Written for Operation Werewolf by Paul Begadon/Megas Begadonos, author of "Unchaining the Titan."
In his guest post to the Operation Werewolf War Journal, Craig Williams talks about the modern tendency to spend huge amounts of our valuable time staring into the screens of our computers and smartphones, often to the detriment of the real personal relationships that we would be better off investing in. He says:
"One of the most common traits of modern times is the obsession with virtual “reality.” It’s not uncommon to see individuals grouped together ignoring one another gazing into their phones or laptops in a somnambulistic state blindly ignoring their surroundings, or one can even see individuals walking or driving while gazing into their phones in literal technological possession. What is it about the modern mind-set which seems obsessed with worshipping the Techno-God and ignoring vital human interaction? Humans are literally willing to risk losing their lives as well as take the lives of others in order to gaze into a screen of virtual “reality.” Is it any wonder that the harsh often brutal truths of life are feared, hidden or ignored?"
That phrase, "the Techno-God", struck me as being a perfectly succinct description of our relationship to modern technology. We worship technology, and the convenience that it provides us, above all else. Modern humans will spend an hour or more texting someone or sending stupid videos on Snapchat, but they won't walk (or even drive) twenty minutes down the road to actually meet that person face to face. We eagerly await the newest edition of the iPhone, knowing full well that it's the same bullshit as the last edition. We gorge ourselves on box-sets and Netflix marathons, watching TV shows on our asses while we get fat and stupid. When I walk through any city or large town, I see gangs of young people with their heads dropped and their necks distorted into unnatural positions as they stare empty-eyed into the screens of their smartphones. When a new release of Call Of Duty comes out, people wait up all night to get into the stores early to buy it. Then they lock themselves away in their houses and pretend to be some kind of badass by diving into a virtual reality. A false reality.
The funny thing is; this is the new norm. What I've described is now so commonplace that even when I read it back to myself I am reminded of times where I have been sucked into the wasting rituals of techno-worship. The Cult of the Computer is now so prevalent that it transcends culture, nationality, race, religion, and age. You can walk through New York on a busy Saturday afternoon, or stroll through some shithole village in a supposedly impoverished Third World nation, and somebody there will be Instagramming pictures of their outfit. Old, young, brown, white, Jew, Gentile. Everyone is caught on The Web.
And that's the perfect way to describe it. Like any web, the Internet traps those who are not resilient to its power, whilst some spindly predator waits in the shadows to devour you like the prey you are. The Internet, like any Web, is a tool. It connects, but it also binds. When its power is underestimated it binds you to itself and refuses to set you free. It is also so addictive that it only requires a very brief amount of exposure to get you hooked. I am not old, but I remember when nobody my own age had access to the Internet. I think I was 20 when I bought my first smartphone and I, like anyone else, was amazed at its power. Suddenly the collective knowledge of the entire human race was available to me through this tiny window that I could carry in my pocket. In the few years between then and now I have definitely noticed an increasing dependency on technology in my own thought processes. And I don't like it.
Smartphone Addiction sounds absurd when you say the words. What normal human being would possibly allow themselves to become dependent on the dim blue light of a computer screen, right? But as absurd as it may sound, smartphone addiction is a real problem, and it's a problem that we are probably all affected by. That seemingly innocent but slightly reassuring blue light from the screen of your phone, a window into the unlimited realms of knowledge available online, wields more power over your subconscious mind than you might realize. On a very basic level, we find the blue and white light of the screen to be immediately satisfying because of its resemblance to a clear sky. Prolonged exposure to the light of a smartphone screen fools your brain into releasing the same hormones that it releases on a beautiful clear day. The kind of day that we can no longer truly appreciate because we are too busy Instagramming about it.
I am acutely aware of the issues that can arise from overuse of technology, but even I sometimes find myself being sucked into the destructive cycle. This is how compelling it can be; that you fall for it even though you know it's a problem. I often find myself wasting time doing pointless or procrastinating tasks online when I should be doing something better. An example of such an occasion for me might go something like this:
I've got an email. Better respond to it.
Done, one more task completed.
Better check my Facebook for any updates.
A comment on my latest article, better respond.
Done, another task completed.
Better check my Instagram while I'm at it.
Nothing new there, better get back to work.
Wait, have I got enough cash on hand for that thing this weekend?
Better check my bank balance.
Done, no problems with money.
Ok, back to work.
Wait, just got a killer idea for a new essay.
Better make a note of it.
Ok, I wrote six pages, I really should get back to work.
Wait, I've got another email…
It's a strange feeling, when you catch yourself being drawn towards a shiny piece of elaborately constructed metal and plastic unknown to yourself. Whatever the psychological explanation might be, these trinkets of the Techno-God have the power to hook their tendrils into the soft pink matter of our brains and draw our attention away from what it should be focused upon.
Who is this "Techno-God" that undeniably wields such power over us? If you've read my work before you will know that I like to deal in archetypes. It's a word that recurs throughout almost all of my writing. Personifying an important concept in the form of a well-constructed mytho-poetical metaphor, then using that personification to illustrate some valuable point, is essentially what I do every-time I write one of these essays. Where no readily formed archetype exists to serve as a symbolic representation of that important idea, I will create an archetype that fits my needs by welding together relevant symbols that have served my people well for centuries. As such, the Techno-God that Craig Williams and Paul Waggener have referred to in the past has both a name and a character in my mind, and that character is based on the Irish legend of Mogh Roth.
Mogh Roth was a powerful one-eyed (some say blind) druidic figure in Irish myth who could command some impressive powers. His name is roughly translated as meaning "Slave of the Wheel" and he was allegedly trained in the arts of Magic by none other than Simon Magus, rival of Saint Peter himself. From Simon he learned many mysteries which allowed him to manipulate lesser men as he saw fit. He possessed many technological marvels that would amaze even a modern engineer such as a Flying Chariot called Roath Ràmach, an ox-driven chariot which emitted its own light in darkness, and an indestructible shield that was star-speckled black with a shining silver rim. Almost like an iPhone in appearance. With the help of his daughter Tlachtga he also developed a number of artifacts which rendered anyone who touched them dead, anyone who saw them was blinded, and anyone who heard them was deafened.
We are told a number of impressive stories that solidify Mogh Roth's status as someone who is better left alone rather than provoked. During the battle of Druim Dàmhgaire he causes a dried up river to burst its banks and overflow. He summons venomous serpents and eels to bind the limbs of his enemies, breaking their arms and biting their heads. He materializes howling dogs to distract or slay the opposing druids. He coughs up a turbulent black cloud which covers the battlefield to blind and confuse the warriors. Finally, he turns the enemies druids to stone. The king of the invading army, none other than Cormac Mac Art himself, is forced to surrender in the face of Mogh Roth's overwhelming power.
"Tellers of tales shall relate
The woes of those whom it strikes;
Prostrate, it shall prostrate them;
In bonds it will bind them;
The bonds that it binds with
Like honeysuckle-twined tree.
Their assaults shall be stayed,
Their deeds shall all fail,
Their bodies shall be fodder for wolves
At the great ford of slaughter.
Even children will be able to take
Without combat, without conflict,
Their trophies and their heads."
You might say "Yeah it's a good story but what the hell has it got to do with technology?"
Mogh Roth is the personification of advanced knowledge and power. He is a druid, a worker of magic, which means he possesses understanding of forces that lesser men are amazed and confounded by. If we examine his characteristics we quickly realize that the powers he commands are essentially the same as the power that technology holds over us today. He causes dried up rivers to overflow and burst their banks. He summons venomous serpents and eels to bind the limbs of his enemies, breaking their arms and biting their heads. He materializes howling dogs to distract or slay the opposing druids. He coughs up a turbulent black cloud which covers the battlefield to blind and confuse the Warriors. He turns the enemy druids to stone.
Access to the internet, especially the omnipresence of internet access through mobile smartphones, has flooded us with more information than our tiny ape-brains can handle. Where once an education was reserved only for the elite and information was jealously guarded, it now washes over us in constant waves to the point that we are stupefied by it. Our awe in the face of what technology has to offer us often causes us to sink into degenerative cycles of indolence and inactivity. Much like the serpents (totems of dangerous knowledge in almost every tradition) that bind and break the limbs of Mogh Roth's enemies, Facebook and Google and online gaming have distracted us to the point that we exist now as though we had no control of our bodies. Techno-worship leads to inactivity and inactivity makes us fat and weak and lazy, to the point that our limbs are essentially bound by serpentine bonds of indolence. Another hot topic in any discussion about The Web these days is Cyber-Bullying. The younger generation have become so crippled by the wasting influence of the Internet that they are emotionally and psychologically damaged by the words of total strangers that they have never met in person. Like the howling dogs of Mogh Roth, strangers from across the world now have a voice and the means to direct their whining opinions at us directly. Many men who should know better now find themselves being baited into emotionally charged arguments in online forums about trivial bullshit that serves only to distract and weaken us. After prolonged exposure to the draining effect of the so-called "Dark Side" of the Internet we may find our senses dulled and our psyche darkened, as though a black cloud has descended on us to blind and confuse us into a constant state of nothingness.
It's clear to see that our love and dependency for the Techno-God's trinkets have caused us to swell our minds with unimportant information, but also to ignore the demands of our bodies so that we exist now as over-informed docile infants. Mogh Roth's magic has affected us so completely that we are now, like he is, Slaves of the Wheel.
Many of us walk around almost every day of our lives with a smartphone in our pocket or in a bag or somewhere within arms reach, and we often find ourselves drawn towards this small object. When you think about it, the smartphone is a magical object. It allows you access to potentially unlimited sources of information, and potentially unlimited sources of entertainment. But the downside of this magical object is that it also offers you potentially unlimited sources of distraction, and because we are subconsciously prone to distraction we find ourselves drawn towards the smartphone very often. You might find yourself checking Facebook on your phone every few minutes or every hour, or your emails or Instagram or whatever. But every moment that you spend staring into that screen is a moment that you have not invested in living a real life. If we assume that the key to living the most complete life possible is to be conscious and present in the moment whilst working towards some noble and fulfilling goal, then every moment that is spent distracted by your phone or computer is a bane to your existence and draws you away from pursuing the tasks that you should be pursuing. I would say if you find yourself checking your phone every few minutes or every hour, limit the time that you invest in Facebook and Instagram and other social media or email or looking up random bullshit. Limit the amount of the day that you invest into these distractions and do not useyour phone outside of those hours, except in case of some important task like looking up essential information. Curtail the amount of time you spend staring into that hollow blue light that emerges from your phone and spend more time enjoying your life, developing real relationships with real people in the real world, people that you can actually meet.
Pursue your goals, whatever they may be, with rabid unyielding dynamism, and invest your limited time into living a real human existence rather than a convenient but false technological cyber-existence. Technology, like Magic, exists as a useful but dangerous tool. If you keep your focus and avoid falling prey to its negative aspects, technology will revolutionize your work process and help you get to where you really want to be. But to truly make use of its power we must first shield ourselves against its poison.
December, 2016. Dublin.