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:
- wash clothing with the excess soapy water that falls off me in the shower (not available to them)
- 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.