Primitive tools are best suited to primitive peoples (like us)

“Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle”
Norman Mailer

There is alot of press at the moment about primal eating. Noise and heat, but not much light. Theories and ideas abound in an absence of evidence. In contrast to the paleo crowd there is too much evidence to suggest that we almost certainly did not eat like a predator. If you’ve happened on this post because you are jazzed up about the paleo or primal diet watch this or this.

But, that’s not really what I wanted to talk about in this post.

In terms of being capable of meeting all of our needs ourself we westerners are actually a very primitive people. Jacob Lund Fisker has a really great bit on primitive people. He rightly points out that so called primitive people have the tools and skill to perform every function that is required to sustain their lives themselves. We on the other hand, the sophisticated, civilized, highly (inter)dependent set have become so entirely reliant on others and so unskilled and incompetent that we can no longer boil an egg.

I am reminded of Arthur Dent the central character of Douglas Adams Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. In the book Dent is swept off planet and transported to a supposedly primitive culture. He immediately has visions of becoming their leader due to his technological sophistication. Yet to his dismay he realises that while he knows of technologies never seen by this society he actually has absolutely no idea how even the simplest technologies work!

I was exactly the same. When something broke I paid a specialist to fix it for me. Then I dutifully troddled off to work to earn the money that I needed to pay all of the bills I was creating by being incompetent.

Now I am more creative. I don’t want to lose more life working to pay bills that don’t even need to be created. I look to repair things myself. I am learning how things work and I try to solve my problems without having to turn to the marketplace and pay for help.  I’m into permaculture, cooperative purchasing and I’ve even tried to start a local guild.

This journey has taught me that primitive (i.e. simpler) appliances and tools are vastly superior to modern ones.  I have a growing affinity for simple hand tools in preference to electricity guzzling devices made from toxic plastic. Simple mechanical tools that were made in the era before integrated electronics, plastic casings and embedded computer chips are easier to repair. Now I prefer mechanical repairs, wooden casings and low salt potato chips.

Our kitchen and our cooking has been transformed by returning to primitive kitchen tools. We use a knife instead of a blender. If we feel like popcorn we don’t need to plug in a Pop-matic popcorn maker we just pick up a pot. Going primitive is back to nature, back to simple and back to well…going back. I have several manual drills like this in my shed. Cast iron skillets, a hand beater and many other simple solutions that are much more robust than the more modern equivalent. The interesting thing is that the further back in time you travel the simpler and easier your life seems to become. What has happened to the modern convenience we have been promised. Futurists in the 1800’s predicted that we would be freed by our technology. That robots and machines would do tasks (like cleaning the house) while we took our leisure. Unfortunately such predictions appear to have backfired. We are slaves to the machines. We leap into action when they beep. The machines have necessitated more and more effort than they have relieved.  Long and hard (almost robotic) toil is required to mechanise our lives – a new dishwasher, upgrade  PC, get a smart TV, the new smartphone, computerize the washing machine so it can be connected to the household server…

If you want more free time then paradoxically you must turn back the clock. Return to primitive tools. Unplug whenever you can. Rediscover simple pleasures, have more leisure, and save ridiculous amounts of money.

Do you have your own primitive tool story or a primitive solution to a problem we’re all shelling way too much loot out on?

I’d love to hear about it. Please share it in the comments box below this post!

4 thoughts on “Primitive tools are best suited to primitive peoples (like us)

  1. I’m not sure if this counts, but I’ve been on a DIY fishing lure kick – I whittle my own lures, make them out of spoons, ear plugs, and nails to name a few. Primitive is what I do best.
    Like this post a lot – I’ve been trying to find good simple life/minimalist kind of blogs to get into and this is the only one that really stood out, so kudos my friend.

  2. The things you own will end up owning you, thanks for pointing out the fact that because we are technologically advanced doesn’t mean we are better off, the opposite is true, as machines do our tasks we in turn fall out of practice, and ja, i think we were mostly vegetarians until the ice age hit, if not, no reason we can’t all eat vegan starting now.

    • Thanks ZM. My main beef (tragic pun) with machines is that they aren’t saving any time. Take a dishwashwer. Needs to be loaded and unloaded. Won’t wash pots or crockery and what it will clean needs to be rinsed under the tap first. What a hassle compared to the sink! Add in all the time you lost working to pay for it, repair it and clean it. Unplug from the machine where you can.

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