The State as Machine

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Paul Martin

by Bob Wallace
June 14, 2010

“All machines are amplifiers” ~ Cooper’s Law

That’s a true saying: Machines are amplifiers, amplifiers of our inherent abilities. Machines are not moral or immoral; they’re amoral. They can be used for good or bad.

So the big question is: How can you tell if they are being used for good or bad purposes? To answer this, I look to mythology. Not the old mythologies, but the new ones. Although, to be fair, the new mythologies are just the same old stories retold for modern sensibilities.

One old story, told in a new way, burst on the modern world in the ’70s. Everyone knows his name: Darth Vader.

Vader is a modern retelling of the story of Satan, in that his greatest sin is Pride, and he wants to be God and have absolute power over everything, but he’s something that Satan or any incarnation of him isn’t: he’s half man, half machine, a monster who is, as Obi-Wan said, “twisted and evil.”

Vader was a representative of the Empire, and everything about the Empire was a soulless machine: the Death Star; the identical Myrmidons known as the stormtroopers, Vader himself. There existed not the slightest evidence of any warmth, or love, or community. Just the will to power. And as Carl Jung noted, you can have either love or power (meaning political power, which is the power to turn a live human into a corpse), but not both.

Joseph Campbell said something just as perceptive as Jung but funnier: he called Darth Vader “a bureaucrat,” living under a system imposed on him. Vader could strangle people by pointing his finger at them, but he was nonetheless a bureaucrat of the State just as much as a nonentity at the DMV.

On the other side, in the second movie, opposing the Empire, the Ewoks were added. They didn’t really use many machines, and advanced ones not at all, but they had community. Compare them to the Empire, and it’s easy to see the difference between them.

Lucas did this split between the Ewoks and the Empire on purpose. He was using an old theme in literature known as the Machine State versus the Natural State. The Empire is a machine, a monster, really; the Ewoks live a natural, organic life. You can see this same thing in H.G. Wells’ The Time
Machine, in which the Eloi symbolize the Natural State and the Morlocks (who eat the Eloi) the Machine State.

The Rest…HERE

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