Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who turned the lights out?

Maybe it's in his introduction to Deschooling Society (1971) or the one for ABC, The Alphabetisation Of The Popular Mind (1988), but it is the kind of thing Ivan Illich was wont to say: "A lot of things have happened this century, and most of them plug into walls."

As I remember it, Illich went on to suggest that on Day One you unplug the newest electrical appliance, Day Two the next, and so on until you are totally unplugged. Life, as you know it, quickly becomes impossible. Livable, yes. Humans, after all, lived without electricity for thousands of years.

Anyway, why not try it out? If that is too arduous, how about as a thought experiment? Unplug those domestic appliances one by one and see how your life would change. (We'll ignore transport and work.) You know: the computer, CD player, microwave, TV, aircon, alarm clock, doorbell, fridge, cooker, toaster, kettle, telephone, water heater, and the lights. Don't forget to turn out the lights.

Oh, and if you live in a highrise: take the stairs.

Once lived for several months in a village in southeast Asia where there was absolutely no electricity. Fortunately, it was warm -- but not the hottest time of the year. That was where I learned how to draw water from a well. And how heavy and burdensome water is to have to carry. Discovered the haphardness and limitations of cooking with charcoal. After dark, you made your own amusements in the flickering shadows and light of kerosene lamps.

I see the Israeli's destroyed northern Gaza's electric power plant. The plant cost US$150 million to build. Now, there is only rubble. Who knows when a new one will get built and how long it takes to build one. Fortunately, the power plant was insured with a US agency for US$48 million: Boston Globe

Oh, Ivan Illich: Guardian Obit

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