The simple answer to the question above is…well…yes. I’m 25 years old, so I am most definitely too young for nostalgia. Yet, the world has changed rapidly since I was a child. The internet was something quite new when I was in highschool, and laptops were just beginning to gain traction. Smart phones were non-existent, and when they did arrive they were exclusively for business people. I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in highschool-we were discussing our fathers’ careers (perhaps an odd conversation)-and I distinctly remember asking my friend if her father had a blackberry. She said yes, and my response was that he must be important-because only important people had blackberrys! None of this has any bearing whatsoever on what I am intending on talking about in this little blurb, but I suppose I’m trying to rationalize my nostalgia prior to indulging.
So, here’s my little story. The other day I noticed that my front car tire was running low on air-which was odd, but I assumed it was due to running over a curb at one point or another (I sometimes turn a little too sharply with my car, please don’t judge!). I was on the main street of my city, and was meeting some friends with my wife for dinner. After dinner, I drove over to the Canadian Tire to ask about getting air. In the town that I grew up in, every single gas station and garage had a little air pump outside that was freely available for people needing to fill up a car or bike tire, so when I asked the auto worker if there was a place to get air I did not realize how (apparently) strange my inquiry was. The young man responded with confusion and then derision-I think he regarded me as a car inept (which I am), because I didn’t know how to put air in my car tire (untrue). He brought me to the aisle where air compressors powered by the lighter socket could be purchased and said this is the only option. I couldn’t believe that free air pumps had disappeared, so I went outside to my car and texted a mechanic friend of mine. He confirmed that, in fact, air must be purchased. I’m going to repeat that…air must be purchased. So, I was forced to buy an air compressor. Useful to have I am sure, but I cringe at the principle of the thing!
There are some things that simply should not be monetized. But, it seems that businesses in general resist doing anything for free in our present time. This I find terribly depressing. Must the line between charity and for-profit be drawn so very dramatically? This is capitalism, I suppose-which is of course the most efficient way to operate a society, but I fear that it is changing us as a species. Jacques Ellul talked about the danger of technique, and it’s controlling influence on the human race in his book The Technological Society. In it, he expressed a foreboding sense that technique-ie the drive to perfect the methodology for accomplishing any task, will drive humans toward the loss of freedom, as well as fluid and natural human relationships. Max Weber challenged his listeners in The Vocation of Science to not only strive toward the advancement of knowledge, but also to ask the questions on value of progress. We need to always be aware that progress never comes without a price. Often that price is worth paying, but perhaps we can have our cake and eat it too if we are aware of the undesired influence that progress can have on the human psychology.