The Snail is Smothered by his Shell

The Snail is Smothered by his Shell

Emanuel Pastreich

December 25, 2013 

Do humans determine what will happen, or is it the system, the material culture that grows up around us the power that determines the future? Humans are surrounded by objects and institutions that are not part of their bodies, but an essential part of their lives and experience. Perhaps the closest analogy to human culture is the snail and his shell, an essential external item that is nevertheless not actually the snail. But recently those institutions and habits of the human are shifting and changing so quickly, and growing so rapidly, that we find complete chaos around us. It is a chaos that we cannot see.  An ideological chaos in which each person thinks he or she is doing his or her best but cannot even make the slightest modifications in behavior.

We cannot even require reuse-able glass with a deposit for all liquid products sold. It is such a simple step that would do much to help reduce such mindless consumption, but not only can we not implement such a policy, in spite of all our sophisticated conversations over cappuccino at Starbucks, we cannot even formulate it as a priority.

Perhaps this fog in our thinking is one of the greatest dangers of rapid technological change. There is the distinct risk that when we encounter the greatest crisis of climate change many citizens of the world will only be vaguely aware of what is happening to them.

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