To Autumn -Technology and Happiness

To Autumn -Technology and Happiness

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    We are presently living in an era of material affluence. Never before in man's history has the production of goods been so scientifically manipulated by the use of technology; never before have the natural sciences advanced with such speed and skill so that even nature, that unpredictable force of life, has come under its control and the outer limits of our Universe, as a result of scientific exploration has lost its mystery. It is an era in which it is generally believed that Science and Technology are the answer to human suffering, and that in time we will find the key that will open the door to happiness for all. Science and Technology have thus become the religion of the 20th century. Consequently, we find that we are in the autumn of our civilization, our granaries are filled to capacity, and yet the leaves, of the trees of life are falling. Man has not succeeded in finding "happiness", for as Marcuse says, "The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their souls in their automobile, hi-fi,set, split-level home, kitchen equipment." Thus man is alienated and isolated from himself and, like a gleaner, is picking up the remaining grains of love and communication rather than capitalizing on them. It is the thesis of this, paper that the advances in Science and Technology, which are seen as a redeemer of the human soul, have achieved the opposite condition and that only by human intercourse can man hope to revive filial affection.

 

      Looking at our present society, I am struck by the desperation shown by individuals who are seeking ways of finding some meaning to their lives. Young adults and teenagers are running away from home and their parents' values and means of achieving "success."' Their parents, who fail to understand that their children are looking for affection and meaningful relationships keep asking, "Why? we've given them everything possible." But their material offerings do not appear to fulfill the human need for communication and love. These parents, who have struggled all their lives for material success have found little time for their families, and the family structure as an institution has suffered greatly. Children are sent out of the home to attend nursery schools at the age of two, three or four years and early in life they become aware of the need to achieve.

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They are told that they must receive a good education because education is essential in obtaining a good paying job. They are told that they must be polite, personable, and attractive because these qualities win friends and spouses. Consequently, life begins to appear to exist outside of them, and all too soon the child experiences a feeling of depersonalization. This depersonalization is depicted by the sociologist Robert E. Parks, who writes:

 

      Everywhere in the Great Society the relations of men which were intimate and personal have been more or less superseded by relations that are impersonal and formal. The result is that in the modern world... every aspect of life seems to be mechanical and rationalized. This is particularly true in our modern cities which are... so largely inhabited by lonely men and women. Where are these young people running to? Many are escaping into the world of drugs, a world they claim where life appears beautiful and where experiences are heightened. Others are engaging in emotionally premature experiences, possibly hoping to find relief from loneliness, and still others are taking part in mass community experiences, such as The White Lake Music Festival where thousands of people joined together to experience communally, a common interest --music, or the mass political demonstrations where thousands have voiced their opposition to discrimination.

 

      And what about the older members of society? have they been happy in their strivings? The answer must be no. With the advent of the huge corporations, men and women have become numbers on a payroll rather than individuals necessary for the functioning of a company. Automation has threatened many employees with the loss of their jobs. The rapidly changing society has threatened their security. Even religious institutions have lost their influence over the masses. Their material acquisitions provide little comfort, against the threat of fear, loneliness and insecurity. This dissatisfaction is well- stated in the following statement by Sigmund Freud:

 

One would like to ask: is there...no increase in my feeling of happiness, if I can hear the voice of a child of mine who is living hundreds of miles away or if I can learn in the shortest possible time after a friend has reached his destination that he has come through the long and difficult voyage unharmed? Does it mean nothing that medicine has succeeded in enormously reducing infant mortality and the danger of infection for women in childbirth, and, indeed, in considerably lengthening the average life of a civilized man? ... But here the voice of pessimistic criticism makes itself heard...If there had been no railroad, ... my child would never have left his native town, ... if traveling across the ocean by ship had not been introduced, my friend would never have embarked on his sea voyage...What is the use of reducing infant mortality... when that reduction imposes the greatest restrain on us in the begetting of children... And what good is a long life if it is difficult and barren of joys and if it is so full of misery that awe can only welcome death as a deliverer?

 

Although Sigmund Freud's interpretation of Technology is a pessimistic one, the point he makes is poignant. Scientific and technological advances alone cannot achieve human happiness. I see that to combat human isolation is communication. Not the communication of the telephone or the mass media but the verbal expression of one's human needs. Man will soon discover that the uniqueness of his being is not altogether unique, but his feelings are shared by millions of others throughout the world. I pose the question: Will our autumn turn into a deadly winter, where even the hope of happiness will be lost, or can man unite with nature (life) and breathe deeply the aromas of love and beauty?



 Works Cited

Bate, Walter jackson, Ed. Keats: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs:

Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.

Forman, Buxton H. The Poetical Works of John Keats. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell

Co., 1895.

 

 

 

 

 
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