Russell and Duenes

Dependent Upon Dependency

with one comment

Kevin Williamson is a journalist whose writing I have really come to enjoy. He’s a roving reporter for National Review and writes on a variety of topics with insight and wit. He has penned a little tract called The Dependency Agenda where he discusses Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs and their outworking. At one point he writes:

Under the Great Society and its later permutations, [the poor] became dependent upon a professional class whose highly paid members were themselves dependent upon the dependency of their clients. Dependency became a valuable commodity. At the apex of the dependency food chain are the highest ranking members of a political machine ultimately dependent upon dependency and highly invested in its spread.

I do not think there is something sinister in this truth. I work for the government, and I like having a job. I don’t know that I reflect on how I might perpetuate my own job, likely because I don’t see public utilities drying up anytime soon. But most people are probably interested in the spread of things that will give them job security. Certainly the teachers union is a self-interested bunch, highly committed to preserving the administrative bureaucratic jobs within the public school edifice. Yet Williamson is pointing out the crucial conflict of interest that exists for those whose work is ostensibly meant to help the poor become self-sufficient, but who also know that if they were to actually achieve their goal, it would jeopardize the existence of their work. It’s like certain U.S. farmers. They might like to see poor African nations become self-sustaining agriculturally, but if that ever happened, it would jeopardize the existence of the food aid programs that help prosper those  same U.S. farmers. Thus, how committed will those farmers be to achieving the goal of African self-sustenance? The illustration could be multiplied in other areas as well.

Technology comes to us in various mediums (i.e., audio, visual, musical, type, digital, video, etc), and these mediums are not neutral. The medium itself imposes certain intellectual, emotional and physical adaptations upon us. As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium IS the message.” Thus, it not only matters WHAT we watch on TV, but THAT we watch TV at all. The medium of TV changes the way we think and act and affects our attitudes toward life. Or take your ipod. By its very nature it is designed to be a solo endeavor. You put the buds in your ears and you’re in your own world. The unspoken rule for someone listening to their ipod is: “Don’t bug me.” At my old school they used to not allow ipods on the school bus trips, but now they do. Two guesses as to what has happened to conversation between students on the bus. God has spoken in various mediums, but our highest authority is the Word of God. We must conform ourselves to it.

Christians must be discerning in our use of technology, understanding the ways that it benefits us as well as the ways it encourages us away from God. John tells us to “test the spirits to see if they are from God.” We are to seek wisdom and discernment, according to the Proverbs, and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Storing up God’s commands and promises in our hearts will help us rightly use and appreciate our technologies. Being in fellowship with God’s people will also help us.

Certain technologies work well with habits and attitudes in us that contradict God’s will. Certain technologies encourage us to believe that speed and efficiency are the keys to the good life, but Scripture contradicts this. God is not “speedy” in changing us and He commands us to learn patience and perseverance. Certain technologies encourage us to believe that we can avoid suffering or inconvenience, but God contradicts this. God calls us into suffering for Christ’s sake: “Take up your cross and follow me.” Certain technologies encourage us to believe it is good to avoid personal interactions with people, but God contradicts this. He commands us to have fellowship together and to cultivate face-to-face relationships where we can practically love and serve others. Certain technologies encourage us in our view that we can “have it all” in life, and sway us toward ingratitude when the technology doesn’t “fix” our lives. God teaches us contentment in Christ and the realization that we are “aliens and strangers on earth.”

Technology should point us to God and should advance his kingdom purposes (e.g., listening to a symphony with all the various instruments working together to play a beautiful piece can point us to the wondrous unity and diversity within the Trinity.). Technology should encourage us to think and feel in ways that honor God (Certain movies can direct our affections toward God and get us thinking about His world.). Technology should help us accomplish the purposes of God (e.g., showing the Jesus Film to unreached peoples, traveling to foreign countries to preach the gospel, bringing medical help to the impoverished of the world, teaching farming techniques to the poor, calling friends to encourage them in God, sending care packages to missionaries, writing songs that honor God in composition, style and lyrics, etc.).

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

March 26, 2015 at 3:27 am

One Response

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  1. I tend to agree. I came across a quote a few years ago that I think is very apt: “Here may lie the most important effect of mass communication, its ability to mentally order and organize our world for us. In short, the mass media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about.”
    -R

    russell and duenes

    March 26, 2015 at 8:58 am


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