Tuesday 28 August 2012

Lost Inheritance

I haven't been very forthcoming about the business we are building here.
All of you blog readers really should be the first to know, since you are the people who are genuinely interested in our daily life.
But I am not going to let the whole cat out...
...not just yet.
I'll make it up to you though.

For now, I will say that the focus will be on education.
Originally, we planned to offer primarily outdoor experiences that helped people understand the natural ecology and our role among it.
And though we will still be offering experiences with nature, I am finding that there is just as much interest in the forgotten art of skills.
Yes, that's a pretty broad art, but indeed, skill is something that is degrading in a society that encourages specialization.

It happens so quietly.
From one generation to the next.
We are supposed to be passing down our acquired skill and knowledge to our children.
The accumulation of which improves the capacity for adaptation and survival.
Instead, we have been experiencing the opposite.

A money economy permits us the luxury of transferring one skill into paper money.
I make bricks. I sell bricks for money. I use the money to buy bread.
I don't need to know how to bake.
Therefore, my children will not be taught how to bake bread.
This is a coarse example, but exemplifies the disconnection of skill.

And so individuals concentrate on a narrow band of ability.
Disparity between wages allows disproportionate exchange of work for money.
A higher income means that money will replace skill to a greater degree.
For those of us living in the affluent west, that means we are most vulnerable to a multi-generational loss of skill.
The wealthiest of our culture, the most vulnerable of all.
The irony is obvious.
It seems that even a man-made trade economy embodies elements of natural selection.

This fact has not gone unnoticed.
Especially as houshold finances tighten up.
It's often easier to find relief by providing for yourself than trying to earn the money.
As so it should be.
Anecdotally, I am constantly hearing from people about their frustration at not having skills that were once taken for granted.
In the age of industrialized food, even the ability to prepare and cook food is in doubt.

I met a woman this morning who had been taught how to weld at the age of twelve.
A little unusual, but it shouldn't be.
Her father recognized the importance of skills and passed them to her.
Not only does a skill such as welding give you the ability to repair metal items,
it also empowers you.
It means that the confidence to perform jobs beyond specialization may transfer to other skills.

We are often led to believe that each of us has unique talents.
And while that is true, it doesn't preclude a diverse skill set.
Crammed into pigeon holes does nothing to benefit individuals, culture,
or, despite many opinions, the economy.
Each passing generation is losing the resilience necessary to cope with an abrupt change in our way of life.
Certainly you can't expect everything to carry on as it is forever?

As for Sue, who learned to weld when she was twelve.
Her opinion is resolved.
In twenty or thirty years, it will be the people who have the trades and skills who dominate our culture.
I tend to agree with her.


1 comment: