Friday, July 15, 2011

Two ways of doing things

There is a natural human tendency to take the easy way out when trying to build or make something. Experienced builders and craftspeople (or rather let's call them installers of factory manufactured goods, since there are very few craftsopeople left in the US) will say that if one wants to do things right, one has to avoid shortcuts.

If one goes to third world countries or poor neighborhoods, it appears that shortcuts and poor craftsmanship (or installmanship) are the rule. One might conclude that poor people in the US and abroad are lazy, and perhaps there is some truth to that. But there is another side to it. Often poor builders and installers do not have anywhere near the resources and tools that wealthier builders and installers have. They have to use more ingenuity with less resources. It may not look as good, but often times it works just as well. The wealthy are showing how empire works: after raping the rest of the world for resources, they are all brought to a local store. With enough rape, almost anything can be done "right". For everything you want to make, there is a product at the store. The product may be toxic, may have been toxic to the workers who made it, may require mountaintop removal, raiforest depletion, war, and confiscation of peasant land. The wealthy user of the product does not concern themselves with all this but with how good and powerful their project will look like, or how comfortable it will make them feel. The more power is used in installing, the better. The more chemicals, the better. Anyone who has ever studied primitive or medieval technology will be impressed with how much more elegance and finesse it exhibits than most modern technology.

But still, most ghetto and third world installations are not very pretty, even if they are clever at times. One of the things that impressed me at the Possibility Alliance is that beauty, not just function, is a priority. Despite having almost no resources from the global economy, most of what is built, installed and crafted there is beautiful, with attention to detail.Beautiul but not ostentatious, or into power for power's sake.

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