I must add my feeble voice to the multitude who are asking “What went wrong?”
To answer that question, we will have to pay close attention to the much larger multitude who are not asking anything at all – but consuming everything they can get their hands on. How did they get that way?
We must continue to ask that, even though everyone else is insisting that nothing went wrong – or at least, nothing important went wrong.
I said they were consumers, but that is a recent development – caused by Television, that I can remember well. That built on an earlier development – the Movies, or Hollywood. That began before I was born.
The big breakthrough (or breakdown) however, was the Industrial Revolution. That began in the States early in the 19th Century. We can begin our history then. Even though few people do.
Industrialization began in England – that much is certain. It is also certain this it used the energy from fossil fuels – initially coal. What is not so clear was the invention of the Machine – something we still cannot define satisfactorily – although we instantly know one when we see one.
Eventually, this became the Automobile – our crowning achievement. And one every culture has devoted itself to.
But I must back up in my story to something else – Manufacturing. Which had been going on for centuries – but when it was combined with Steam Power – the results were explosive. And created the Railroads – and Capitalism. Some very big things.
Then something else came on the scene – that had the biggest effect of all – Electricity – in the form of the Telegraph. Telegraph poles (and Telegraph wires) sprang up between all the large cities – and even under the oceans! This was soon combined with another invention – the Photograph.
The results were overwhelming! And I must repeat that – they were overwhelming! This was when the wheels came off our wagon. When our things began to manage us! And when we began to resemble them.
In the middle of the 19th Century. Not in the middle of the 20th Century.