Are you better off than you were 400 years ago?

3 thoughts on “Are you better off than you were 400 years ago?”

  1. This argument is weak sauce, because it paints a picture of physically healthy people with more leisure time, but conveniently ignores a MASSIVE swath of factors that makes life for primitive/historical peoples comparatively garbage. Here are a few:

    1. Life expectancy. Would you prefer 30-40 years with a fit body, or 80 years with a bit of a ponch? Me, i’d go for longevity.

    2. Pain. Pain from disease, pain from infection, pain from predators and parasites gnawing on your flesh, and no relief in sight. Pain all the time.

    3. Darkness. It’s insufficient to suggest that because people worked 35 hours a week, the rest was left to leisure. The sun sets – then what? You can have your leisure, as long as it’s while sitting around a fire for light. We’re shrouded in darkness through a sizable chunk of the year. And then there’s the cold. Wintery days might be productive while the sun’s up, but at night time, back you go, near the fire. Or maybe you’ve built yourself a nice longhouse? In you go to stay warm. But it’s dark inside. As much leisure as you can handle, as long as it’s knitting or beadwork, and as long as you can do it by feel instead of by sight, with your hands shivering.

    4. Uncertainty. Barring any natural disasters, i’m reasonably assured of where and when i’ll take my next meal. In a pre-agricultural (or, more aptly, a pre-supermarket) era, i’m preoccupied with hunting and gathering. i can’t faithfully rely on either the herd or the naturally-growing plants, because i can’t control them. i’m completely at the whim of the weather, or at the whim of wild animals that may eat the same food i want to eat. Imagine if there was one supermarket available to you, and you didn’t know on any given day whether it would have lots of food, some food, or no food.

    Technology solves our problems. Pickling, smoking, drying, and fermenting help solve our problems of food scarcity, as does agriculture. Electricity solves our light and heat problems. Medical science and pharmaceuticals solve our disease and pain problems (and yes, often far better than naturally-occurring plants can, you dirty hippies. i wouldn’t let a dentist feed me beet root extract before a root canal).

    It’s easy in articles like these to jump straight from “hunter-gatherer” to “Snapchat selfies,” but you’re being deliberately disingenuous if your concept of technology does not include zippers, dishware, and bandages – all of which freed up certain societies to spend their warm and well-lit leisure time conquering other societies.

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