Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I’m a Luddite and I’m OK

Why would a self-identified Luddite create a blog? That’s a good question and the answer is that I’m not the sort of Luddite that’s opposed to technology simply for the sake of opposing technology. I don’t think that the original Luddites were either. What they and I oppose is technology for the sake of technology at the expense of human beings and their quality of life.

The champions of technology will claim that industrialization and its accoutrements have brought freedom to the common man, allowing him to pursue more noble endeavors. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in most cases that this is their actual intention – or part of it at least, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the collection of profits, but their vision falls as short as state communism when it comes to dealing with people made of flesh and blood. What it’s actually done is reduce an entire species to dependence on the abstraction that is money by making them wage slaves and systematically eliminated their ability and even the knowledge that it is possible to actually sustain their own lives.

Industrialization is built on the precept that human labor is an evil that must be eliminated through the use of machines of, failing that, reduced to a mind-numbing triviality that would be considered abusive were it imposed on monkeys. Why is human labor evil? Because humans expect their labor to fulfill their physical, emotional, and mental needs. This deprives industry of the capital it feels entitled to, and the more proficient human labor is, the more industry relies on these proficiencies, the more capital it is deprived of.

When King Ludd started on his rampage back in the 1800’s, it wasn’t because he didn’t like machines. It was because the people who owned the machines – mechanical looms to begin with – destroyed the value of craft and with it a craftsman’s ability to earn a living. The lifetime a master weaver had spent perfecting his skills and craft was made obsolete, replaced by a machine that was minded by a person without even the skills of an apprentice.

It was argued then and continues to be argued now against those of my ilk that the Master and Journeyman weavers were acting selfishly, solely to protect their own interest and that the benefits – that thousands of unemployable people now had access to jobs that previously didn’t exist and finished goods once available only to the wealthy were now available to everyone. There’s a certain legitimacy to that argument, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Part of the untold story is that it made the common man dependent on money. Where previously subsistence had been possible, if not altogether comfortable, without cash, it has increasingly become an absolute necessity. People who had once produced the bulk of their diet directly were now dependent on wages and deprived of the means of production. The amount of labor required for the common man and his family did not decrease under industrialization, but increased.

The fact of the matter is that not only are human beings supposed to work, but it’s unavoidable. The only question is what kind of work are they going to do: Are they going to work at some trivial task for the sole aim of earning sufficient cash to maintain themselves and their families, or are they going to do work that is meaningful, and that contributes directly to their well being? My position and one that I intend to develop in subsequent postings is that by choosing how we work and what we work on, we can free ourselves from the bonds of money and industrialism.

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