Irascible Irene is threatening the East Coast, according to The Weather Channel. In fact, this bad-tempered lady is now labeled a potential "EXTREME threat."
Those of us located in a certain segment of the I-95 corridor could face some disaster to homes and businesses. If the worst happens, I wonder how many people will have enough skill be able to make some repairs, even temporary ones.
In a 2006 issue of The New Atlantis, Matthew B. Crawford, a Renaissance man of sorts, warns that people have beome manually incompetent. Expert craftsmen are few and far between. If something breaks, we swap out components where we once we would have fixed it. Once we would have built things from scratch; now we buy things that were made oceans away. We are no longer are able to use tools or have the knowledge to fix things because we haven't been taught.
As knowledge workers have risen, the very idea of educating some people for the "trades" has fallen out of vogue. In part, the idea that we live in a virtual society that is somehow divorced from the material world has gained momentum.
This idea is reflected in our educational system, too. Crawford writes, "Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement. Somehow, every worker in the cutting-edge workplace is now supposed to act like an 'intrapreneur,' that is, to be actively involved in the continuous redefinition of his own job."
Sadly, many in my generation, and even more in the generations that follow, lack the ability to use tools, sew, or perform some other manual craft. There are even less people who are expert craftsmen and -women.
Crawford says that we should have a high view of "blue collar" work, work that demands that a person think through problems, because it is through these people that inventions that change the world have been made.
Once upon a time, thinking and doing were intertwined. With the increase in production lines and our valued new modes of management, we've illegitimately separated knowledge of the whole process into parts -- separated by floors or even oceans. Now, that's not to say there isn't work for all of us, knowledge workers included, but we need to rethink how we think about work -- all of work. Lest you get too comfortable with the blue/white collar split, the same thing is happening to white collar jobs that happened to blue collar jobs: Many people are becoming cogs in a particular chair-and-computer type of assembly line.
Meanwhile, our inability to do and think has left us curiously vulnerable. A lot of us don't have handy family members, friends or neighbors, but we have to deal with real-life situations, like Irascible Irene, where it might not be possible to log into the virtual world, or call a "tradesman" two counties away.
Are you prepared, or do you know someone who is, if disaster strikes?