The mediation of action
Growing readiness to manipulate human beings
Lack of self-activity
Psychic distance between human beings and their actions
|Lachs, John (1981). Intermediate man. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. S.12.|
The phenomenon of one’s action being performed for one by another I shall call „the mediation of action.“ The person who performs the action on one’s behalf is „the intermediate man“: he stands between me and my action, making it impossible for me to experience it directly. He obstructs my view of the action and of its consequences alike. All of us have our actions mediated and all, in turn, are intermediate men.
The ubiquity of mediation has three major consequences. In performing our actions others become the instruments of our will. We tend to view such people as tools and to treat them as means to our ends. The first result, then, is the growing readiness to manipulate human beings, the tendency to regard people as desireless instruments for obtaining what we desire.
The second consequence is the growing sense of passivity and impotence that infects many of us. It is not that as more and more of our actions become mediated, we cease to do things ourselves. We may, in fact, be busier than ever, performing in a dozen social roles the mediated actions of others. But to do things is not to choose and act, to be busy is not to have the sense of personal accomplishment. What we lack is self-activity, the union in one person of aim, act and achievement, of motive and execution. Even Almighty God would feel a sense of impotence and frustration if, through self-limitation, He found it contingent on others that His will be done.
The third and perhaps most serious consequence of mediated action is the psychic distance it introduces between human beings and their actions. We quickly lose sight of the conditions of our existence and forget, if we ever knew, the immediate qualities and long-range effects of our actions.