Please welcome tonight’s guest speaker…

Let’s hear it for Jacques Ellul. Take it away Jacques…

Men now live in conditions that are less than human. Consider the concentration of our great cities, the slums, the lack of space, of air, of time, the gloomy streets and the sallow lights that confuse night and day. Think of our dehumanized factories, our unsatisfied senses, our working women, our estrangement from nature. Life in such an environment has no meaning. Consider our public transportation, in which man is less important than a parcel. Yet we call this progress…and the noise, that monster boring into us at every hour of the night without respite.

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…for historical man, until a comparatively late date, work was a punishment, not a virtue. It was better not to consume than to have to work hard; the rule was to work only as much as absolutely necessary in order to survive. Man worked as little as possible and was content with restricted consumption of goods.

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The time given to technology was short, compared with the leisure time devoted to sleep, conversation, games, or, best of all, to meditation. As a consequence, technical activities had little place in these societies. Technology functioned only at certain precise and well-defined times. This was the case in all societies before our own. Technology was not part of man’s occupation nor a subject of preoccupation.

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In our day, we are unable to envisage comfort except as part of the technical order of things. Comfort for us means bathrooms, easy chairs, foam rubber mattresses, air conditioning, washing machines, and so forth. For us, comfort is closely associated with material life; it manifests itself in the perfection of personal goods and machines. The men of the Middle Ages also were concerned with comfort, but for them comfort had an entirely different form and content. It represented a feeling of moral and aesthetic order. Space was a primary element in comfort. Man sought open spaces, large rooms, the possibility of moving about, of seeing beyond his nose, of not constantly colliding with other people. These preoccupations are altogether foreign to us.

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Technology is of necessity, and as compensation, our universal language. It is the fruit of specialization. But this very specialization prevents mutual understanding. Everyone today has his own professional jargon, modes of thought, and peculiar perception of the world. There was a time when the distortion of oversimplification was the butt of jokes and a subject for vaudeville. Today the sharp knife of specialization has passed like a razor into the living flesh. It has cut the umbilical cord which linked men with each other and with nature. The man of today is no longer able to understand his neighbour because his profession is his whole life, and the technical specialization of this life has forced him to live in a closed universe. He no longer understands the vocabulary of others. Nor does he comprehend the underlying motivations of others.

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Man was made to do his daily work with his muscles; but we see him now, like a fly on paper, seated for eight hours, motionless at his desk. Fifteen minutes of exercise cannot make up for eight hours of absence. The human being was made to breathe the good air of nature, but what he breathes is an obscure compound of acids and coal tars. He was created for a living environment, but he dwells in a lunar world of stone, cement, asphalt, glass, cast iron, and steel. The trees wilt and blanch among sterile and blind stone facades. Only rats and men remain to populate a dead world. Man was created to have room to move about in, to gaze into far distances, to live in rooms which, even when they were tiny, opened out on fields. See him now, enclosed by the rules and architectural necessities imposed by over-population in a twelve-by-twelve closet opening out on an anonymous world of city streets.

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The machine tends not only to create a new human environment, but also to modify man’s very essence. He must adapt himself, as though the world were new, to a universe for which he was not created. He was made to go 6 kilometers an hour, and he goes a thousand. He was made to eat when he was hungry and to sleep when he was sleepy; instead he obeys a clock. He was made to have contact with living things, and he lives in a world of cement. He was created with a certain essential unity, and he is fragmented by all the forces of the modern world.

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…no longer are there any lonely mountains and deserted seacoasts. Solitude is no longer possible; space is at such a premium that men jostle one another everywhere. Quite apart from the solitude of relaxation, we no longer have even the normal solitude which implies sufficient space to live other than as if in a prison cell or at a factory workbench. Living and working traditionally meant open space, a no man’s land separating a man from his fellows. But there is no longer any possibility of that.

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Man has always known wide horizons. Even the city dweller had direct contact with limitless plains, mountains and seas. Beyond the enclosing walls of the medieval city, was open country. At most the citizen had to walk five hundred yards to reach the city walls, where space, fair and free, suddenly extended before him. Today man knows only bounded horizons and reduced dimensions. The space not only of his movements but of his gaze is shrinking.

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In our cities there is no more day or night or heat or cold. But there is crowding, enslavement to press and television, total absence of purpose. All men are constrained by means external to them to ends equally external. The further the technical mechanism develops…the more we are subjected to artificial technical necessities.

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That man until recently got along well enough without measuring time precisely is something we never even think about. What means there were in the past for measuring time belonged to the rich and until the fourteenth century, exerted no influence on real time or on life. The time man guided himself by corresponded to nature’s time. It became abstract when it was divided into hours, minutes and seconds. Today the human being is dissociated from the essence of life; instead of living time, he is split up and parceled out by it.

The Technological Society – Jacques Ellul 1964

 

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HENRY WINKLER ON WATERSKIS

Dudley Dawson jumps a shark!

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12 Responses to Please welcome tonight’s guest speaker…

  1. Buck says:

    That’s a great piece and before I got to the citation at the end, I was thinking Dudley has gone all soft. It’s a keeper, this one. I didn’t plan getting philosophical in this site, but….. there’s no doubt that less is more, simplicity is sophistication, and the small things in life are the big things. But HK people dont get this.
    One should use use money to buy experiences, to outside tedious stuff that wastes your time (i.e use money to buy time), and spend it on others. But locals love the LV, bathing ape, Gucci crap and more and more bags of shit. HK is the epicenter of conspicuous consumption”: sheepels buying stuff that they don’t need, with money that they don’t have, to impress people that they don’t know. Why? Because they dont have the confidence to be an “unbranded” person.
    I saw this local dude busking outside MOKO in MK last night. I’ve seen him for years, and some of you who have been here a while may have seen him too. He’s got one leg, glasses, plays guitar. Sings in English (he likes Billy Joel). He always sits on the path. He’s good, very good. Last night some asshole “whistling” busker 20 metres away set up a speaker as loud as hell and drowned out the one legged dude. So I gave the one legged dude a pile of dosh. I told him I had seen him singing for years and it was high time I gave him something. It felt good. Money well spent.

  2. Buck says:

    too many typos. Try this:
    That’s a great piece and before I got to the citation at the end, I was thinking Dudley has gone all soft. It’s a keeper, this one. I didn’t plan getting philosophical in this site, but….. there’s no doubt that less is more, simplicity is sophistication, and the small things in life are the big things. But HK people dont get this.
    One should use money to buy experiences, to outsource tedious stuff that wastes your time (i.e use money to buy time), and spend it on others. But locals love the LV, bathing ape, Gucci crap and more and more bags of shit. All for me me me. HK is the epicenter of conspicuous consumption”: sheepels buying stuff that they don’t need, with money that they don’t have, to impress people that they don’t know. Why? Because they dont have the confidence to be an “unbranded” person.
    I saw this local dude busking outside MOKO in MK last night. I’ve seen him for years, and some of you who have been here a while may have seen him too. He’s got one leg, glasses, plays guitar. Sings in English (he likes Billy Joel). He always sits on the path. He’s good, very good. Last night some asshole “whistling” busker 20 metres away set up a speaker as loud as hell and drowned out the one legged dude. So I gave the one legged dude a pile of dosh. I told him I had seen him singing for years and it was high time I gave him something. It felt good. Money well spent.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There are 200,000 people living in cages in Hong Kong and around the same number living in coffin homes. Only they understand the true meaning of “Hong Kong Sucks”.

  4. Cat's Eye says:

    One doesn’t have to live in a cage or coffin home to realize the life is being sucked out of them by living in Hong Kong.
    “Dudley Dawson jumps a shark!” – I hope this comment isn’t the beginning of the end.

  5. Cat's Eye says:

    Jacques Ellul is now on my reading list. His words from 1964 could’ve been written today. Gave me chills to read.

    I wonder if the people who live in those massive buildings pictured here think about the topics Ellul discusses. Or, to do so would be so traumatic they bury those thoughts in shopping, texting and tv watching.

  6. Buck says:

    It’s Fonzie!

  7. Dutchman says:

    there is a Dutch guy at HKU called Frank Dikotter. He is a historian specialising in modern Chinese history, particularly under Chairman Mao. If you enjoy reading horror, dystopia or psychopathy, Dikotter’s books are a must. What you are now experiencing in Hong Kong is simply an echo of the past.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Christ where do you guys live? I mean like in which part of Hong Kong?

  9. Often Wong says:

    Well done, Dudley, It is showing 10 recent comments now!! Well done.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Welp after going through this whole blog I can conclude that HK have taken our sanity away and make us rant about HK forever, may our scars in our brain one day hopefully be healed and move on

  11. Cat's Eye says:

    Why are Hong Kong Chinese such racist pigs? Especially the men, but also the women and I’m sure this issue extends to Mainland China.

    I’m dumbfounded how, on one hand, the Chinese want to embrace everything Western, but on the other hand they show complete disdain for those of us who are Western, especially women.

    I met with an attorney (Chinese) at a very large/well known firm in Central who had just come from a liquid lunch (translation – he was drunk) and he had the audacity to come on to me. He treated me as if I was some dumb shit uneducated woman. Since there was no one else in the room it would’ve been my word against his. In the second meeting my husband came along and the attorney was a completely different person. If we had been just about anywhere else in the world I would have done everything in my power to get his license revoked.

    And to reply to Anon on 15 July…I’ve lived in Mid-levels/Sai Ying Pun and Discovery Bay. My husband and I have had to deal with pianos being played for hours on end, children running for hours on end, furniture being moved at extremely odd hours, renovation work inside the building, an MTR station being built next to us, doors slamming, people yelling, dogs barking, the stench of trash, etc. We’ve paid a lot of money to deal with this shit.

    Yeah, this place is “da bomb” people…cockroaches, snakes, rats and all. And, for those of you who say just leave if you don’t like it… believe me at my first opportunity I will, permanently. In the mean time I will save every damn $$ I can.

    Why a Western expat would choose to live here permanently is beyond me. Oh, and I had relatives decades and decades ago who were big time merchants (from the UK) here — one who lived in the governor’s mansion and another who lived on the Peak. Gag me is about all i can say. I’m sure things were different then. Why anyone would pay $100k HKD per month or more to live on the Peak is just nuts. You think you have arrived, but you haven’t. You’re just a fool.

    I will leave and I will not be back. Yes, I fully admit that my country has a myriad of problems. The difference is is that when I do go home I won’t have to share walls with strangers, In fact, my walls will have insulation – what a concept! I will have my own vehicle, a home on a good chunk of land, a f…ing garbage disposal, a decent sized washer and a decent sized dryer, etc, etc. Oh, and I won’t have to listen to my neighbor taking a piss. OMG.

    I don’t know why anyone thinks this place is Asia’s World City. Sure, if you compare it to Manila, which is devoid of anything even remotely cultural, than maybe Hong Kong has a fighting chance.

    To those of you who are Hong Kong Chinese…no, you are not heads above the Mainland Chinese. You think you are, but you are not.

    Learn how to treat all people with respect, not just Chinese, not just men, but everyone. Don’t be so two-faced and don’t worry about saving face – it just makes you look pathetic. It’s such a cliche, but it does apply here – try to think outside the box. Yes, you learn by rote in school and that’s not your fault, but that isn’t life. Oh no, it’s not on my list so it can’t be possible. Oh no, I can’t check box A, B or C… uh, uh, I dunno maybe I should check box D or speak to my boss because I can’t make a decision on my own. It’s okay, you will survive.

    Many of you are going to say I’m a Western woman who is a racist pig and that’s okay. The difference is is that I’m fully aware of how I have changed living here. I’m not a hypocrite. I know exactly who I am and what I have become living here. I do my best to rise above the bullshit I see here everyday, but it gets more and more difficult as the years go by.

    Oh, and stop weaving and staring at your phone while you’re walking down the stairs or ambling down a sidewalk. You know I’m there and I will not move. You will move and you will appear surprised, but it’s all an act. If you and your pals are taking up the sidewalk I will plow right through you. No, I’m not a big person but I have the strength to let you know you can’t be an asshole every moment of the day.

    And, for the Westerners here that seem to have a growing sense of misplaced entitlement. Stop it, you’re just as shitty as the Chinese when you act like an asshole. Treat the helpers with respect and treat the Chinese and every other nationality as you would wish to be treated. Yes, you really can rise above the fray and do it graciously. And, no, you are no better than anyone else here.

    If I hear one more adult Chinese woman speaking like a child (and thinking it’s cute) I may vomit right on them.

    I do have a heart. My husband and I have given $1000s of dollars to various organizations and people throughout Asia.

    Be honest with yourself. Be honest with the people around you…”Honesty is such a lonely word,
    Everyone is so untrue, Honesty is hardly ever heard.”

  12. There is no spoon says:

    Cat’s Eye, take it easy. You are living among psychopaths and cold-blooded animals. They have been behaving like that for the last few thousand years and will continue to behave like that for the next few thousand years (at least).

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