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Happiness. That vague and elusive feeling/state-of-mind which forms the basis for contemporary society. In 1950, a new age was on the verge of making an entrance; the age of mass production. What this new concept held for society wasn’t entirely clear at first – but as mass production took over more specialized jobs, the concept of pride-of-work and the individual began to show signs of fragmenting and disappearing – the emotional stress of no longer being of any importance or becoming obsolete and not a valued member of society or ones community began to take its toll by way of substance abuse and a rise in clinical depression and suicide. And those jobs which were not deemed specialized – the ones where there was no place for Artisan culture, creative decisions or the ones where pride-of-work was judged to be of less importance than the ability to shuffle paperwork from one end of the desk to the next brought about less a feeling of importance or pride and more of a feeling of faceless anonymity and being expendable.
The promise of “more leisure time”, the shorter work-week – the freedom to do . . .what? It all sounded good – sounded utopian to a degree – but the reality, the cold hard fact was; as mass production and automation became more commonplace, the role of the worker, the one who crafted goods on an individual basis, was becoming obsolete and no longer needed by society.
This fear was making itself known in 1950. Some 70 years later, the fear is now a fact of life – automation – more choice for less substance – skills no longer needed for anything but the most basic workplace requirements. Manufacturing going to other countries – wages kept low – cost of living always rising. The quest for happiness and the search for the unsatisfiable are beginning to show signs of being unsustainable – a society built on a flimsy premise and one to inevitably fail never occurred to us in 1950 – but is quickly revealing itself in 2020.
In 1950 we only wanted to be happy – in 2020 we only want to survive. Oh, the progress we’ve made . . .
For an idea what we were thinking about and speculating over in 1950, here is an episode from the series “You And . . .” from CBS Radio, hosted by Dwight Cooke as it was broadcast on March 10, 1950.