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How people deserve what they deserve

['Letter to the editor']
['Letter to the editor']

Modern moral progress seems often to consist much in moving from a large idea which justified accepting a lesser position, embracing the latter eagerly, and then discarding that justification, so as to render the second approach virtually worthless.

This seems to be what happened in men’s attitude to automation, as Gwynne Dyer’s column Jan. 19 considered it. That column appeared while I was out of Newfoundland for two weeks.

Thus forgetting what we had too much taken for granted does indeed apply to what Mr. Dyer calls automation’s “growing.” What is lifeless does not “grow.” Men build it up or, preferably, build upon it. Industrial machinery has been built upon the remains of life and weighs the living down.

 The rich and powerful are indeed more  “accepting” than most of us, as Mr. Dyer so fittingly understated the situation, of automation’s destroying jobs, precisely because that is what they are using it for.

It used to be deemed unworthy of men that they be subject economically to other men: “economy” was a Greek word for the management of one’s household and each was expected to manage his own. No one thought of “the economy” as some kind of national or global “orchard” which all would tend in some degree and from which everyone would gather as he needed.

But men came to endure economic subservience as a necessary evil: necessary — only temporarily, they believed — to the higher good of marrying and starting families. Then they forgot its being unworthy of them and considered only its being necessary to serving their individual desires.

This resulted in subordinating to the “functioning” of “the economy” the good of the family itself, whose proper work is to do, as fully as is feasible, mankind’s whole living, especially by doing that which is due to keeping it alive.

There might have seemed at first some “justification,” since “persons deserve the effects of what they do,” for some men’s achieving economic control of others, in the sense that people who could actually “herd cats” would deserve somehow to “get work out of them”; in the later Middle Ages reducing ordinary men to wage-slaves might have seemed to the more ambitious sort of tyrant a challenge worth taking up.

But modern education alters our circumstances: we are trained to tend “the greater economy” dominated by a few who are far less than lordly, almost as if it were our own feudal plot of land which the serf could not sell or otherwise forsake but from which also he could not be evicted and which its lord himself was not allowed to sell but only to derive less gain than did his serf from its cultivation.

Now that it is far too easy for the rich to exploit the rest of us, that semblance of justification has pretty much evaporated.

Any who think “automation” is simply “increasing naturally” without some people eagerly pushing it and others lying down to let it roll over them, should think again. Or, perhaps, people should just begin thinking, in the first place, about who deserves what, and how people deserve what they deserve.

Colin Burke

Port au Port

This seems to be what happened in men’s attitude to automation, as Gwynne Dyer’s column Jan. 19 considered it. That column appeared while I was out of Newfoundland for two weeks.

Thus forgetting what we had too much taken for granted does indeed apply to what Mr. Dyer calls automation’s “growing.” What is lifeless does not “grow.” Men build it up or, preferably, build upon it. Industrial machinery has been built upon the remains of life and weighs the living down.

 The rich and powerful are indeed more  “accepting” than most of us, as Mr. Dyer so fittingly understated the situation, of automation’s destroying jobs, precisely because that is what they are using it for.

It used to be deemed unworthy of men that they be subject economically to other men: “economy” was a Greek word for the management of one’s household and each was expected to manage his own. No one thought of “the economy” as some kind of national or global “orchard” which all would tend in some degree and from which everyone would gather as he needed.

But men came to endure economic subservience as a necessary evil: necessary — only temporarily, they believed — to the higher good of marrying and starting families. Then they forgot its being unworthy of them and considered only its being necessary to serving their individual desires.

This resulted in subordinating to the “functioning” of “the economy” the good of the family itself, whose proper work is to do, as fully as is feasible, mankind’s whole living, especially by doing that which is due to keeping it alive.

There might have seemed at first some “justification,” since “persons deserve the effects of what they do,” for some men’s achieving economic control of others, in the sense that people who could actually “herd cats” would deserve somehow to “get work out of them”; in the later Middle Ages reducing ordinary men to wage-slaves might have seemed to the more ambitious sort of tyrant a challenge worth taking up.

But modern education alters our circumstances: we are trained to tend “the greater economy” dominated by a few who are far less than lordly, almost as if it were our own feudal plot of land which the serf could not sell or otherwise forsake but from which also he could not be evicted and which its lord himself was not allowed to sell but only to derive less gain than did his serf from its cultivation.

Now that it is far too easy for the rich to exploit the rest of us, that semblance of justification has pretty much evaporated.

Any who think “automation” is simply “increasing naturally” without some people eagerly pushing it and others lying down to let it roll over them, should think again. Or, perhaps, people should just begin thinking, in the first place, about who deserves what, and how people deserve what they deserve.

Colin Burke

Port au Port

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