Better Than Fixing Things

In the last class we focused on the article, “Better Than Fixing Things”, by Elmo Stoll. He talks about his group of “plain people” and how they choose to live their lives without the use of modern technology, similar to groups like the Amish or the Mennonites. He explains the concept of “seekers”, who are basically people who are dissatisfied with mainstream society and its constant use of modern technology, and are looking for a change in lifestyle. In this article, Stoll clears up many common misconceptions. First off, he discards the myth that plain people have to be born in a plain community; otherwise they are locked out completely. He says that he has never heard of a group to turn someone away if they are determined to do whatever it takes. It may be hard for many people who are born with the Internet and smart phones to switch to a more simple way of living, but it is not impossible. He describes the situation for many, “It seems as though the entire world is on board a train that is speeding rapidly downhill, picking up momentum all the time, and although many are dismayed at the direction they are travelling, they seemingly can find no way to safely jump off,” (pg. 178).

 Additionally, he mentions that, contrary to popular belief, many plain groups do not think of technology as “evil”. I know that personally, I used to think that Amish people absolutely hated any sort of modern machinery. This is untrue. Stoll mentions that they just like to be in control of it, instead of letting it control them, like it does to so many people in the world. He makes the point that many people can be under the illusion that they are in control of their own world, and that modern things don’t control them. I think this is the case for the majority of the population today. Everyone is so focused on school and their jobs that they lose sight of many things of value that are often set aside. For instance, Stoll describes a scenario in which an American refers to the technologies in his life simply as tools that help him get where he wants to go. He says that he uses his car to visit his mother in an old folks’ home who is in there because he didn’t have enough time in the day to care for her, since he and his wife are so busy with work. Stoll then brings up the concept of professionalism. Our society today is so absorbed in the idealistic routine of going to college to get the knowledge you need to get a job and then working that job until you retire to make a meaningful impact on society. This is the agreed upon pattern for the average person. And there is a job for everything you can imagine. It’s someone’s job to birth you, to educate you, to feed you, to hire you, to train you, to advise you, to shelter you, and finally to bury you. With this, Stoll is trying to say is that people have been taught that they cannot do everything on their own; they need someone else to do it for them. People are taught to specialize in one thing to contribute to society, when we could and should be doing everything for ourselves. 



  1. That was a well crafted summary. You highlighted some great aspects of the article. The world is indeed overly reliant upon technology, and self-sufficiency seems to be a thing of the past. One thing the author mentioned was that people are so preoccupied with their “livelihoods” that they are unable to care for their loved ones.The surprising thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t need to work 8-10 hour days to live. In nomadic or semi-nomadic societies, people spend an average of 3-4 hours a day gathering food and building shelter, the rest of their time is spent socializing and enjoying life.

  2. Being self-sufficient now often means doing something on your own… with the help of the internet, phones, or other technology. If we did not have these technologies, many people would have to figure out how to be self-sufficient again. Living in the “plain’ society would definitely put an emphasis on social living and working together rather than being lonely with technology.

  3. You summarized the article very well, and I agree with your thought of the Amish. Before reading this article, I too thought the Amish absolutely hated any form of technology. I’ve actually seen them on a greyhound at a rest stop before. At first I was confused because I thought they only traveled by horse and buggy, but after reading this article I understand they were probably traveling too far and needed a motorized vehicle to get to here they were going. Being in charge of technology instead of letting it be in charge of you is something we need to work on. This kind of relates to being self-suffiencent, which I don’t think we will ever get back to that. We rely too much on technologies to do our “dirty work.”

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