Dressing for Progress

A Culture of Lovelessness

The direction taken by progress to the America of the future, as I saw it, was toward abstraction.  If one looked to the natural world to supply the measure of what was concrete, then this world was long in the past, perhaps not actually with the dinosaurs, but certainly with the Model T and the Saturday Evening Post.  It may be that an apple was first the apple of paradise, and then an ordinary apple, but the apple of today was the representation of an apple in three dimensions, that of tomorrow in only two, and finally in one, at which stage of progress the flesh would become word and the sweetly old-fashioned, fragrant name apple would be the only reality allowed it.  Perhaps it could even become a number instead of the retrograde name, not unlike a supermarket bar code, and scanning it with a personal handheld wish-fulfilment device would be real enough for the average Joe.

The movement toward abstraction was unstoppable, because the less reality people had to their share, and the fewer the tastes, the colors, and the sounds they remembered, the more the system of symbols that had come to envelop them became the only one in which they knew how to live.  Their plasticine food and electronic money, their leatherette careers and television democracy, their satellite wars and paper egalitarianism, their digital pleasure and interactive pain, their artificial air and reconditioned water, all rendered...

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