Manhunt: Unabomber on Netflix is an excellent series about the search for Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Tightly woven storytelling, great performances, and an accurate, balanced rendering of Kaczynski’s story bring us to his purpose–even his prophecy–that technology binds us more than it frees us.
But his violence muted his message.
Kaczynski had been a math prodigy. He had not been a popular child in school. But because of his high intelligence (an IQ higher than that of Stephen Hawking), he moved up two grades. He suffered torment, partly because of his awkwardness, partly because children can be so cruel.
At Harvard–as a sixteen-year-old–he was part of a three-year psychological experiment studying how people react to stress. The process demeaned him. He concluded that society and technology were “bad”.
Vastly intelligent but socially stunted, he yearned for relationships. But he couldn’t make them happen.
Ultimately, he moved to the woods of Montana, dwelling in a tiny cabin–a bomb factory.
Ted Kaczynski killed three people and injured 23 by sending bombs in innocent looking packages through the mail. He wanted the world to hear his message. We wouldn’t listen.
His violence kept us from hearing his message. His violence indicated an insanity disqualifying his voice from public discourse.
Yet, he had a point. The University of Colorado even hosted a panel discussion titled: “The Unabomber Had a Point.” We would become dependent on technology. We would lose freedom because of that dependence. Technology would cease to serve people. People would serve technology.
Over-reliance on our technology is a vice, the excessive use of something meant for our good–food, love, sex, emotion, money, influence, rest–distorted into something harmful. If poets of long ago had imagined technology, there would be eight deadly sins instead of seven.
Vices lure us in and become obsessions. We can’t imagine our lives without technology. We can’t find a way back to simpler days.
It’s not, as Kaczynski imagined, that machines are bad. It’s our not knowing how to function, even survive, without them.
Some of us pursue a Golden Mean. We look for ways to limit our involvement–to find a balance. Part of that balance at our house means not paying a cable bill–just Netflix and an antenna. Otherwise, I might have caught Manhunt: Unabomber when the Discovery Channel first released it.
My challenge now is not to binge-watch. To enjoy the video-craft slowly. Not to devote entire evenings to it.
Ted Kaczynski tried to tell us. If he hadn’t been a killer, we probably still wouldn’t have listened.
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