The Industrial Revolution didn’t just break bodies — it broke minds.
The solution, which had a twisted genius to it, was to provide gin to the workers in order to take their minds off their work so the factories could have their bodies. In Seth Godin’s telling,
“there were 20 years when basically everyone in Manchester, England, was an alcoholic. Instead of having coffee carts, they had gin carts that went up and down the streets. Because it was so hard to shift from being a farmer to sitting in a dark room for 12 hours every day doing what you were told. But we culturally evolved to be able to handle a new world order.”
The economy is (slowly, painfully, unevenly) evolving beyond industrialism.
But is our cultural evolution keeping up?
Being on the farm, not being told what to do, isn’t nearly as unnatural to the human experience as it might seem to those of us who can read and write blogs all day.
The connection economy demands the freedom and responsibility of our now-latent agrarianism, but it won’t forget the scale and efficiency of the industrialists, either. The pendulum swings back, but the world has turned.
Cultural evolution is never easy, and evolution toward freedom might be much harder than it sounds. Right on time, along comes Facebook with the greatest gin cart ever invented (until it, too, is out-“innovated”).