Mumford on The First Mega-Machine


This quote from historian Lewis Mumford (pictured - 1895-1990) was found typed and tucked away among various papers in Kurt’s archives .

“Within the span of early civilization, 3000 to 1000 B.C., the formative impulse to exercise absolute control over both nature and man shifted back and forth between gods and kings. Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and destroyed the walls of Jericho by martial music: but Yaweh himself, at an earlier moment, anticipated the Nuclear Age by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah with a single visitation of fire and brimstone; and a while later He even resorted to germ warfare in order to demoralize the Egyptians and aid in the escape of the Jews..

In short, none of the destructive fantasies that have taken possession of leaders in our own age, from Hitler to Stalin, from the khans of the Kremlin to the khans of the-Pentagon, Were foreign to the souls of the divinely appointed founders. of the first machine civilization. With every increase of effective power, extravagantly sadistic and murderous impulses emerged out of the unconscious: not radically different from those sanctioned, not only by Hitler's extermination of six million Jews and uncounted millions of other people, but the extermination by United States Air Force of 200,000 civil­ians in Tokyo in a single night by roasting alive. When a dis­tinguished Mesopotamian scholar proclaimed that "civilization begins at Sumer" he innocently overlooked how much forgotten before this can be looked upon as a laudable achievement. Mass production and mass destruction are the positive and negative poles, historically, of the myth of the mega-machine.”

Lewis Mumford "The First Mega-Machine," Diogenes: Fall 1966, No. 55, p. 13.