Posts tagged with values

One of the important discoveries of the late 1700s and 1800s was that family life in Northwest Europe during this period varied substantially from family life in other parts of the world, such as Russia, The Middle East, China and India.

Compared to family life in many other parts of the world—with extensive family solidarity, little individualism, overwhelming control of parents over adolescent children, a young age at marriage, universal marriage, marriages arranged by parents, and large and extended households—family life in Northwest Europe could be characterized as having relatively little family solidarity, great individualism, little control of parents over adolescent children, an older age at marriage, many people never marrying, marriages arranged by the couple through courtship, and small and nuclear (or stem) households.

—arvind thornton

Hat tip to @mileskimball.


Thank you, steel manufacturing companies, and thank you, chemical processing companies, for giving us the time to read. —Hans Rosling

Totally good point about how the mechanisation of the rich world has allowed us to have so many professors, doctors, photographers, lawyers, and social media managers.


But I wonder: why is laundry so important?

There has to be a good reason; no one working with their hands for 70+ hours a week would choose to do an extra 10 hours of labour a week if they could avoid it. But I know from experience that, in my world, if you don’t do laundry for months at a time, nothing bad happens to you.

What did I do instead of laundry? I’ve taken a few options, some of which would have been available to poor humans now or in the past:

  1. wash clothing with the excess soapy water that falls off me in the shower (not available to them)
  2. turn clothing inside out and leave it outside (requires a lot of socks but before the 19th century no one was wearing socks anyway)

The second you would think poor people could do pretty easily. I used my porch, which got sun and wind and blew away, over time, most of the smells

So what’s the reason they couldn’t do that? I have a few theories.

  • They laboured with their bodies, getting much sweatier than I do at my computer.
  • Bugs and germs were more prevalent in their environment and got in their clothing if it weren’t soaped — or at least exposed to ammonia rising off the castle pissing grounds.
  • They got dirtier, muddier, muckier. But why would you need to deal with that?
  • Having clean clothes raised your appeal to the opposite sex, and social status went along with that as it goes along with attractiveness today. Clean isn’t necessary; it’s just sexy (on average).

Anyway, I wonder if it isn’t the other changes to the modern OECD environment (reduction in bugs and reduction in manual labour) that made for the progress. Nowadays I just use the washer when I’ve exercised or played in the mud.

If the wash was always just a way of keeping up with the Joneses, however, then we can’t congratulate the washing machine for saving us necessary labour — it just helps us live out our autocompetitive rank obsessions in other ways now the elbow’s been surpassed on that dimension.