Zibechi: The mind thinks with ideas, not with information

Che didn’t have the Internet.

By: Raúl Zibechi

In a recent interview (https://bit.ly/3BuJeRP) the South Korean-born German philosopher, Byun-Chuk Han, points out: “We are very well informed, but somehow we cannot orient ourselves.” His arguments about the social consequences of the over-information we suffer had already been analyzed in his book Infrocracy, published a year ago.

Byun attributes to computerization many of the problems we suffer as a society. He says that the narcissistic ego turned inward “is the cause of social disintegration,” since “everything that unites and connects is disappearing,” neutralizing the possibility of considering ourselves a single society. The bottom line is that there are no longer “common narratives that bring people together.”

He distinguishes between truth and information, asserting that the latter is centrifugal and destroys social cohesion, while the true narrative holds it together. “Truth illuminates the world while information lives on the lure of surprise,” he says, because it generates a succession of “fleeting moments” that have the power to obscure reality and distort instead of informing.

The philosopher continues to provide arguments, such as the fact that now information does not enable the creation of a public sphere. I remember, not so long ago, that in critical situations people swirled around newspaper stalls, commented and shared the news in the public space. But now we no longer have common stories that guide and give meaning to our existence. There are also no rituals, and we barely have consumption and the satisfaction of needs, Byun shoots.

He believes that in the future “people will receive a universal basic income and have unlimited access to video games,” a form that state policy around the world is now taking, in a new version of “bread and circus.”

Einstein didn’t have the Internet.

It can be said that this is not new, but the drift of half a century of increasing positioning of information technologies at the center of our lives. The Austrian physicist Fritjof Capra complements the German philosopher, as he explains in this sentence: “Information is presented as the basis of thought while, in reality, the human mind thinks with ideas, not with information” (The Plot of Life, Anagram, 1998, p. 88).

He recovers many concepts expressed by the American novelist Theodore Roszak in The Cult of Information. Treatise on High Tech, Artificial Intelligence and the True Art of Thinking, published in 1986, almost four decades ago. An important conclusion: “Ideas are integrative patterns that do not derive from information, but from experience.”

That is why the whole commitment of the system with our young people consists of limiting their life experiences and subjecting them to a constant bombardment of information that does not contribute anything, but creates a gigantic cloud of confusion. Consumerism, that “anthropological mutation” that Passolini mentioned half a century ago, is his main window to the world, except of course the fabric of his computer devices.

In this world of information overload there are no ideas, just as there are not in the tremendous flow of data on the Internet. Because ideas have always been dangerous, they are the ones that can give meaning to reality and lives, they are compasses to lay bare oppressions. Without ideas and without life experience, humanity is shipwrecked towards the abyss, just at the most critical moment in living memory, at least since the Black Death (1347-53), the remote origin of capitalism.  [1]

Overwhelming us with information and blocking ideas is gain for the system, so I propose to think of the use made by those at the top of the Internet as an immense counterinsurgency policy. On the other hand, progressivisms use and abuse communication to offer an account of their supposed virtues, never to dialogue on an equal footing with ordinary people. They reproduce the systemic subject-object relationship, which they claim to combat, placing their own voters in a situation of passive recipients of their discourses.

The Mbya Guarani regulate information.

To protect the integrity of their communities, the Mbya Guarani in many villages regulate Internet connection schedules, so that their sons and daughters are not left defenseless in the face of the avalanche of data that they cannot order or hierarchize. In this way they refuse to expose themselves to the disorganizing power of social networks. There are many native peoples who do it, simply to defend themselves.

The long silence of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, more than a year without issuing communiqués, can be understood as a refusal to enter the media circus that few already attend, and less understand. It is the silence of rage, and of dignity. The Fifth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1998) explains silence as a weapon of struggle, and that “with reason, truth and history, one can fight and win… Permeating.”

[1] Ole J. Benedictow, La peste negra, 1346-1353. La historia se completa, Akal, 2011.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, May 19, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/05/19/opinion/014a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

One Comment on “Zibechi: The mind thinks with ideas, not with information

  1. Pingback: Chiapas court sentences the “Cancuc 5” to 25 years in prison – The Free

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