Have you ever stopped and looked around you, at the nightmare of commuting, struggling to find or keep a job, never enough money, pollution, war and thought to yourself, “how on earth did I end up like this?’. Well my friend, the journey started sometime ago.

Let me take you back a few centuries.

You’re a weaver living in England. You work from home with your family around you. You buy raw materials from the traveling merchant and sell him your finished product. A product renown throughout Europe for it’s superior quality. There is no free mA Weaver at his loomarket economy so prices are predictable and consistent, which means so is your income. You have an idyllic quality of life.

And what an enviable way of life it is. Picture this, (please go to the  iTunes shop, download and play ‘Morning’ from the Peer Gynt Suite), a small cottage in the bucolic English countryside. Butterflies flit from colourful flower to colourful flower whilst the birds sing sweetly in the lush green trees by the babbling brook. InsChickenide the cottage the weaver is contently finishing his latest creation destined for the markets of Europe and because the price of his goods never changes, he knows how much he will be paid. His wife and children are happily helping him in his tasks. Pausing to refresh himself from his labours, he wanders out into the garden to check on the progress of the spinach, pull a few weeds out of the potato patch and throws the chickens some food left over from the family lunch. He is is self sufficient and abundant.

At this time the idea emerged that it was possible to create machines that would produce goods much faster and with less manpower. Not only that, unskilled manpower. It also meant that you could sell the products at a much cheaper price. Of course the woven articles produced by machines were of a much inferior quality but hey, they were cheap.

And so the industrial revolution started, powered by water and then the newly invented steam engine. Along with it came the free boot1market economy, land enclosure and the idea that people were human resources to serve the machine. In those times people displaced from the land by the new factories or put out of business by the free market economy had no option but to work in appallingly dangerous conditions in factories for extraordinarily long hours and very little pay.
The weavers fought against this ‘progress’ and developed into a group of people who became known as images-2the ‘Luddites’, after a mythical character who was, supposedly, their leader. They petitioned Parliament, protested, marched, waged guerrilla war and were eventually defeated soundly by the army, police force, and the Government. The Government, of course, had a lot of members who stood to gain from this new technology and they soon enacted laws to suppress any opposition to what became the industrial revolution.

History is written by the victors and that is why now we understand the term ‘Luddite’ to refer to some fool who cannot cope with new technology. The Luddites, in fact, were trying to hang on to the idea that technology should serve mankind and not the other way round.

Count me as a Luddite.

What’s all this got to do with our modern world, I hear you ask. Well, everything. As a result of the change of thinking that commutersoccurred in the 18th century, we now accept as normal the idea that we leave our home and families to go to a place of work, could be a factory or a shop or an office, where we exchange large slabs of our time for cash. More importantly, we accept that the welfare of human beings is secondary to that of technological ‘progress’. Progress is when the machine becomes more efficient or produces more in less time with less human input. The focus of progress is never to improve what it is to be human except in the most superficial way in order to sell more products and keep the machine going.

Another knock on effect of industrialisation is that systems become more centralised and so people who lived on the land must congregate in cities in order to exchange their time for money. You can see this happening all round the world as nations become industrialised.

So here we are – leaving our homes and families everyday to go to a place where we exchange our time and skills for not enough money to live the life we’d really like. All because the Luddites lost and were steamrollered by the captains of the industrial revolution.

I’m coming out.
I admit it.
I’m a Luddite. A true Luddite. I believe that technology and progress should serve humanity not enslave it. I believe it is more important to enjoy being a human being  than make the machine more efficient. I believe that the planet is a part of us and we are a part of the planet, so technology and progress should serve it not wreck it.

Interestingly, the internet revolution currently in progress offers us the chance to return to the days of the cottage industry. With images-5computers and the internet it is now possible to run a very lucrative home business. Once again the weaver, now the internet entrepreneur, can pause from his or her labours wander out to the veggie patch and inspect tonight’s dinner. Since it doesn’t matter where the modern day weaver is physically located, he or she can live in a cottage by a babbling brook complete with butterflies and colourful flowers, (with a broadband connection of course).

Us New Luddites are using technology to improve our lives. The original Luddites would approve.

Who will join me?

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4 Responses to “A Home Business Then & Now”
  1. Debra says:

    Great story, I never thought of pre-industrial revolution and tying that time as more home-based businesses flourished. Simplicity seems to be the key to joy in life and less commuting, pollution in the air can help our environment as well.

  2. Peter Grimes says:

    Great post.. Well written.. Congratulations

  3. Christine Sheridan says:

    I actually appreciate the quality of your writing and thoughts. So few people really bother to put up stuff that’s interesting to read. So thank you. And I’m not quibbling, but I get anxious when people idealize the pre-industrial past. The pastoral fantasy is tempting, but I come from farm people and they worked like DOGS, so I don’t want to go back to that! Cottage industry would suit me, and (so far) it does! I don’t know if I’m an official Luddite, but I’m toeing that line LOL.

  4. admin says:

    Thank you Christine for your kind words. Yes I am fantasising the agrarian lifestyle, but my fantasy was more along the lines of self sufficiency rather than commercial farming. If you believe that technology should serve humanity and not enslave and that leaving your home and family to exchange time for dollars at some remote location is a dumb idea, then I pronounce you an official Luddite.

    Michael

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