From Lewis Mumford's 1951 book "The Conduct of LIfe:"
"...life itself, for the ordinary man...has become less
interesting and less significant: it is at best a mild slavery, and at its
worst, the slavery is not mild. Why should anyone give to the day's work the
efforts and sacrifices it demands? By his very success in inventing
labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only
the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed: the small
variations, the minor initiatives and choices, the opportunity for using one's
wits, the slightest expression of fantasy, have disappeared progressively from
the daily tasks of the common man, caught in big organizations that do his
thinking for him. The most deadly criticism one could make of modern
civilization is that, apart from its man-made crises and catastrophes, it is not
"...our mechanized culture has produced a pervasive
sense of frustration. No one can possibly know more than a fragment of all that
might be known, see more than a passing glimpse of all that might be seen, do
more than a few random, fitful acts, of all that might, with the energies we
now command, be done: there is a constant disproportion between our powers and
our satisfactions. The typical role of the personality today is an
insignificant one: non-commanding, unpurposeful. The walls of the outer shell
of our life have thickened, and the creature within has diminished in size in
order to accommodate himself to this inimical overgrowth.
"The contents of modern man's daydreams too
closely resemble those of Bloom in Ulysses, filled with the dead tags of
newspaper editorials, the undigested vomit of advertising slogans, greasy
crumbs of irrelevant information, and the choking dust of purposeless activity.
The duty to become part of this chaos, to keep up with it, to accept it
internally, is the bitter duty of modern man...Unfortunately, the more busy the
mental traffic, the emptier becomes the resultant life: therefore the more
abjectly dependent the individual atom in this society becomes upon the very
stimuli which -- though they have, in fact, caused his emptiness -- divert his
attention from his plight."