I was watching an old 1930 movie about people working on a railroad, the lives of the men who labored to maintain those huge steam locomotives and the men who drove them. Steam engines required lots of maintenance in those days and the manual labor was hot, dirty and exhausting, quite unlike the work done on modern diesel locomotives where the engineer sits in an air conditioned cab and operates computerized controls. If you lived within a couple of miles of a railroad or a coal fired power plant, you’d wake up in in the morning to find coal ash on your windowsill.
In the past, a potato farmer with 500 acres needed a hundred workers to harvest his crop. Now days, it’s done by machine and two or three men can do the job in a couple of days. Migrant Mexican workers do the really hard work on farms because Americans won’t do the hard labor.
Remember the old fashioned radio your grandparents had that took several minutes to warm up? It was built by people in America sitting at a bench soldering individual parts to a circuit board. Now days, it’s done by robots in China.
Ships were built of steel and iron with the steel plates pounded and shaped by men using their hands, requiring hundreds of workers in large ship yards.
Life wasn’t easy in those days and it makes you wonder if there was any such thing as the “good old days.” Life involved lots of hard manual labor and our life spans were somewhat shorter. There was no such thing as heart by-pass surgery and if you had a heart problem, you often died young. Before antibiotics, a simple infection could kill you.
But, surprisingly, people were happier and it gave them a sense of satisfaction to have put in a hard day’s work and in those days, loafers were looked down on and weren’t given special privileges. We took pride and satisfaction in hard work and we were happier.
But now one must wonder if our computer driven robotic age is a good thing when you consider the number of people who need jobs, many of which don’t exist anymore, those jobs having been replaced by robots.
Back in the 1950’s prescient experts touted the future of robots in our world, even predicting that robots would do our housework and cooking for us thus leaving us more spare time to do the things we enjoy more than work. Somewhere along the way to the future, something went off the track. We expect the world to owe us a living and our young protest violently if they don’t get free stuff. To make matters worse, we refuse to pay higher prices for American made products and buy things made in China. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot and have the gall to complain about something we brought on ourselves.
Bob Wilson — Franklin, N.C.