Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A potter's tale.

An excerpt from:

The Archdruid Report
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Specialization Trap

...the post-Roman economic collapse had its roots in the very sophistication and specialization that made the Roman economy so efficient. Pottery, again, makes an excellent example of the wider process. Huge pottery factories like the one at La Graufesenque, which used specialist labor to turn out quality goods in immense volume, could make a profit only by marketing their wares on a nearly continental scale, using sophisticated networks of transport and exchange to reach consumers all over the western empire who wanted pottery and had denarii to spend on it. The Roman world was rich, complex, and stable enough to support such networks – but the post-Roman world was not...

Sound familiar, class?

...The implosion of the western empire thus turned what had been a massive economic advantage into a fatal vulnerability. As the networks of transport and exchange came apart, the Roman economy went down with it, and that economy had relied on centralized production and specialized labor for so long that there was nothing in place to take up the slack. During the Roman Empire’s heyday, people in the towns and villas near Sutton Hoo could buy their pottery from local merchants, who shipped them in from southern Britain, Gaul, and points further off. They didn’t need local pottery factories, and so didn’t have them, and that meant their descendants very nearly ended up with no pottery at all.

Even where Roman pottery factories existed, they were geared toward mass production of specialized types, not to small-scale manufacture of the whole range of pottery products needed by local communities. Worse, as population levels declined and the economy contracted, the pottery on hand would have been more than adequate for immediate needs, removing any market for new production. A single generation of social chaos and demographic contraction thus could easily have been enough to break the transmission of the complex craft traditions of Roman pottery-making, leaving the survivors with only the dimmest idea of how to make good pottery.

In our case, only the dimmest idea of how to make any pottery, much less good tableware.

...Trace any other economic specialty through the trajectory of the post-Roman world and the same pattern appears. Economic specialization and centralized production, the core strategies of Roman economic success, left Rome’s successor states with few choices and fewer resources in a world where local needs had to be met by local production. Caught in the trap of their own specialization, most parts of the western empire came out the other end of the process of decline far more impoverished and fragmented than they had been before the centralized Roman economy evolved in the first place.

Map this same process onto the most likely future of industrial society, in turn, and the parallels have daunting implications. In modern industrial nations, the production and distribution of goods are far more centralized than anything Rome ever achieved. Nearly all workers at every level of the economy perform highly specialized niche jobs, most of which only function within the structure of a highly centralized, mechanized, and energy-intensive global economy, and many of which have no meaning or value at all outside that structure. If the structure falters, access to even the most basic goods and services could become a challenge very quickly.

...Our situation is thus far more precarious than Rome’s was. On the other hand, we have an advantage that the Roman world apparently lacked – if we choose to use it. The possibility of a future dark age apparently never entered the cultural dialogue in Roman times, but it has been raised repeatedly in ours. Preventive action – the deliberate revival of nonindustrial ways of providing necessary goods and services – is well within the reach of individuals and local communities, and indeed some of this work has already been done by hobbyists and people involved in historical reenactment societies of various kinds...

Except that orthodox Jewish communities don't have "hobbyists" who make plates and bowls or garden tools or baby cribs or pots and pans or anything else we need to survive as a community without being at the mercy of outsiders. Amish communities can produce just about anything and everything they need all year round - why can't we?

One reason is that we've raised a generation of young men who are allergic to gainful employment - who think they are too good to get their hands dirty and earn a living doing anything at all, much less something that involves honest work or actual manual labour.

When "globalization" plays out, which will be very soon as gasoline/diesel approaches $5 and then $10 a gallon making long-range transportation of goods no longer economically viable, there won't be any going down to wally-world to get household goods anymore. The Amish won't care - but we will, because in our communities there is no such thing as self-sufficiency. We've become parasites off of the culture we claim to be separate from - and like all parasites, when the host dies we'll die with it.

How much more plainly can this be explained? Either our young men start learning crafts and skills and trades to cover every need in the community, or our communities will collapse just like the goy communities are going to - it's that simple. No rocket science here - just the opposite. We need to re-learn what our grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents knew, and fast.

But we're not going to, are we?

No comments: