BJ's Blog by his son...The Prodigy 04/19/16 "Luddites and Protest"

April 19, 2016

Today's blog comes from one of my dad's mentors, Dan Sanders:


As many of you know, I spend a great deal of time on Facebook. It goes with my occupation of self-employed, multi-talented wing-ding. At last count, I have 536 friends. I probably have met a dozen of them in person and have come to know many more as long-distance friends who stay close through a social media that would likely spin the head of Ralph Waldo Emerson. My emotional self, however, leans toward wanting to be a card carrying member of the Luddites, especially as my car is near death as well as my computer.


When I was researching this blog, I saw a cartoon that read “Luddite invents machine to destroy technology quicker.” I could not do what I do today without technology. In spite of my emotional attachment to it, I could get along without my car, not easily but I could. I have before. My computer, on the other hand (the hand I am not typing with), is another story. 


The origin of the name Luddite is uncertain, but a popular belief is that the movement was named after Ned Ludd, a young man who allegedly smashed two stocking frames (mechanical knitting machines) in 1779, and his name became synonymous with machine destroyers. The original Luddites were neither opposed to technology nor unskilled at using it. Many were highly skilled machine operators in the textile industry, and the technology they attacked was not particularly new. The idea of smashing machines as a form of industrial protest did not begin or end with them.


During the Industrial Revolution (roughly 1760 to 1840), workers naturally worried about being displaced by increasingly efficient machines, but the Luddites themselves actually were fine with machines. They confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labor practices. They just wanted machines that made high-quality things, and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns. Sound familiar?


At the start of the 19th century, British working families were suffering economically from widespread unemployment. Food was scarce and quickly becoming more costly. Then, on March 11, 1811, in Nottingham, a textile manufacturing center, British troops broke up a crowd of protesters demanding more work and better wages. Sound familiar?


From the women’s movement to the Oscars and on the streets of Boston, workers are protesting for fair treatment and pay. As many as 63% of Americans support a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2020, and 75% of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12.50. Yet the federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, when it was increased to its current level of $7.25 per hour. People like Donald Trump say raising the minimum wage creates a lot of problems. Huh? Donald, you mean like reducing poverty and creating jobs?


On November 15, I wrote a blog called "The Art and Power of Protest." It was true with the Luddites, and it is true today. If you want real change, you have to be willing to smash a few machines.


I’ll have a few more thoughts on this and some rock and roll news in the podcast.  Join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.