Monday, June 7, 2010

Self Reliance

I've been thinking lately about some of the differences between the USA now and the USA back in the 1930s. As in, you know, if our still wobbly economy, rather than staging a recovery, should turn south again? I mean, really head south?

It occurs to me that I'm not nearly as self-reliant as my father, to say nothing of my grandfather. And in this regard I resemble many people my age and younger. My father simply knows how to do things. Carpentry? He can do it himself, just about whatever needs to be done. I remember the time he threw a shed together in the back yard, over the course of a weekend, using whatever scrap lumber he had on hand, and carrying any design plans entirely in his head. I couldn't do anything like that to save my life.

My father grew up during the Depression. My grandfather worked his way through the Depression, and he was even more self-reliant. My grandfather could do everything from planting and harvesting corn to tanning deer hide to rebuilding an engine. He was a pragmatic rough-and-ready Renaissance man. I gather a lot of people in this country were like that back in the 1930s.

Just suppose next month or next year we found ourselves in another Depression? I really do wonder... because, you know, a lot of people these days are more like me. I'm good at what I'm good at, but all my life I've taken for granted that big intricate Rube Goldberg device which is our technological society. I can change a light bulb. I can pound a nail in the wall to hang a picture. Anything much more technical than that, I hire out.

Though I do live in a part of the country where many people are still fairly self-reliant. Out here in deep rural America there are still a lot of folks who've retained those skills which were common in past generations. Most of my neighbors can do their own carpentry, their own plumbing, their own electrical work, and believe me, when they do it they don't bother getting a permit. They just go ahead and do it. Many of my neighbors take tanning a deer hide or rebuilding an engine for granted, all in a day's work. If times get tough, these folks will do okay. Better than a lot of the people, as incapable as I am, who live in the city.

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