Ned Ludd Lives!

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mainedrtfrmr's picture
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Ned Ludd Lives!

Okay, many of the comments and threads here got me to remembering Kirkpatrick Sales' Rebels Against the Future and sent me scurrying to my bookshelf and now I'm re-reading Against the Machine by Nicols Fox.  I thought I'd bring the topic of Luddism to the forum and how relevant it still is....

People throw the word Luddite around as if it means some mindless machine-smashing anti-progress madman.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The original Luddites (in England from 1811-1816: 200th anniversary coming up!) saw what the Industrial Revolution was going to do and how it would destroy their lives.  Prior to mechanical looms, families often dyed, spun and wove their own wool working as family units in their cottages and their work was collected and paid a fair price for by merchants.  With the advent of mechanical looms, the weavers found their livlihoods replaced by machines and they were forced to either go without employment or work as slaves in the mills (men, women and children) for slave wages for very long hours while the owners profitted.  There was no "up" side for the artisans.  Recognizing this, they tried in vain to negotiate until finally  they took matters into their own hands and targetted the looms of certain owners.  The owners and the English government were threatened by a workers' uprising and quickly and violently ended the whole episode.  

Who was "Ned Ludd"?  There doesn't seem to be an actual person by that name.  But the Luddites were right.  They saw the society-changing impact that the new looms would have and they struggled to be heard.   The were not opposed to all machinery; they were for the thoughtful use of technology.  200 years later it would serve us well to lookk at technology in our everyday lives and question: is it necessary? Are there alternatives? What are the side effects? Is there a better, human-centered way? Is "efficiency" really better?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Meanwhile, I think we should plan a Ned Ludd 200th Anniversary!

Cheers, Sue

joe2baba's picture
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!

gandhi believed in local economy. he would sit and spin at his wheel and weave on a loom.

the cloth that they made was called khadi. there are still stores that sell khadi today.

it comes down to what we define as prosperity. is it money ? fiat currency? gold/silver? is it community spinning and weaving together ?

these are the real questions imho

this country imbibes more anti depressants than any other country in the world come?

we have more cars, guns, computers, food, etc so why are we unhappy? am i a luddite for even asking the question?

Arthur Vibert's picture
Arthur Vibert
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!

It's a tough call.

At the time of the Luddites, the life expectancy in England was about 36 years. As many as 20% of children would fail to reach adulthood, and many women died in childbirth or soon after from infection.

It is well to remember this because even though it is easy to imagine a simple, non-technological agrarian wonderland in which happy craftspeople lived in harmony with nature and each other the reality was somewhat different.

Having said all that, where we are now, perched on the precipice, is an uncomfortable place to be. Certainly technology has given us much, but it has come at a cost. We are in the position of being completely dependent on our technology at a time when the inputs needed to drive it are failing. It is possible that we will find ourselves living much simpler lives - spinning wool in our tight-knit communities - sooner than we anticipate.

The problem, of course, is that if it does happen quickly we will have a hard time adapting. How do you go overnight from iPods, iPhones, SUVs, flat-screen TVs and all the rest of it to spinning wool in the front room of your hovel before a roaring fire with your gruel bubbling away in a cast-iron pot?

You don't.

So let us hope that the let down is a gentle one, spaced out over generations. Because the alternative will be really, really ugly.

I think, on balance, that technology has been a blessing rather than a curse. It's kind of irrelevant at this point, though. Whatever new technologies appear in the next few years, it's unlikely they will be of a profound enough paradigm-shifting nature to move us off the path we are currently on. And the tech we already have put us on this path.

Time to bust out the spinning wheels and looms!


SamLinder's picture
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!

Excellent post, Arthur! Well said.

Crash's picture
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!
Arthur Vibert wrote:

How do you go overnight from iPods, iPhones, SUVs, flat-screen TVs and all the rest of it to spinning wool in the front room of your hovel before a roaring fire with your gruel bubbling away in a cast-iron pot?


Cheers, Arthur, 


luckily we dont have any ipods, iphones, suvs or flat screens. And I would love to learn how to spin wool.


not too sure about the greul though...



green_achers's picture
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!

A great book on this subject is Jerry Mander's 1991 book, In the Absence of the Sacred.  Yeah, that's really his name.  To give an idea, the subtitle is "The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations".  I haven't tried to look his stuff up on the web lately, but he doesn't have much of a web presence, as you would expect for someone with a heavy "question technology" perspective.

Unfortunately, too often the argument is framed in terms of all or nothing.  Mander's thesis, as best as I can remember, was that a given technology has an inherent relationship to power.  It either serves distributing power or centralizing it, and that relationship is built into the technology.  E.g., something like nuclear power comes from and requires a social/political/knowledge power structure that is centralized and inherently undemocratic. The steam-power looms worked at the scale of the moneyed class and tended to concentrate the money and power even more.  Home looms were inherently widely distributed, and so was the power.

Therefore, he argued that the adoption of a technology should not be entered into without some sort of decisision process that includes the losers as well as the winners.  The choice of the people who stand to gain should not be the only that counts.

His other great book was Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.

joe2baba's picture
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Re: Ned Ludd Lives!

this is not meant in any way to hijack this thread into religion ok that is my disclaimer. it is merely presented as one view of technology and spirituality as wayne dyer has said "we are not material beings having a spiritual experience we are spiritual beings having a material experience"

the following is from the discourses of meher baba for a complete read of the discourse of the new humanity you can go to and go to writings you can read the entire discourses on line.he had much to say about the future of humanity but i have not posted any of it so as not to extend the debate any further into a pointless religious speculative exercise

The New Humanity that emerges from the travail of the present
struggle and suffering will not ignore science or its practical attainments.
It is a mistake to look upon science as antispiritual. Science is a
help or hindrance to spirituality according
to the use to which it is put. Just as true art
expresses spirituality, science, when properly
handled, can be the expression and fulfillment
of the spirit. Scientific truths concerning the physical body
and its life in the gross world can become mediums for the soul to know
itself; but to serve this purpose they must be properly fitted into larger
spiritual understanding. This includes a steady perception of true and
lasting values. In the absence of such spiritual understanding, scientific
truths and attainments are liable to be used for mutual destruction
and for a life that will tend to strengthen the chains that bind the
spirit. All-sided progress of humanity can be assured only if science
and religion proceed hand in hand.

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