So I have finished Tools for Conviviality, another book in My December Reading’s list. With only 110 pages, this book takes me 3 whole days to digest, with me reading around 2 hours, stop doing another thing to regain concentration, and then continue. The book is dense, I must say. Every sentence is deep and meaningful. Without exaggerations, I have highlighted almost every 4 sentences. Thanks for having experienced one Ivan Illich’s book before, which is Deschooling Society, I have fewer troubles comprehending this book. Definitely, I feel more enlightened and smarter after finishing it. In the following paragraphs, I will try to simplify and summarize his argument. However, summarizing means getting rid of original information and replacing some by my own elements. Thus, I highly recommend anyone who is interested purely in knowledge read this masterpiece.
Ivan’s argument focuses on criticizing our way of thinking about technology, development, and industrialization. Are we in control of technology or we are controlled by technology? Technology mentioned here is not something so advance like computers or smart phones. Highway road can be technology. Cars can be technology. We’re growing more and more dependent on cars and road so that we cannot think out of it. A man without a motor-run vehicle like motorbike or car cannot do anything in our society. Bikes or other primitive vehicles that need only man-power are no longer needed. Another example is compulsory school and education. We have change our thinking from ” I want to learn” to “I need education”. The more “developed” a country is, the more “education” its citizen must need to function properly. Social polarization starts from this. An American with only 10 years of schooling is much worse of than a Brazilian with 4 years of schooling. Consumption only leads to more consumption. More education leads to more and more education. So are roads, or high-speed vehicles.
Two other examples that Ivan have listed in the book is medication and consumption. As we are more advanced in medical care, there are more disease and more sick people than ever. So are the cost and discrimination in professionalism. We can no longer declare ourselves sick. We need a subscription from a proven doctor. Ivan talks about the unlimited growth of consumption as humanity’s addiction. There is no good life since there is a belief that we need more “innovation” and “innovation” is better. We need more, and we need better products. Iphone keeps coming out every year and we can never satisfy with it. We are taught about unlimited opportunities but our ecosystem is limited. We’re destroying nature with significant speed, and making our link with nature more blurred. Nature is taking revenge on us in 2 ways, making Earth less inhabitable for human and make humans more inhabitable on Earth. If we keep thinking development is good, technology is good, industrialization is good, we will all be doomed.
Ivan’s solution is the world focusing on convivial tools. He focuses on establishing a society that places emphasis on human interaction, research on humans’ relation with its tools rather than tools’ efficiency, and restriction to production but not services. One example of convivial tools is the condom. It is cheap. It has science. It can be used by many people and it is easy to use. It is the most powerful tool to reduce population’s growth. Its power cannot be centralized nor used by a group of privileged people. Books and the alphabet are also convivial tools. Once again, I have simplified his arguments much. To understand what Ivan really means in his society, please take up the book and read. It is damned worth your time.