Shards of Consciousness

Luddite and Proud of It

The name Luddite was originally applied to a group of British workers who rioted and destroyed textile machinery in the early nineteenth century. They are said to be named after Ned Ludd, a British laborer who was supposed to have destroyed weaving machinery in the late 18th century.

Think about it. We look back on the industrial revolution and see it as a time of technological change that has led to increasing economic prosperity, increased leisure, and the opportunity to engage in creative endeavors.

What did Ned and his followers see? They saw the end of their lives as skilled craftsmen. They saw the food leaving their table. They saw life become long hours of work at boring, repetitive tasks for low wages. Their skills became worthless. Their children had to go to work in dangerous conditions for long hours. The lion's share of their productivity went to the entrepeneurs who financed the new, higher efficiency mills.

Were they wrong in becoming angry? Much of their destructiveness grew out of the fear that came from the social dislocation that resulted from the industrial revolution. While in the the long run industrialization has led to vastly improved standards of living, in the short run those improved standards benefited only the few. There was no avenue for the displaced workers to renew their skills. Change for the sake of change, change to put money in the hands of a few, had unforeseen consequences whose effects still reverberate.

We see the same things happening today. For the sake of a few dollars, the way we do business is undergoing dramatic change. Multinational companies have splatted (yes, I said splatted) across the planet as they pursue cheaper labor and lower manufacturing costs. Large segments of societies are displaced as urbanization accelerates. Pollution has mushroomed in developing areas of the world. Disease, hunger, war gain ascendancy. Now though, due to the network of interrelationships we have built, problems in one corner of the world affect other corners of the world.

I'm not opposed to change. There are many things we have developed that I wouldn't want to do without. But using technology just because you can, change for the sake of change is always a bad idea. Appropriate technology is more important than high technology. Responsible development is more important than constant development.

I look around where I live and see a constantly expanding sprawl of shopping malls, parking lots, and the so-called McMansions. Where once stood trees and fields is blacktop. Where once children played, those same children shoot each other.

This is cancer. Cancer is not healthy growth. Society has come to rely on cancer as the norm. Is it worth it? In a few generations, no doubt. But what of this generation? What of our children?

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2 Responses to Luddite and Proud of It

  • "they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot, with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hotspot"

    (sounds like you'd rather have Paradise too!)

  • This was my rant for the year, Karen. :)

    We sang that song when I was in choir in middle school. Now it's running through my head. :)

    Yes. I'd rather have paradise. I would be content with rational change.

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