Today’s question is a debate between the machine-made and the traditional. Do I want my products made in a factory, or the old-fashioned way? This question opens a myriad of doors, from the rights of factory workers to pollution to international trade to the marketing edge that terms like ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘hand-made’ try to curry.
Yet if I bring this question back to Lorata, it becomes a bit more simple. My books use a very medieval setting, so the idea of machine-made is foreign, to say the least. They have mechanics, but not electronics. The most automated you get is a wind or water mill. Some regions lean more towards renaissance-era technology, and by book three you will meet a scientist who help bring the continent to technology similar to that of our 1800s.
I am considering there being advanced technology in book four. Considering that here on Earth, went developed incredibly rapidly in the past 200 years, it is not a stretch that Lorata could also develop what I have in mind in a similar time frame. There will be areas that are not interested in high technology, but those working on it find a way to use magic to create many incredible things.
Still, I don’t have it in me to have Lorata do to food and clothing what has happened here on Earth. The factory farms, the food production lines… I’ve seen “How It’s Made,” but also some other documentaries about our food. It’s scary what is on the grocery store shelves, and it makes the romantic idea of old-style markets very appealing. Even when the pioneers of the 1800s had their general stores, the food was at least wholesome.
Let me be sardonic for a moment and say that when Pocahontas sang “Colors of the Wind,” I was hoping that people would have a little more respect for Native American points of view. Namely, don’t muck with Nature! You wouldn’t see Mearrk’hal condoning GMOs, and Monsanto would be a work of Métius– if even the god of evil would take on such a terrible role! I will stop there before I wax too political, but really, a society of automation and this expectation that our produce be bigger yet all the same go hand-in-hand. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to stop before it becomes Ouroboros.
I suppose it comes quite naturally to me to want things made the old way; it makes them wholesome and safe. But look at it from the other angle: back before there were food factories and automation, it was hard to make a lot of your product! People wished it was easier so they didn’t have to be so weary. I have seen the tortilla machine in a local grocery store, and it makes way more tortillas in an hour then a group of women could make in the same time frame, maybe even in a day. Assuming that you have enough customers to sell all those tortillas, that’s a lot of money to be made!
Have you ever tried to made bread by hand? I have. Once. Then I asked for a bread machine for my birthday. It’s a lot of work! If you can make good bread by hand, consider yourself honored, because that is quite a skill! I’m not even sure how the ancients figured out how to make bread, because of all it entails. Basically, I don’t scorn certain mechanized or automated ways of making things. We made machines to help us. Machine are able to produce so much that we can sell our goods more cheaply. People still need to run the machines, so they are not entirely lost.
One problem I have with the factory world is using poor ingredients (for food) or junky parts (for other products). Can’t we use proper ingredients instead of the chemistry lab? Can’t our part be natural and minimally polluting? If you can make the factories run with low/no emissions, little to no waste, quality ingredients/materials, and respect the humans who work there, I’m all for it. But if you ask me to choose between old-fashioned and wholesome (with honor), and automated, cheap and poor quality with weird ingredients, I will take old-fashioned.