The Luddite’s dilemma

Chancing upon the Unabomber’s cabin, while visiting Lincoln, Montana (on my Internet screen), I had a look inside. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, a mathematics prodigy and a domestic terrorist, committed his last murder in June at the ADX Florence (a “supermax” security prison in Colorado). It was a self-murder (selbstmord, as the Germans say). Before going to gaol, he had a 35,000-word essay entitled “Industrial Society and its Future,” which the Washington Post published in 1995 (with the official encouragement of Janet Reno). I went to some trouble to obtain that number of the Post, at the time.

As I recall, it was a reasonably coherent exposition of the Luddite’s doctrinal position, or “ecofascist” as its opponents now say, though it left this reader wondering: Why did he kill people by mailing them bombs? The flaw here was that these targets were specific individuals, not gratuitously slaughtered while demolishing their machines. Even Kaczynski himself seemed aware of this contradiction.

But it is while looking around his cabin, off the Stemple Pass Road in the woods to the south of Lincoln, that we feel the weight of this dilemma.

There was no expressive spontaneity in the Unabomber’s acts, for he required much research and preparation. While I was delighted to see a Latin schoolbook, several paperback translations of Tacitus, and a mediaeval history on his shelves, they groaned not from books but with his matériel as a bomber. He erred, not in his declensions, but in his partiality for cybernetic and technological means.

No proper Luddite will embrace mechanical methods to such a degree. The beauty of Ludditism should consist in the destruction of sophisticated machinery with unsophisticated gear (and the disabling of the machines, not the people — but then, I am a stickler). The mission is to advance a pastoral cause, not to systematically extend the frontiers of “urbanity.”

Given this dilemma, one wonders whether the young counter-revolutionary should consider becoming a Luddite at all.