Modern civilization celebrates the production of huge amounts of machine made things. Produced alongside are huge amounts of waste of every kind – plastics, paper, hazardous and poisonous waste which often end up polluting our waters and degrading our lands. We need to go back to valuing our crafts, which does not thrash our planet, if we wish to live sustainably on earth.
There is an old story about a girl and her red shoes which illustrates well our modern civilisation’s struggles with a machine-dominated world.
A poor, young orphaned girl who lived with her oft disgruntled aunt, once made herself a pair of red shoes with pieces of cloth and thread and leather and her own enthusiastic hands. It wasn’t the prettiest pair but the shoes had their charm - she loved them and she danced with them and they served her well. One fine day, a lady arrived at her village in a dazzling chariot and asked her if she would come along to live in her big house. She went with the lady and soon she was scrubbed and cleaned and taken to a shop to buy beautiful clothes and the most shiny, fancy pair of red shoes in the world. It was a whole new life - oh, how she loved to wear those shoes and dance to her heart’s content!
To get out of the watchful and restrictive eyes of her new foster mother she walked to the nearby woods, one day, and ran and skipped and danced away. Late in the evening, she was tired and afraid in the dark forest; she tried to remove her smart red shoes to rest – but could not. She just lay down exhausted and slept. The next day, as soon as she woke up, her red shoes seemed to make her dance by themselves… and she danced on and on, but wanted to stop and eat and rest. She came to a village and danced to a cobblers shop and asked him to remove her shoes. The kind man gave her some food but could not remove her shoes – they seemed to have stuck to her feet. Afraid to go back home, she wandered around – or rather kept dancing around trying every now and then to remove her shoes.
Absolutely tired and helpless, she went back to the cobbler - he tried hard with all his tools, but could not wrest them off her feet; she finally managed to stop dancing – by getting her feet cut off.
It’s not a pleasant story – and neither is the story of our modern civilization which continues to celebrate the production of huge amounts of machine made things at every level and in every sphere. Over the last two centuries of industrialization especially, our addiction to stuff has become suicidal. Produced alongside are huge amounts of waste of every kind – plastics, paper, household food waste and hazardous and poisonous waste which often end up polluting our waters and degrading our lands.
We need to go back to valuing our crafts if we wish to live sustainably on earth. As much as oil and capitalism with unending growth are part of the problem, craft and organic agriculture can be part of the solution. The usual question now would be – are we to go back to the jungles? We cannot stop development, can we? The answer is not ‘no development’, but development that does not trash the planet or exploit the 80% of “less developed” people or 100% of future generations.
Going organic and engaging in a craft or buying handloom, handicrafts and other local hand made products, are a few of the many ways in which we can live more responsibly on our planet – and at the same time live with beauty and support the craftspeople. It is one way in which we can celebrate the hand made shoes that make us dance happily and stop the frenzied ‘dance’ of a machine dominated life. It can make life more beautiful and deeply satisfying.
This article was first published in Eternal Bhoomi Magazine, VOLUME 4, ISSUE - 1, JAN - MAR, 2013