Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Once Ford’s factories were up and running, he set about creating model communities that combined industry and agriculture. When Ford came across a pretty site in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, he ordered his men to dig a lake and build a lumber mill. The dozen or so workers were expected to divide their time between lumbering, milling, and farming. Ford townships were spotlessly clean; alcohol and tobacco were prohibited; and it was compulsory to stand up perfectly straight on two feet at all times.
Ford dreamed of developing model communities in the Tennessee River Valley. When that proved impossible (during the Depression the federal government would institute many of his ideas), he looked south and bought a huge tract of land in the Amazon. He spent millions and millions of dollars trying to not only tame the jungle but to tame the natives. He built rows of Cape Cod bungalows, a golf course and taught the locals to square dance. The steam whistle blew four times a day; the workers were expected to punch a time clock; and the family homes were inspected for such things as making sure they knew how to use and dispose of company-provided toilet paper. With a complete disdain for expertise, he tried to develop a rubber plantation. The whole experiment was disastrous.
Henry Ford wasn’t unique. He simply had more money to help him implement his ideas. The Amazon continues to be manipulated in order to provide cheap labour, cheap beef, and cheap consumer products. We continue to consume energy and resources far faster than they can ever be replaced.
Will we ever learn humility? Will we ever try to live in harmony with the world around us?