Thursday 13 October 2011

The Things We Hand Down

I was reading this morning about the Grandfather Akwiten canoe, which was returned with great feeling to the Maliseet first nation after over 150 years of “being away” in Ireland. The canoe was built by Maliseet craftsmen in the early 1820s and is believed to be the oldest birchbark canoe in the world.  It got me wondering how many of us consider ourselves "craftsmen" and how much of what we create today will likely be revered and respected by our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. My guess is not many and not much.  People are slotted in to the bureaucratic machines that pay them, and then they buy stuff: technology that ends up recycled or in a landfill every five years or so, houses that are then filled with mass produced pressed-wood furniture, and toys that are made of plastic. 
Those few who perservere in the arts to become craftspeople, and I would argue everyone should have this opportunity, can barely make a living. They either have to conform to the 9-5 convention where they don’t have the time or energy at the end of the day to create, or work p/t for minimum wages and not receive any benefits such as healthcare. So what message is our current consumer society spreading? That creation and self-expression is sacrificed for high production and a paycheque, and I doubt future generations are going to give a damn about our pay stubs.

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