Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Blogger Ping-Pong

Time for yet another Evan-inspired post.

In his most recent post, Evan talks again about how we're 'softening' as a society. I agree with every point he made…and I'm under no illusions that our grandparents and great-grandparents were a lot tougher than we are. As Evan mentioned in his post (in another ping pong, referencing one of my earlier posts) most people today think food originates in grocery stores and have, at best, only a very vague understanding that their bag of chicken nuggets once walked around saying 'cluck' (and in the case of chicken nuggets, probably 'woof' and 'meow' as well).

I can't deny this is a bad thing. We're not just reliant but completely dependent on our technology. As Evan mentioned, if society as a whole was forced to fend for itself, the majority of us wouldn't make it.

But this raised another point, which took my response from 'comment' to 'whole new blog post' level.

You see, on the one hand we can talk about this as the softening of society and call it a bad thing. On the other hand, you can look at it this way: We're not really 'softening', we're just replacing obsolete skills with new ones.

The simple truth is, barring some disaster on a heretofore unimaginable scale, the average person is never going to have to survive 'in the wild'. The average person doesn't have a huge suite of survival skills, simply because we don't need them anymore. We're not adept at working with our hands as our grandparents were, but the truth is we simply don't need to be.

Yes, the average person doesn't know how to survive 'unsupported' and, in theory, this is a bad thing…but that's not taking the flip-side of the coin into account.

Not having to worry about basics like food and shelter has freed us to learn and achieve other things. All this wondrous technology that has vastly improved our quality of life came about because the average person doesn't have to worry about basics like gathering food or just surviving.

Saying we're 'softening' and calling it an entirely bad thing is like saying it's a bad thing that our kids are going onto college after high school instead of ending their education at 16 and getting a job because the family needs the money. Hell, education as a concept came about because of 'softening'. At one point, learning to read and write was considered a waste of time because you don't need to be able to write to work in a field. There was no point in general schooling because you'd apprentice to someone who'd teach you 'everything you need to know'.

I admit, that's an extreme example, but that doesn't make it any less true. People grow up to be great scientists, writers, and musicians because they had the time and energy to devote to it. If we had to hunt and gather our own food, build our own shelter and defend ourselves 24/7, that wouldn't leave much time for study.

Sure, it's easy to say that that's all well and good, but we're 'going too far' with it, but the latest generation is always going to be at the extreme end of the spectrum. I say today's kids have it too easy, my parents said the same thing about my generation and so on and so on as far back as you're willing to go.

Basically, we're not softening. We're adapting. We're trading out skills we no longer need for the ones we do.

We can say today that people think food originates in supermarkets and would be lost if they had to hunt and gather their own…but at one point someone said that it was a bad thing that you could just go and buy a bow or animal trap in a store…and asked what would happen if those stores suddenly went away and you had to manufacture your own bow or traps in the field.

I think the simplest way to put it is that the average teenager in 2010 would be completely lost if they were suddenly in the 1930's…but the average teenager of the 1930's would be completely lost in 2010.

1 comment:

MC Etcher said...

Makes me think of a quote from John Adams:

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780]