On hand tools

Had I my druthers — O cowering world! — there would be almost no place in our towns or cities, for any sort of powered machinery. Different it might be in the country, although I’m not yet sold on a tractor, to replace the family bullock, and will avoid the topic of combine harvesters. Drilling and mining have, I think, been improved by the techies, from the miners’ point of view. I allow exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions.

There are other details I will overlook for now.

But almost everything now being done by jackhammers and the like, was formerly done with hand tools. Indeed, with a wink to some lady in Oregon, whose house was burnt out, soon after her husband died, and for whom sundry other things have been going wrongish: you can do anything with hand tools. She sends me links to videos by craftsmen, showing just how things are done, or were done in the olden times, going back to before the masons did the Pyramids. How to lay in a good stone foundation, for instance.

From what I can see, this lady is a match for any forest fire, with what I take for a burning Catholic faith. (The pun was intended.) Note that the power source for hand tools is hands, and the like. Ultimately, they are the source of computer chips, too, but something should be said for direct living. A burning Catholic faith may reveal that.

The sound, for example, of a mason’s clinking as he dresses his stone, is a delightfully musical sound; and for another, the soft notes of chisels in wood. Even handsaws and hatchets, one can usually sleep through, though not well while they are working next one’s head. Yet they are not only the acoustic properties that cause me to prefer craft work to the heavy industrial. For the craftsman works more slowly, and thus contemplatively. Too, his efficiencies are nearly impossible to quantify, and the products of his work can’t be sold in volume.

A window-sasher I once knew, was inspired to a fine sarcasm when an adept of “the art of the deal” tried to get four windows for the price of three. As Ruskin said, there is no fair competition where the only criterion is money. Justice demands that the good craftsman flourish, and the bad one starve, until he finds a trade better suited to his gormlessness.

How do I reconcile my opposition to modern construction techniques with my enthusiasm for freedom? I don’t have to. Nor will I listen to glib arguments about modern “life expectancy.” Being a proponent of quality, over quantity, I care more about how the life is lived, than whether it can be made interminable. Still, a joyous, well-employed craftsman is likely to outlive a neurotic wastrel with ulcers.

But as another girl I once quite liked was apt to say, “Who’s counting?” She was annoyed by gift-giving in the spirit of bookkeeping, with frequent auditing of what one owes, or is owed. “Communism is only possible among friends,” my exiled Czech companions used to say, who vied to clear the bar bill ahead of each other.

The free man does what he does voluntarily. He does not need a bureaucracy to “guide” him when, for a much smaller outlay, he has already in his possession a Bible and some poetry.

As an old friend, now early-retired from guvmint, said to his still diligent colleagues: “Take all your statistical analyses, and stick them up your ass.”

Hand tools require intelligent, and practised, organization for the job. Mass enterprise requires organizers even for the organizers of the organizers. The tyranny implicit, when it is not explicit, in most aspects of modern life, while obsessively advanced by commies and “liberals,” is not something to celebrate, rather something to throw off — Trumpestuously, I would say.

From a world now being again “reset” by the very rich and progressive, it is necessary to detach ourselves.

My instinct is that this can be done, with hand tools.


ADDITIONAL. — My Chief Texas Correspondent, who is agnostic on questions of technology, but seems to share my preference for quiet, and is no fan of the disposable, links something to the effect that cars today cannot be repaired. When they stop working you just throw them away, like defunct televisions and computers. However he touts “artificial intelligence” for prospector oilfield drilling. Whereas, I recommend bamboo poles, inserted in the ancient Oriental manner.

But this does not address the car-repair problem.

My favourite car, from my Asiatic days, was a rusting Land Rover, designed to be not only fixable by hand, but fixable under exotically bad conditions, and with very simple tools, which it carried. It could run, if necessary, on banana oil, when caught miles away from any conceivable petrol pump. There was no air conditioner, but you could drive it with the windscreen hinged down. Or up, during the monsoon season, when torrential rain presented the greater irritant.