This isn’t my first time reading Robinson Crusoe, and I have to say it’s pretty enjoyable re-experiencing the story all over again.
One of my favorite themes from the story is how Crusoe must adapt and adjust to a completely different way of life. After stranded and isolated from civilization, Robinson must produce a variety of items and preform tasks that society had once made readily available for him. His successful status and fortune as a Brazilian tobacco farmer is worthless in his new setting. Even as he stumbles upon a series of treasure troves, he realizes wealth’s futility without others to trade with. He’s furious and acknowledges that these possessions do nothing to aid him. He prays that he would stumble upon conventional items such as a spoon or metal pot. How often do we praise our possession or value of these things? One of his most difficult and trialing tasks on the island is simply creating a ceramic bowl, and after continuous efforts it proves to be one of his greatest victories.
Crusoe’s greatest flaw and continual impediment is his lack of skills. He frequently laments upon the fact that he lived a life of luxury and never spent any due time acquiring any skills that would aid him in everyday life. Sewing, farming, cooking and craftsmanship are initially daunting tasks that frequently result in his failure. How many of us know how to sew or even create rope? How many of us could create a makeshift canoe or create a hammer or axe from scratch? I certainly couldn’t. Do most of us even know common first-aid? Just think of how much we rely upon civilization and it’s numerous trades to help us in our everyday necessities. We don’t grow our own food, we don’t create our own tools, and we certainly can’t build our own houses. If the world ended tomorrow how helpless would majority of the population be? If for some reason we all succumbed to anarchy how many of us would survive the first week without civilization to protect us?
It’s simply fascinating to just take a moment and realize how much we rely on other to produce our everyday necessities and how this this processes has dumbed down our species as a whole. Three centuries ago, the ability to farm, sew and create fire would be just common sense. Can the average person do any of these effectively without the aid of a manufactured tool? Everyday tasks such as washing clothes and churning butter would be difficult but well known tasks amongst most people. Is this new shift to mass production and reliance upon technology such as calculators, washing machines, microwaves and furnace heating really worth it’s benefits? What crucial knowledge are we sacrificing to achieve these lives of luxuries? When will it be our downfall?