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The Luddites Club


The word Luddite has many negative connotations but the first Luddites were only trying to preserve theor livelehood and the wellbeing of their families against innovation they claimed, rightly as it turned out, would impoverish them, deskill their trade and destroy the communities thay lived in. Perhaps we need some Luddites to make a stand against the tsunami of unneccessary change that has left some politicians describing they ways we live as "a broken society."

The Luddites Club
by Ed Butt
October 2009

CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs KEYWORDS: technology, business, innovation, change, progress, internet, television, mp3, luddite

THE LUDDITES CLUB

The word Luddite has many negative connotations. After all Ned Ludd led machine wrecking riots to disrupt the development of new industries and obstruct progess the mainstream histories tell us.

Manistream history always follows an agenda set by the establishment of course and the image it lays on Luddites is no exception. Sure, they smashed and burned machines, fearing the new industrialised industries would damage their livelihood, but the story is only ever told from the point of view of the merchants, manufacturers and investors, not from that of the workers.

It is to your benefit, the peasants, hand weavers and craftsmen were told as every innovation reduced their earnings, forced them to compete for less work and destroyed the old communities and insitutions that had given their lives stability. The Luddites had the nous to ask what benefit exactly? and were answered with a deafening silence. The only people who were allowed to benefit were the rich.

So the Luddites were not truly a bunch of dinosaurs who were totally resistant to change. What they objected to was change that advanced the interests of the wealthy and powerful to the detriment of the less well off. The machine wreckers were ordinary, decent, hard working people who were suddenly stripped of the ability to earn their living and were faced with the stark choice, comply or starve.

Consider their felings in a modern context. Over the past thirty years the communities created by the Industrial Revolution have been ripped apart, the stability that the great manufacturing indistries gave to peoples lives has evaporated as entire industries migrated to the cheap labour economies of the third world.

While that has been happening the promised benefits of computerisation and the high tech industries seem to have benefitted the few while dumping the majority into a nagative lifestyle of conspicuous consumption, social isolation and financial insecurity.

A big part of the problem is that technological advances moved so quickly society has not been given time to adapt to one before it was rendered obsolete. And when those of us with nasty suspicious minds dared to ask how does it benefit us? were greeted with derision. Dinosaurs, Luddites, technophobes, the sheep heads cried.

One of the areas the "Luddite" smear is being used is climate change. Anyone who expresses the slightest doubt about the very dodgy "climate change science" (i.e. meauring temerature and rainfall and jotting the figures down) is a denier, a Luddite and the dupe of big oil and the international fossil fuel energy peddlers. Except of course it is not quite that simple. Few peiople deny that climate change is happening or that it poses huge problems for humankind. Many are sceptical about the very biased basis of the research carried out which gives every indication of having been set up to provide a predetermined answer. And an increasing number are aware that if we follow the money we find the most active and vociferous campaigners on climate change often have links to commercial interests that stand to make $billions out of selling the taxpayers of the world empty promises, unproven technical solutions and a carbon trding system that will impoverish all but the super rich who will make fortunes from it. See what is revealed in Copenhagen Climate Conference: The Stink Of Shit And Corruption

Another area in which Luddite accusations have been deployed to discredit the wise is the area of personal and national finance. People who warned of a financial crisis brought about by personal debts and Public Sector Borrowing to finance out of control government spending were accused of Luddism. "The world has changed", we were told, "you have been left behind, money works differently now" we were told when warning of the folly of borrowing from the future to pay for the present. Charles Dickens and Emile Zola in the 19th century wrote of the folly and inevtiable consequences of borrowing against expectations. They were proved right just as those of us who warned against mortgaging every asset to the last pnny have been proved right.

So if you are one of those who has a tendency to ask how do I benefit, what good is it to me? you should be part of The Luddites Club. Wew are people too, we have equal rights. We do not exist for the benefit and the convenience of the wealthy elite.

The Luddites Club does not recommend torching call centres or wrecking retail premises. It might make you feel good but it will not achieve much. Our solution is much simpler.

Dont believe what you are told until you have asked who really benefits. Think of it this way, if the deal someone is offering was really good would they be offering it to you or keeping it to themselves.

Never be afraid to be uncool. By the time a thing is acclaimed as cool it its moment of coolness has passed. Being cool is really not giving a damn what people think of you. The cohorts of conformity always envy those brave enough to swin againt the tide even though their envy may be expressed as scorn.

Dont buy it unless you really need it. A good example is MP3 players. Despite offering a vastly inferior sound quality to the well established Walkman, Discman and their clones, MP3 players were so hyped as the cool new gadget that they quickly became a must have. The advertised advantage was that they could store hundreds of hours of audion. But how much portable music does anyone need? And is the supplied quality of MP3 music at commercial compression rates really worth paying for?

Dont be bullied into bying new. Computer firms are the worst culprits here. We buy new computers to run the latest operating systems that offer huge benefits, not realising that the benefits of the new operating ststems are to the advantage of the software companies and not us. Then we find our new operating systems or the new superdooper processors on our new computers will not run our old software. So we buy new. And then we find the new software is so memory hungry we need to upgrade our computers.

Most of us are not really fools and if presented with the truth will quickly realise we are being scammed. And we are being scammed. The gains made over more than a century and a half of social reforms are rapidly being eroded and deindustrialisation, instead of improving the lives of most humans is dragging us back to the kind of social structure that existed before the industrial revolution.

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