Monday, August 24, 2009

Pen Meets Paper August 24, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
On Sunday, August 24 a replica of a commonly used boat during the Viking age, 1000 years ago, arrived at the grounds of the Danish museum by Dickson, between Caroline and Innisfail. It had been painstakingly built in Denmark by craftsmen using replica tools of 1000 years ago, from a large oak log. Hand forged iron rivets were used to connect the boards together and anchor them to the keel and structural members of the craft. The boat, called a "Gokstadfaering", is a highly functional craft, 6.5 meters long and 1.4 meters in width, with a mast and square sail.
Reflecting on the time and energy it took to build this craft, one cannot but be impressed with the people that did this kind of work one thousand years ago.
Now, let's fast forward to today and consider how long it would take to produce a similar craft with contemporary technology :
What we have is a production line with two or three workers churning out several of these craft in one day with the help of technology and modern building materials, such as fibreglass, etc. The productivity of a worker has likely been multiplied by a factor of one thousand, at least, compared to that of his ancestor of AD 1000. But the families of these folks still managed to feed and clothe themselves and raise families and they had a rich culture to boot.
What does that say about us? On account of technological innovation incorporating mass production techniques and a quantum leap forwards in understanding natural processes and using them to advantage, no one should ever be hungry or penniless today, surely?
Why should individuals work in sweatshops, producing perfectly useless consumer goods, just to be able to put some food on the table for themselves and their families?
In theory, given the incredible productivity of modern society, is there any reason why the basic needs of everyone, and I mean everyone, should not be met? Or are we simply wasting productive capacity on goods that nobody really needs, or even want, in order to preserve a productive system that used to prevail a long time ago? Whose interests are served by keeping this system, this way of doing things, alive?

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