Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Oxen are slow... (10 Lines)

1) The old man trudged behind the water buffalo, labouring to keep the heavy wooden plough in something like a straight line in the marshy soil.

2) His world was defined by the muddy field, the back of the animal, the seemingly endless toil as he moved back and forth in his small plot under the blazing sun.

3) There was a hazy memory, floating like the midges in the early summer heat, of when he first cut a piece of crooked tree branch and roped the buffalo to pull it, so much better than the simple stick that he had used before to plant the grain.

4) After a long, long while, a bronze spike had been added, so much more durable, even if hard to manage to pay for out of the meager surplus remaining even in the best of harvest years.

5) One year the Warlord’s soldiers had come, ‘offering’ a cast iron tip, at the cost of taking a quarter of each harvest, even in those years the rains failed, the crops withered, and his children starved.

6) Eventually he saw the machines shatter the quiet of the fields and belch their foul smoke, but he kept to his oxen, knowing he could repair his simple plough himself, and the ox could survive on the grass remains of his crop.

7) They came with their chemicals and strangely altered seeds, laughing at him as they boasted of high yields, while every year he watched the weeds and insects grow ever resistant, needing more and more chemicals in an endless race, as he still plodded along.

8) The machines came to guide themselves seemingly without human intervention, and once again he and the beast were alone inside the small field where the only ‘web’ he understood was that of Life, defined by soil, sun and rain.

9) Then the day came when the sun suddenly blazed massive in the sky, the machines fell silent, there would be no more wondrous seeds with their supporting chemicals, and the people in their artificial canyons found themselves again isolated, starving, and incapable of simple survival

10) And the old man roped the water buffalo to the simple wooden plough for another day of toil, still trusting to ancient experience, the earth, sun, and sky - with hope that harvest would once again provide enough to fill his bowl.

(Image by Ken Preston : 'Letters from the Road' - used without permission.)

The title here comes from a saying I heard (in the 1983 film ‘High Road to China’) :
“The oxen are slow, but the Earth is patient”

But that was not the starting point.

Increasingly, I have become concerned of the ‘Death of the Expert’ coupled with the increasing diversion of, well, *everything* on to ever more ethereal methods. Books replaced by computer files, with personal records placed onto ‘the cloud’, beyond control of the individual. A cell phone is not a tricorder, especially when the information stored, much less the driving software itself, is all remotely accessed.
The recent collapse of the Canadian Rodgers cell phone system, and the massive chaos in banking, retail, business function, and personal communications should be (yet another) warning sign.

We are only one good solar flare from total information collapse.
At least here in the ‘developed’ West (and realistically, increasingly in Africa and Asia).

All this is hardly a new concept. The idea of ‘point failure’ in technological societies has long been the grist for the Science Fiction mill. I’ll point to James Burke’s 1978 series Connections, especially episode 1 ‘The Trigger Effect’ (dealing with the 1965 North East power black out - which I dimly remember).
I certainly have come to realize the (massively) optimistic vision of re-enactors as some holders of ancient skills (seen in Stirling’s ’Dies the Fire’) is hardly realistic.  But there is a core here about Knowledge, Skills & Experience - a sub topic of concern regular readers have seen  from my hands.

When (not *if* youngsters) the System crashes, no one will even have the self promotion that is YouTube, and all those PDF’s will be unavailable with the last gasp of your batteries.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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