So What’s Wrong With Luddites, Anyway?

Once again the literary blog of Chris Schwartz has stimulated my own (somewhat cranked) chain of consciousness toward the philosophical side of woodworking.  “The Schwartz” recently offered a very positive review of Roy Underhill’s newest book (the link is here), which wasn’t fair because I can’t go out and buy it yet, and pre-ordering it only makes me feel like I’m 8 years old and it’s three weeks before Christmas.  Dang.  I’m pre-ordering it anyway, and I had a good Christmas when I was 8.

 

One of the commentators on the blog mentioned that some view St. Roy in particular, and from that I assume the Galooterati in general, as being Luddite.  I pondered that for a little bit, checked Wikipedia to make sure the commentator was talking about the Luddite movement of England in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, and then concluded that such a thrown stone packed all the wallop of being called a “Neanderthal Woodworker” or a “Galoot.”  Hit me again, please!

 

Now, to be a Luddite in the purest sense of the word, I would need to be militantly against the use of power tools.  Personally, I’m not that way; I really don’t have the time to spend felling a maple tree (the hardest part is FINDING a maple tree in central Texas), hewing it, pit sawing it, stickering the flitches, ripping them with a hand saw, scrub planning them to near thickness, well, you get the idea.  If I had to rely on those methods, it would be a very long time before anything would ever come out of my shop, with the possible exception of me in a pine box.

 

On the other hand, I fully concur with Chris that it is essential that we never, ever lose the techniques that correspond with the old tools that we celebrate.  We venerate St. Roy because he takes such joy in passing along that knowledge (in his own inimitable style.)  In an earlier blog, I expounded on how I feel that passing on the knowledge of those who have gone before us honors them and connects us to them.  If that’s Luddite, bring it!

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2 Responses to “So What’s Wrong With Luddites, Anyway?”

  1. Jeff Peachey Says:

    Much of the Luddite’s anger was directed at the power weaving machinery in England, 1811-12, not so much because of a hatred of machines, but more of a revolt against the extreme changes in society that machines formed- lower pay, deskilled labor, regularized hours, etc. Check out Kirkpatrick Sale’s “Rebels Against the Future” for a full account.

  2. thewoodshepherd Says:

    Jeff:
    I appreciate the clarification, and actually do differentiate both the Galoot’s analogy to the Luddites, as well as the nature of the Luddite’s issues. Without meaning to downplay that differentiation, I submit the deepest irony here is that the Galoots of today were referred to by one of Chris Schwartz’s readers and commentators as Luddite. Time was, prior to the Galooterati wearing this moniker as a badge of honor, the terms “Galoot” and “Neanderthal” were both used pejoratively. Anticipating the pattern of the Galoot’s character, however, the term was co-opted and ultimately used to build the esprit de corps. Thank God that we as Galoots are not experiencing economic hardship because of the Delta-Jet-Powermatic (et. al.) “union!”

    I’ll make sure I check out your reference!

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