On Thoreau


GeoffreyTransom's picture

Although there is much to admire about Thoreau (and my audiobook of "Civil Disobedience" is, along with Bakunin's "God, Man and the State" and Paine's "The Rights of Man", a constant fave), his technophobia and mild misanthropism is what makes a good deal of his broader philosophy unpalatable for me. (I'm a technophile, and while I am thoroughly misanthropic at times, it's on a case-by-case basis).

A good deal of Thoreau's material comes across as what we today would refer to as 'passive aggressive'; mild hectoring and a 'holier than thou' attitude. 'Simplify simplify'... yeah yeah; what about just letting folks get on with their lives, wherever AND HOWEVER they want to live them so long as we're all living consistent with the ZAP?

Thoreau seemed to suffer from the idea that his set of preferences (for being solitary and living without even the technology of the day) was the only 'valid' set of preferences, and that others' were inferior. While we all think our preference maps are the 'best' in some subjective sense, the idea that they are a universal 'best' set is the same sort of nonsense to which Statists subscribe (albeit with more alacrity).

The long-run consequences of living by Thoreaus dicta: high infant mortality, short lifespans and less material well-being... supposedly compensated for by the smug sense of feeling enlightened. In short, the same sense of internal-self-righteous-gratification-by-mortification that leads hipster-douches to join the iCult and buy overpriced underperforming gadgets (yes, it's voluntary, but dear God make it stop!).

(I didn't use my new $149 3G-wifi-bluetooth-GPS 7" ZTE 9 tab to write this... but I could have. And my tab does not track my every move and save the results in a hidden file, like iPhones and other iDreck do).