21st Century Pharaohs
Big Tech oppresses, enslaves and dehumanizes, just like the cruel tyrants of Biblical times. What can we do?April 14th, 2022
By Jim Towey
The Jewish observance of the beginning of Passover and the Christian commemoration of Good Friday coincide tomorrow. For Jews, Passover recalls the flight of their ancestors from the cruelty of Egyptian enslavement, which culminates in the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the vanquishing of Pharaoh’s charioteers pursuing them. Christians, too, ponder a deliverance on Good Friday: their deliverance from the oppression of sin by Jesus’s supreme act of love in dying on a cross.
The convergence of these two interventions by God in the affairs of man is timely. I was recently reading my friend George Weigel’s The Next Pope, in which he quoted the French theologian Henri de Lubac, “It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that without God, he can only organize it against man.” De Lubac recognized this during the dark hours of World War II. But Moses knew this truth well, as did the early Christians, as did subsequent generations who knew the lash of the slave master. As do we today.
Pharaoh has many faces in the 21st century. Vladimir Putin’s massacre of Ukrainian civilians as he attempts to hold a sovereign nation hostage, China’s locking down millions and surveilling its populace with authoritarian mercilessness, and Afghanistan’s degradation of women and girls all come quickly to mind.
Intruding on human connection, autonomy
In America, Big Tech’s tyrannical hold on the daily life of the populace, including government, has the feel of Pharaoh’s inhuman touch. Technology’s tentacles wrap tightly around all aspects of life, promising convenience and efficiency, but delivering instead something dehumanizing to each of us. Whether in the grocery store, bank, airport, school, restaurant, doctor’s office, or hospital, technology, inch by inch, intrudes on human connection and autonomy. Its demands marginalize us as human beings. We were supposed to be its masters—the beneficiaries of its easing of ancient burdens—but instead technology now takes away jobs, closes small businesses, manipulates the behavior of young and old alike, and ironically enough, breeds loneliness and violence. The blind confidence in and addiction to technology are idolatrous.
Artificial intelligence seeks to rule over us like a god. Despite its many promising qualities and innovations, it is being organized against man. In six short hours recently, AI created 40,000 new lethal chemical weapon compounds, to the horror of the scientists managing the project. There are legions of such potentialities, and no ethical barriers protecting mankind. Who can escape all the so-called “scientific advances” and “security” measures that threaten our privacy and personhood?
Did we get a vote in these dramatic changes thrust upon our lives? No. And any American trying to consider their consequences finds that the big technology companies and the major media gatekeepers have imposed their own prejudices and type of coercive indoctrination instead of informing and reporting.
A war on reality
And worse, a war on reality is underway, where the metaverse is real while flesh-and-blood biological differences are not. Independence of mind and clarity of purpose are our only weapons against the manipulations and surveillance of Big and Little Tech, and unfortunately, we are distracted. The Covid pandemic diverted attention away from the dehumanizing role of technology. People faced with a palpable possibility of death increasingly did not distinguish between rational and irrational fears. Here again, government and Big Tech colluded to control information, censor dissent, and present political choices as moral imperatives. Decision-makers imposed mandates and hyper-cautionary policies to avoid lawsuits and political fallout. Trillions of dollars were borrowed from the future and spent to resuscitate the engines of commerce that were shut down without consideration of the consequences. As a result, we now witness a fracturing of world economies, runaway inflation, and the increasing likelihood of a global recession, as well as a further polarization of political views. Big Tech’s influence on elections and voter sentiment jeopardizes the freedoms we still enjoy.
What can we do?
When human life is not situated in reality, society becomes delusional, addictions multiply, and people suffer, particularly the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and children. Pharaohs never care about those groups. As individuals we can. We can put down our phones and renew relationships with our once socially-distant neighbors and befriend the lonely and homeless in our communities. We can demand that business, government, and health care systems reject only automated or virtual services and instead promote human engagement. We can renounce the addictive social media and omnipresent advertising appeals that manipulate our choices. We can refuse to be scanned and allow our precious biometric information to be collected.
The world needs a savior
The Biblical times of both Moses and John the Baptist feel familiar. The world needs a savior to free us from enslavement and idolatry. These holy days invite us to turn to the Creator of the human race and recover our sense of the exquisite dignity we possess as the beloved children of God. Only then can we work fearlessly to dismantle what man has organized against man.