Are there any blacksmiths left?
I can still remember when they existed around here. I can also still remember elevator operators, TV repairmen who came to your home, and the guys who pumped the gas at service stations (they also washed the windshield and checked the oil and tire pressure). Those jobs are all gone now. Until a couple of years ago there was an old man in our county seat who owned and operated a saddlery. He repaired saddles and was one of only a handful of full-time saddlers left in the country. There may not be any left now. I suppose these days for those few people who use saddles if something goes wrong with it they just buy a new one.
At Lowes and Home Depot these days they have self-service check out lines–no cashier required. They seem to be adding more of those lines. Maybe someday soon cashiers will go the way of elevator operators.
The cover story of the November issue of Successful Farming (an industrial ag magazine) was titled “The Robots are Coming!” It described robot technology that is beginning to emerge, designed to eliminate or greatly reduce the need for human labor on industrial farms. Oh boy.
I suppose elevator operators are no great loss. And these days we have IT departments, software designers and fracking crews, so as jobs go technological change both gives and takes away. But the trend seems to be for replacement of human labor with machines and a throw-away culture.
We live in a culture and age that depends upon industrialization to provide jobs, yet the aim of industrialization (as Wendell Berry has being saying for a long time) is ultimately to replace humans with machines. But at the same time, industrialization itself depends upon consumers, who increasingly derive their wages from industrialization. Those wages of course are fed back to industrialization to generate the profits that enable more technology, which in turn renders more jobs obsolete and thus over time reduces the consumer wages upon which industry depends. It reminds me of the image of a snake swallowing itself.
It seems to me that what a sustainable culture needs are not “jobs,” but vocations.