The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without their being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. (Text and image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon )
Life in the Panopticon
I read about the panopticon years ago in college. I thought the idea was bizarre-to design a place where a person could watch what all the other people were doing at all times. Whether this place was to be a prison, mental ward or hospital it still seemed to be an unnatural and creepy thing to do.
In many tribal societies, people naturally live their lives where others can see and hear them nearly all the time. But these others are also living their lives-not watching one another, or listening and recording. People evolve cultural norms of manners and socialization to deal with how close or how separate their lifestyles make them.
Our current, modern, colonized culture has the most bizarre and uncomfortable setup of any culture I have yet encountered.
We are atomized and isolated, without the normal social support and interaction with other people and living things that was natural throughout the majority of human development and history. We do not live for the most part, in extended families or tribal collectives but it single family homes, often single person homes. Spending most of our time completely alone, and indoors, isolated from all living things-but connected to electronic devices such as computers, televisions, telephones, video game machines etc.
Often we are so immersed in these things that even when others are physically present we are not “with” them.
This isolation is exacting a heavy toll on us psychologically, socially, societally and environmentally/physically.
Instead of working together and socializing while growing, gathering or hunting and preparing our food, we now rush around alone and eat food that has been genetically modified, grown by huge corporations using mainly machines and chemicals, and prepared for us often in unhealthful ways.
Is it really surprising that we end up with diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke often attributed to stress and diet?
Now, isolated, atomized, ill and suffering from psychological distress from our unnatural and highly controlled and driven lifestyles we discover that we are also living in a modern, high tech version of the panopticon-our every miserable struggle recorded and viewed by some faceless drone in the beauracracy-supposedly to prevent “terrorism”.
If funneling human beings into the situation I described above is not “terrorism” I’m not sure I know what else we should call it.
Amazingly the majority of people don’t WANT to live like this but simply do not know how to escape it.
The tools are available, the choices are ours. We can continue down this lonely, tortured road to extinction, trudging along together yet alone accepting what has been dictated as “normal” or we can life our middle fingers defiantly at the watchers, the controllers, the genetic modifiers and Earth despoilers who choose this path and we can join together in remaking our societies into structures WE WANT to live in.
We don’t have to agree on every detail, or even every big point-as Daniel Quinn often points out “there is no one right way to live”.
What most of us already agree on -whatever our politics, religion or social grouping-is that THIS is NOT the way things should be. We agree that life should not be an endless struggle punctuated by tragedy but a joyful dance.
So whether we want to samba or waltz, breakdance or stomp, what we need to do is work together to clear the floor so we can all dance.
I created this blog to highlight tools and create connections between people who want to steer things in a better direction even if we don’t all want the exact same path. Yes! magazine and Transition Town movement, much like the old Whole Earth Review, have been sharing new ideas and tools, and showing us people who are creating and acting on new ideas and tools to improve their communities right now.
There are many other blogs, magazines and movements around doing much the same. All we have to do is keep working, keep sharing and keep our faith, love and joy in a better future alive in our hearts to utterly destroy the panopticon and all it stands for and supports.
Another world isn’t just Possible, it is Inevitable!