Animals & Robots

“In contrast to man, animals are not mechanical or sadistic, and their societies (within the same species) are incomparably more peaceful than man’s societies. The basic question runs: What caused the human animal to deteriorate and become robotlike?

His viciousness, his inability to live peacefully with his own kind, his wars, bear witness to the fact that man is distinguished from the other animals only by a boundless sadism and the mechanical trinity of an authoritarian view of life, mechanistic science, and the machine. If one looks back over long stretches of the results of human civilization, one finds that man’s claims are not only false, but are peculiarly contrived to make him forget that he is an animal. Where and how did man get these illusions about himself?

Man’s life is dichotomized: One part of his life is determined by biologic laws (sexual gratification, consumption of food, relatedness to nature); the other part of his life is determined by the machine civilization (mechanical ideas about his own organization, his superior position in the animal kingdom, his racial or class attitude toward other human groups, valuations about ownership and nonownership, science, religion, etc.). His being an animal and his not being an animal, biologic roots on the one hand and technical development on the other hand, cleave man’s life and thought. All the notions man has developed about himself are consistently derived from the machine that he has created. The construction of machines and the use of machines have imbued man with the belief that he is progressing and developing himself to something “higher,” in and through the machine….

Man dreams about one day producing a homunculus a la Frankenstein or at least an artificial heart or artificial protein. The notions of homunculus, which man has developed in his fantasy, project a picture of a brutal monster, manlike, but mechanically stupid, angular, and possessing powerful forces, which, if they are set loose, will be beyond control and will automatically cause havoc. In his film Fantasia Walt Disney brilliantly captured this fact. In such fantasies of himself and his organization, we miss every expression of that which is vitally alive, kind, social, and related to nature. On the other hand, it is striking that man invests the animals he portrays precisely with those traits he misses in himself and does not give to his homunculus figures. This, too, is excellently brought out in Disney’s animal films.

In his fantasies, man appears as a mechanical, vicious, overbearing, heartless, inanimate monster, while the animal appears as a social, kind, and fully alive creature, invested with all the human strengths and weaknesses. We have to ask. Does man reflect a reality in these fantasies? The answer is: Yes. He very vividly portrays his inner biologic contradiction:

  1. In ideology: vicious animal – majestic man;
  2. In reality: kind, free animal – brutal robot.”1
  1. Reich, Wilhelm. The Mass Psychology of Fascism. []
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