Wall-E And The Endgame Of Modernity


Rod Dreher sees an Aristotelian conservatism in the new Pixar classic. It's a post with all the usual Dreher qualities, and well worth reading:

"Wall-E" says that humans have within themselves the freedom to rebel, to overthrow that which dominates and alienates us from our true selves, and our own nature. But you have to question the prime directive; that is, you have to become conscious of how they way you're living is destroying your body and killing your soul, and choose to resist.

"Wall-E" contends that real life is hard, real life is struggle, and that we live most meaningfully not by avoiding pain and struggle, but by engaging it creatively, and sharing that struggle in community. It argues that rampant consumerism, technopoly and the exaltation of comfort is causing us to weaken our souls and bodies, and sell out our birthright of political freedom. Nobody is doing this to us; we're doing it to ourselves. It is the endgame of modernity, which began in part with the idea that Nature is the enemy to be subdued -- that man stands outside of Nature, and has nothing to learn about himself from Nature's deep logic.

Like Rod, I keep thinking about the movie. It draws together a lot of amorphous feeling right now - the gnawing sense that modernity has begun to undermine the natural conditions of its flourishing - and focuses it. The two most powerful factors, to my mind, are the confluence of destructive technology and religious terrorism and climate change with highly unpredictable repercussions. It is hard not to feel a Babelian quality about our current moment; and Rod's crunchy conservatism speaks to it powerfully.