation and a poor sense of analysis. The delusion of our society is not so much its materialism as its faux spiritualism, its desire to make a heaven on earth, not as a place free of needless suffering and full of what Barbara Ehrenreich calls 'collective joy,' but as one in which the elect live everlastingly and communicate telepathically while flying in disembodied splendor above the heads of the Mexicans mowing the lawn. Already one hears futuristic blather about a 'posthuman' age. I'd say that I hope I die before I see it, except that I have seen it. Your great-grandmother saw it. The posthuman is merely the subhuman that results whenever people aspire to the superhuman. ...

"How about just-human? I don't want to be a seraph or a sunbeam but a citizen, that is, to live in a physical body and a geographical community bounded by time and space and served in full equality by incarnate citizens... [...] I'll keep my email, thank you, but let my 'primary communications carrier' be a unionized worker with his feet on the sidewalk and no wings on his feet. If I have to wait an extra day or two for a parcel, I can bear it. I've already waited half a century for national health care, and I am likely to be as dead as an undeliverable letter by the time all its provisions go into effect."

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