Thursday, April 21, 2005

Luddites are idiots

Luddites were people who, when someone figured out a way to automate some of the work in textile mills in England, considered that Evil because it put some people out of work; so they would break into the mills and factories and destroy the new equipment. It became the name for those who think advances in tech are Bad because someone is put out of work.

It used to be possible for someone to be functionally illiterate and still make a decent living. Physical labor was always in demand, and if you could use a shovel and axe and hammer, early on perhaps learn to drive one of those new trucks, you could get by nicely; even raise a family in a decent manner. Then Things, As Always, Changed. More jobs required being able to read and do basic math. More required more than a basic education. Machinery became more usable for many more jobs, and there was less use for a simple pick & shovel man. Lots of people had to change jobs, learn to do something else, and a lot of people- Luddites- think that's bad.

Luddites are assholes.

What brought all this to mind was that I bought a shed today to put up in the back yard. So a piece of ground needed to be levelled, and bought some concrete blocks to make a foundation that will keep the floor up off the ground so they had to be loaded, brought home, unloaded and carted around to the back.

Have you ever done serious, heavy digging work? If not, you ought to try it. Mark the rectangle, then take a mattock and break up the high spots in a section, then take a shovel and scoop up the loose stuff and put it aside. Do this again in the next section, then roughly level them. Then go on to the next, and the next. When the whole area is done, start seriously levelling it, cutting and scraping away the high points and moving that dirt to the pile. You get that done, you get to start setting blocks in place and checking level between them, which means more scraping and fitting. It will wear your ass out. I spent about four hours doing this today, and I'll need some of tomorrow to finish it. And the entire job of scraping the space level could have been done in about 15-30 minutes with a Bobcat.

I think that what I once heard was right: that any invention that frees people from doing this kind of work to make a living- a marginal one anymore- is good. Yeah, advances put people out of work in some jobs, and they have to learn something else. Question: do you actually believe that keeping people in a job like this, not allowing for them to move on to something better, or for their kids to become something else, is good?

If you are, you're a fool. I've rarely heard of coal miners wanting their kids to go into the work, they want their kids to do something better; who wouldn't? I once read a description of textile mills in England in the 19th century being places where women and children were coughing their lungs out in working conditions the average southern slave owner wouldn't have tolerated for his slaves, or his dogs. Men didn't do any better, but the Luddites thought that changing things was bad because someone lost that job and had to find something else. I understand the fear of losing a job, especially in that time & place where finding something else meant packing up and leaving the only place you may have ever known. But that change, in the long run, meant that people were not spitting up blood when they coughed anymore. It's always been the cycle; things change, some people are hurt, and in the long run everyone is better off.

One thing that really pissed me off over time about the pagan community is I ran into so many, in person or in writing, who had that attitude that damn near any progress was bad because it forced change. All too often it was someone who loved computers, or wargaming before that, who seemed to think that things were so much better before all this nasty progress 'took us away from the natural ways'. Ignoring that in their ultimate ideal, the 'natural ways' meant losing your teeth if you lived to be 40, dying of many diseases before that, and all too often in many places being eaten by something with fangs and claws.

Oh, those people also tended to hate firearms. Even a form of progress that might protect you from the fangs & claws was bad.

I repeat, Luddites are idiots.


markm said...

Either it's a big shed or awfully hard soil if a blacksmith is complaining about the labor of leveling the ground. But you're right. Real construction workers do use a shovel sometimes -but only for jobs too small for a Bobcat.

If you shovel all day, every day, you'll be old before you're fifty. And that's the quality of life Luddites want for 95% of the population. Of course, while the original Luddites were craftsmen upset about their skills becoming obsolete, I think the modern Luddites expect to be in the other 5% of a medieval population - the folks who rode around on horses and oppressed the peasants.

Firehand said...

It's 10x8', so not too big. Combination of fair amount to move- yard is pretty slanted there- and not having done this type of thing for a while.

Mind you, I think the big thing was the cement blocks. Dayum, that gets old fast!

Firehand said...

Ref modern Luddites, I think it's two things. One, they DO expect to be among the 'elite' running things. Two, an awful lot of them have no real idea what it's like to do that kind of work day after day. Distance give a, shall we say, 'rosy' view of things.