Transition Café – Convenience

Transition Cafe notes from William Mutch…

In setting up Bird feeders and houses on the land I’m stewarding, I have been trying to balance having a consistent, convenient food supply with wanting the Birds to have to work for their food, so they don’t take it for granted and unlearn their foraging skills. The goal, here, is not to create domesticated, tame cultures of the formerly-wild, but to supplement their diet, replacing what my people have damaged and destroyed, until such time as the land is teaming with food for the wild folks, again. Work in progress…

Convenience, of course, is a major issue in Human culture, as well, especially in the age of amazon.com and the internet. We Humans have been grappling with our own domestication for at least as long as the rise of grocery stores and convenience stores, which offered to remove the burden of growing and preparing food, as well as making needed products and goods. How many skills did we let go, along the way? I discover new ones, constantly. How many things used to be done by hand, in the home, village, or city, that are now outsourced to slaves-Human, Machine, or otherwise?

It is hard to have a privileged class, if everyone is making things for themselves and helping each other out, and hard to motivate people to go to work to make money for themselves and widgets for others if they don’t have a life of privilege to look forward to, hopefully with enough of their life left to enjoy it. Convenience stores supply, among other things, a sense of ease and affluence which was formerly available to a very few.

Online convenience stores seem to be the next big iteration of that. Why trouble yourself to walk a few blocks, or bike into town, when you can click on a picture of something you think you want and have it appear on your doorstep soon thereafter? I have heard that there are even houses which have amazon.com-based security systems, which allow for your stuff to be dropped off inside your house by the people whose job it is to do so, eliminating even one more step in the accumulation of stuff, and you never even have to see them or talk to them. There are even, the rumors say, houses which are completely controlled by a computer system contained within the home. This must be an internet legend, of course, as surely folks see the potential issues with that. Have we not seen enough sci-fi to be concerned?

What is the cost of all of this? Is money the only metric we should be using, here? Has all of this really improved our “quality of life”? Why, or why not?

How many of you, reading this, still go into your bank and speak to the tellers behind the counter? Can you recall their names? Do you know anything about their families? How many of you prepare your own food, as opposed to having food prepared for you? What are the ingredients of your food? What are the names of the folks who got your food to your table? Are they all still alive at the time you are consuming it? Why, or why not? That thing you ordered online-who made it? What are their names? Why would you care, if it’s not Convenient to do so?

I hear, over and over, via articles, studies, and friends who experience this themselves, that many many people in this world relate to each other via their computers, and are near-phobic of personal interactions, having spent so much time at, or even growing up with, computer-mediated interactions. But then, why sacrifice the convenience of an e-mail blast for the messiness of in-person relationships? What would you learn about those around you, if you did so?

 

 

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