Just finished the book Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. Crawford, a motorcycle mechanic with a Ph.D in political philosophy, writes a very interesting and valuable book, but at times I must admit to wondering “what the hell is this guy talking about.” In one sentence he’s throwing out expectatives like a Marine drill sergeant, and in the next he’s going into the details of cognitive theory. I couldn’t figure out whether his target audience was tradesmen or post graduate students. Anyway it’s worth reading if only for the encouragement to learn to “take care of your stuff.”
I’m going down this road because yesterday I replaced the brake pads in the Subaru. It was an easy job – it took me three hours, a mechanic could have done it in one – but it was satisfying. As a stay at home dad I feel like I need to earn my keep – fixing the car, fixing the dishwasher, building furniture – and the labor charges I saved yesterday definitely kept me here on easy street for another week.
There is a certain amount of soul satisfaction to be found in taking care of your stuff. Either you are master of your stuff or it becomes master of you. It’s easy to become a slave to technology, completely unaware of what goes on under the hood. Being self-sufficient is a harder life, but it’s also a freer life.
My dad gave his children a do it yourself mentality; like a surgeon he’d bark out orders for tools and it didn’t take long to learn the difference between a ratchet and a brake-over bar. Back in the seventies a lot of dads in the neighborhood would be seen under the hood of their station wagons on a Saturday morning, and it was to my great pride that many of those guys would come over with greasy hands asking my dad for help, advice or to borrow a tool. Dad was respected not because he made a big paycheck, which he didn’t, but because he had brains and he knew how to use his hands.
Today I wonder what passes for respect. Why weren’t these assholes at AIG tarred and feathered, why weren’t those so-called financial wizards run out of Wall Street on a rail. Another thing my dad taught me was to not be what he called “a social parasite,” a non-value added middleman. Despite their delusion of being important those hucksters on Wall Street will be the first ones selling their cuff links to the plumbers and electricians when times go bad.
I can’t but feel anxious as we digress into what economists call a “service economy.” What a load of crap. By shipping overseas the manufacture of things, we are jackhammering the very foundation of our economy not to mention our society. We need more consumerism, more debt because more and more of our dollar is being shipped to Asia. We leave for our children a house of cards.