Other Favorite Berry-isms

A few day ago I mentioned Wendell Berry and the fact that his "making earth" sentence is one of my favorites. Well, it turns out that Wendell is also the author of one of my favorite lists. This list comes from his essay called "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer," (1987) which makes an argument for--you guessed it--why Wendell isn't going to buy a computer.

In the essay he explains that he has a system he likes: he farms with horses, and he writes with a pencil and a piece of paper. His wife (also his editor) re-types everything "on a Royal standard typewriter bought new in 1956 and as good now as it was then." He goes on to explain that "a number of people, by now, have told me that i could greatly improve things by buying a computer. My answer is that I am not going to do it. I have several reasons, and they are good ones."

With his answer to the small computer question he actually addresses a much larger issue: what he calls his "standards for technological innovation in [his] own work." In other words, the test stuff has to pass before he'll buy it.

Now, if Baxter Sez were some glossy rag picked up in line at the grocery store, this bit, for reader-interest reasons, would be turned into a quiz. So, let's do it! Read the following statements. For each one, give yourself a 5 if you answer "agree strongly," a 4 if you "agree somewhat," 3 for "sometimes do, sometimes don't," 2 for "almost never agree" and finally a 1 if you answer "what?" When you're finished, total your score and see which celebrity you are.

1: The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.

2: It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.

3: It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.

4: It should use less energy than the one it replaces.

5: If possible, it should use some form of solar energy,such as that of the body.

6: It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.

7: It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.

8: It should come from a small, privately ownedshop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.

9: It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.


Blogless Reader said...

I can't believe no one has commented back to this post. I don't know anything about Wendell Berry, but if that little 'quiz' is a condensation of his thinking, then there seem to be very few technological changes that meet the bill. Serfs and peasants all around! Or am I as clueless as I am blogless?

Biffle said...

Yeah, B.R., i'm a little sad, too. I thought it was a pretty clever post.

Anyway, you are indeed correct, sir. Wendell, is wildly skeptical of new technology. Read his stuff--he isn't a "luddite," just thoughtful.