Insulation from Reality

Our grandparents and great grandparents were much closer to the realities of life than we are today. Many of our them lived on farms and were close to, if not entirely, self sufficient.

When I break a tool I go to the store and buy another one. When my grandfather broke a tool more often than not he would stoke up the forge and either repair it or make a new one.


When my grandmother got her first washing machine she though it was wonderful. It saved her an immense amount of time and work. But if it had broken she would still have been able to wash clothes because she knew alternate methods. I remember as a child turning the hand crank on the wringer on her washing machine before she got an electric one. The old one was moved to the shed.


When she got her first electric stove it was wonderful. She no longer had to stoke up the wood stove to heat water and bake bread and cook meals. It saved her and immense amount of time and work. But if the electricity has stopped she would have been able to carry on just fine with the old wood store.


Having canned food in the grocery store was great. No more long days canning food from the garden. But if the grocery store had closed the canning jars would have come out of the shed and the shelves would once again have been full of jars instead of cans.


Few people today have any idea how to clean clothes without a washing machine. Few of us would even know how a wood fueled kitchen stove worked, much less how to use one or more critically.. how to build one.


Some people know how to can but it is more of a hobby for most people than a daily skill.

The skills that earlier generations took for granted as basic, essential and fundamental skills have been lost and abandoned. We live as if the grocery stores will always be there, the electricity will always flow and turning a faucet on will always produce clean, drinkable water.


The difference between us and our forefathers is that they could survive if they had to rely completely on their own skills. Most of us could not.


We might be able to cook a chicken just as well as our grandparents but they knew how to hatch them, raise them, feed them (and grow the grain to feed them with), kill them, pluck them and clean them to get them ready to cook.


If we’re very skilled in the kitchen we might know how to make bread from scratch.

They knew how to raise, harvest and mill the grain for the flour. They knew how to produce the yeast  to make it rise. They know how to raise the cows to produce the milk, to make the bowls in which to mix the dough and how to make the stoves in which to bake the bread.


Most of us assume all of those things come from the grocery store and the electric company.


That insulation from reality began in the first half of the 1900s as the developed world’s industry grew explosively after two world wars and the technological boost they provided. Even into the middle of the 1900s there were still many people even in Europe and the United States who lived without sophisticated technology or industrial products. As advanced technology spread into more and more parts of life fewer and fewer people maintained those vanishing skills until they are virtually forgotten and lost to the overwhelming majority of people.


Today the overwhelming majority of people in the developed world are completely dependent on the existing infrastructure and incapable if surviving without it.


The Librarian