Monday 19 September 2022

Neo-Medievalism and the New Latin

By Emile Wolfaardt

Medieval Latin (or Ecclesiastical Latin, as it is sometimes called), was the primary language of the church in Europe during the Dark Ages. The Bible and its laws and commands were all in Latin, as were the punishments to be meted out for those who breached its dictates. This left interpretation and application up to the proclivities of the clergy. Because the populace could not understand Latin, there was no accountability for those who wielded the Latin sword.

We may have outgrown the too-simplistic ideas of infanticidal nuns and the horror stories of medieval torture devices (for the most part, anyway). Yet the tragedy of the self-serving ecclesiastical economies, the gorgonising abuse of spiritual authority, the opprobrious intrusion of privacy, and disenfranchisement of the masses still cast a dark shadow of systemic exploitation and widespread corruption over that period. The few who birthed into the ranks of the bourgeois ruled with deleterious absolutism and no accountability. The middle class was all but absent, and the subjugated masses lived in abject poverty without regard or recourse. There was no pathway to restation themselves in life. It was effectively a two-class social stratification system that enslaved by keeping people economically disenfranchised and functionally dependent. Their beliefs were defined, their behavior was regulated, and their liberties were determined by those whose best interest was to keep them stationed where they were.

It is the position of this writer that there are some alarming perspectives and dangerous parallels to that abuse in our day and age that we need to be aware of.

There has been a gargantuan shift in the techno-world that is obfuscatious and ubiquitous. With the ushering in of the digital age, marketers realised that the more information they could glean from our choices and conduct, the better they could influence our thinking. They started analysing our purchasing history, listening to our conversations, tracking key words, identifying our interests. They learned that people who say or text the word ‘camping’ may be in the market for a tent, and that people who buy rifles, are part of a shooting club, and live in a particular area are more likely to affiliate with a certain party. They learned that there was no such thing as excess data – that all data is useful and could be manipulated for financial gain.

Where we find ourselves today is that the marketing world has ushered in a new economic model that sees human experiences as free raw material to be taken, manipulated, and traded at will, with or without the consent of the individual. Google's vision statement for 2022 is ‘to provide access to the world's information in one click’. Everything, from your heart rate read by your watch, your texts surveyed by your phone’s software, your words recorded by the myriad listening devices around you, your location identified by twenty apps on your phone, your GPS, your doorbell, and the security cameras around your home are garnering your data. And we even pay for these things. It is easier to find a route using a GPS than a map, and the convenience of a smart technology seems, at first glance anyway, like a reasonable exchange.

Our data is being harvested systematically, and sold for profit without our consent or remuneration. Our search history, buying practices, biometric data, contacts, location, sleeping habits, exercise routine, self-discipline, articles we pause our scrolling to peruse, even whether we use exclamation marks in our texts – the list continues almost endlessly – and a trillion other bits of data each day is recorded. Then it is analysed for behavioural patterns, organised to manipulate our choices, and sold to assist advertisers to prise the hard-earned dollars out of our hands. It is written in a language very few people can understand, imposed upon us without our understanding, and used for financial gain by those who do not have our best interest at heart. Our personal and private data is the traded for profit without our knowledge, consent, or benefit.

A new form of economic oppression has emerged, ruthlessly designed, implemented by the digital bourgeois, and built exclusively on harvesting our personal and private data – and we gladly exchanged it for the conveniences it offered. As a society, we have been gaslighted into accepting this new norm. We are fed the information they choose to feed us, are subject to their manipulation, and we are simply fodder for their profit machine. We are indeed in the oppressive age of Neo-Medievalism, and computer code is the new Latin.

It seems to have happened so quickly, permeated our lives so completely, and that without our knowledge or consent.

But it is not hopeless. As oppressive as the Dark Ages were, that period came to an end. Why? Because there were people who saw what was happening, vocalised and organised themselves around a healthier social model, and educated themselves around human rights, oppression, and accountable leadership. After all – look at us now. We were birthed out of that period by those who ushered in the Enlightenment and ultimately Modernity.

Reformation starts with being aware, with educating oneself, with speaking up, and with joining our voices with others. There is huge value to this digital age we have wholeheartedly embraced. However, instead of allowing it to oppress us, we must take back control of our data where we can. We must do what we need to, to maximise the opportunities it provides, join with those who see it for what it is, help others to retain their freedom, and be a part of the wave of people and organisations looking for integrity, openness, and redefinition in the process. The digital age with its AI potential is here to stay. This is good. Let’s be a part of building a system that serves the needs of the many, that benefits humanity as a whole, and that lifts us all to a better place.

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