I just read the second installment of a 3-part series on EM Sky's Win-Win Web. She is talking about the house her father (and a couple of guys named Herman and Louie) built. She grew up there, but the world has moved on since then and now someone else owns it and is remodeling it. Go read it - she has some powerful thoughts on what this change means to her.
In today's post (part 2) she talks about how easy it has become to discard the blood and sweat that goes into creating things of value. She says, "We measure the value of the things we buy through the price we pay for them. And we forget to be grateful for the labor of others because we already paid them in cash. Money becomes the extent of every exchange, and relationship is forgotten."
I think there is another aspect of today's society that contributes to our disposable view of the world. We're getting very good at efficiency over individuality these days. Cram a bunch of kids through a one-size-fits-all educational system (and no, I'm not blaming the teachers) and program them in a cost-effective way.
Once upon a time, people learned by doing. There were apprenticeships, hands-on training, and lots of *creating* things to learn how to create them better.
Today, people (yes, I'm one of them) learn about things they'll never see or do, and become "experts" on places and people they'll never see. We buy things we could never make on our own, made by people we'll never meet or get to know. It makes our lives a lot easier, but it also makes the lives of the anonymous "thing makers" - and the things they make - less valuable. How much of the furniture in your house will last for 200 years? Unfortunately, not much of mine. Heck, I don't think my house itself will last that long.
What's the answer? I don't know. But I'm encouraged that the internet doesn't just make it easier for us to buy the cheapest commodities at the lowest prices. It also makes it easier for us to reach the unique offerings of today's artisans that live beyond the bounds of our villages. Yes, there are still people out there who make things by hand and put a bit of themselves in each thing they make.
Here are but a few examples:
- Melancon Guitars (no relation, as far as I know)
- Self published or topic-expert authors like David St. Lawrence, Rosa Say, and Lisa Haneberg
- Companies like Windsor Media Enterprises, making it easier for the "little people" to publish their books
- Kinion Furniture, a family-owned business making beautiful furniture
And I could go on... All of this is just a Google (or Yahoo! or MSN...) search away. Sure, you might pay a bit more, but I think the unique value is worth it for some things. The nature of our world is changing; we need to make sure that value and relationships don't become things of the past.