Friday, November 19, 2010

Technologies of the self

Very few times have I found a book to resonate so much that I have to share it even as I am reading it.
Technologies of the self is the collection of texts and an interview with Michel Foucault all compiled during his visit to Vermont university in the early 1980s. The snippets of wisdom are just too poignant to be left unshared. Here are the ones I have found so far and that are too large to twitter.

The twittered ones you will be able to find by tag #juanism

The political and social processes by which the Western European societies were put in order are not very apparent, have been forgotten, or have become habitual. They are part of our most familiar landscape, and we don't perceive them any more. But most of them once scandilised people [ or have now become scandalous]. It is one of my targets to show people that a lot of things that are part of their landscape - and that people think are universal- are the result of some very precise historical changes. All my analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human existence. They show the arbitrariness of institutions and show which space of freedom we can still enjoy and how many changes can still be made. -- Michel Foucault.

As I was reading that the ban on smoking in public places, which started in the classroom, and the current debate about the TSAs back scatter scanner came to mind. Both topics are due to conscientious decisions taking in the current political and historical climate. And will introduce change in our lives and   perceptions so that when you now watch Les 400 coups made by Fran├žois Truffaut in 1959 you cringe at the  teacher smoking in the class room.  What are the benefits and drawback of both alternatives are being assessed now, by us, but we are changing the world for future generations not giving them the chance to re-visit our decisions, nor our rationales. Will we need someone of the calibre of Foucault again in a few hundred  years to remove the blind folds we are putting on our grand kids. Do we really want to deprive them of control over their own lives?