Posted On: Friday - October 20th 2017 11:55PM MST
In Topics:   Cars  China  Economics  Americans
The eyewitness accounts presented here on Peak Stupidity go back about 10 years now, though the healthcare report is from within this past year. In this case I want to write a little about what you may call “human capital” along with “infrastructure”. “Human capital” means the knowledge and skills built up in the population, and by infrastructure here I don’t mean the basic definition of roads, bridges (subject for an upcoming post), pipelines, etc. but in this case just hardware stores.
In the past America and Americans have been noted for being self-reliant and mechanically inclined. Most likely the latter was due to the early use of mechanized farming. The farm boys had to, and still are, handy with tools and possessing of mechanical skills. Without that, the tractors, other implements and irrigation systems, etc. would not stay running, and farming didn’t used to be big business with unlimited money. Also, this country had the most wide use of, and the biggest car culture, of anywhere in the world - just watch 1950’s movies, say “American Graffiti”. Autos in the past both NEEDED to be fixed a lot more than they do today AND were ABLE to be fixed back in the day. I think these are the reasons American boys/men had good mechanical skills. The whole DIY (Do It Yourself) culture came out of American individualism from way back though, to this country’s beginning. It has always been something to be proud of.
It WAS quite the contrary for China. Just the impression of Oriental people to this day is that they are into the books and don’t like to do things with their hands. It is not seen as a good thing in China, for instance, to be someone who works with his hands. it maybe never was completely true, but definitely is changing. There was never a car culture in China for the obvious reason of lack of cars. Yeah, they’ve got ‘em now, but not only are they the new ones that the owners can’t fix themselves, but they’d mostlly be too proud to work on them. Additionally, with all the cars around and the large populations everywhere, the streets in the towns and cities will never see the informal drag races like a Chinese Graffiti, I’m sure. The lack of mechanized farming, even to the present day, may be a damper on mechanical skills. In China, any farmers are seen as poor and ignorant, explaining why the Chinese have distain for anyone who lives in the country, as described in previous posts. Possibly some of the lack of mechanical aptitude is just genetic.
A whole lot is changing now, which is why Americans would be wise to look at China and the Chinese as it is and they are today, as the Chinese sure do see America and Americans in it’s/their current state. The latter is due to the fact that the Chinese had not much knowledge of the outside world if you were to go back 30 years. Now, they get TV and the internet and end up seeing the sorry state of what is known as Western culture today, thinkng this is all there WAS to it. That’s the shame about it. Hey, that was really off topic, so let me get to it.
The fact that Americans have lost much of the manufacturing industry, and changes to the culture have also meant people, mostly guys, don’t have the skills and abilities they used to, why it’s changing in the opposite way in China due to the fact that about everything is made there now. There may not be the pride in workmanship seen in the west, because, again, that culture does not value working with one’s hands, but the abilities and skills are building up over there and declining here.
Here is a factor that brings up the point of this post’s title: America has become a land of big box stores and only big business is allowed to thrive here anymore. There is the Home Depot and there is Lowes, and there is Tractor Supply, but the do-it-yourselfer does not have nearly as many local hardware stores as even 20 years ago. I could find any manner of parts for anything I was working on, and guys there with good knowledge and suggestions. There is the Ace chain, but that is like a mini big-box store. There may be one old guy in the back that knows enough to help you with something that is not just picking out a new item of cheap China-made Crap. Sure, Home Depot has a lot of stuff, but they don’t have many people in there that no squat about building things. Other drawbacks vs. a local small store are just that - they are huge and more trouble to get to, and get in and out of. They have hardware items in packages that can’t always be played with and require purchasing of multiple items to get one.
I was very impressed in China to just see all the work that was going on in everyday life. There were guys tack-welding burglar bars out on the sidewalk. It was not exactly OSHA compliant, but they were too crowded inside the shop so had to expand on out. (Yep, burglar bars, because this is not the 1970’s and now there IS plenty to steal.) I'm sure the stores there didn’t need a year of dealing with permits and getting 10 government agencies on board with their plans to sell the burglar bars. Just do it! That was whose motto again? Whoever’s, it is just a big lie in modern America.
Mostly I was impressed in China with the hardware stores. I mean, there was one over here full of just motors and pumps, another a block away selling wire rope (cable that is), regular rope, and chains of all sizes. Next door, you may find a place with electrical switches and wiring. Then, there is a place with all manner of fasteners, hearkening back to days of yore in America, though mostly the old hardware store would have a mixture of the best of this stuff. (OK, we have Fastenal, but again, it’s not always local, and most bolts must be bought in quantities, and the help are not usuually knowledgeable.) Back to China, all these small business specialty hardware stores make it a dreamland for the inventor or tinkerer.
How can you even get stuff done over here, when any broken part to fix, small idea, etc. requires a trip to a big box store, taking an hour, to deal with crowds and employees who don’t know a jam nut from their asses, and most items in quantity packages? How easy is it in China, when within 5 blocks from home there are stores specializing in all manner of piece parts and stuff, with owners who must be knowledgable to stay in business? It’s this infrastructure, that we are losing and they are gaining, that plays a big part in turning China into a CAN-DO country and America into CAN’T-DO land.
Is this site all gloom and doom, or what? Nah, Peak Stupidity just likes to put out the truth. I’ll write another post with a slightly different view on this regarding DIY in the modern world.