The other day I was lamenting long work hours with a friend in the textile industry and declared that we should bring back cottage industry. Tiny businesses would build up community-based economies and we would once again know where and how the things we own were made. This may seem like wishful thinking or it may seem familiar what with all the DIY and Etsy fervor, but either way it's worth considering.
I went to Prague last week for vacation and saw something that I had seen in Italy 10 years ago: shops selling jewelry and other crafts with the crafts-person sitting there in the store making more things to sell. What a revelation to any unfortunate soul who has ever had to work in retail; the worst part of retail is how mind-numbingly dull it is to stand in a store for hours with nothing to occupy the time other than rude customers and arranging and rearranging merchandise. I think I would actually like retail if I could make the things being sold. In the back of my mind I hear a voice from somewhere in my past warning, "You can't make a living working with your hands." I don't know who said it to me and if they were referring to farming, woodworking, or art, but it stuck with me. However, I've come to the conclusion that creating things for a living would be more satisfying to me than many other options. So I think I will become more industrious in my cottage-sized 1 bedroom apartment in Queens.
Local economies worked in the past and maybe they could work again. I'm not saying we should all live in little huts without electricity, but that maybe the global economy is not benefiting everyone so much as a few uber-rich would like us to believe. If we could relearn the value of good quality over cheap prices and instant gratification we might be able to ease back into a society that enabled us all to contribute in meaningful ways. And tired shop keepers would no longer give in to windex-ing the display cases a tenth time to try to pass the day.