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“Hindsight is 20/20.” This common saying, while a comforting way to console someone who can not accept a past decision, is far from accurate. The problem with changing history – even just one little fact – is that the consequences of the supposedly superior option never occur. In an attempt to prevent one calamity, a change to history could simply cause another. I would never choose to alter history, but it is interesting to explore the possibilities that a change would have made. Instead of preventing the Holocaust, the colonization of Africa, or even slavery, I would choose to change something rather more mundane-the development of the textile industry.
Traditionally, an entire family worked together as a team to create cloth. Children would card wool by the bucket from an early age. The wool was given to the wife and other women of the household, who spun it into smooth thread on a spinning wheel. This thread was used by the husband to create the finished product-fabric-on the family loom. This system allowed families to earn a living working as a single unit. Without the concerted effort of each individual, success would have been impossible.
The introduction of textile factories certainly led to an increase in productivity, but at what price? An industry that had once flourished as a family enterprise began brutally ripping those same families apart. Mill towns, complete with shoddy housing, non-existent schooling, and insufficient regulations, sprang up along rivers in both England and America. These towns forever changed the process of textile creation.
The automation of the textile industry, while responsible for providing more consumers access to higher quality fabric, had some brutal consequences, as well: abysmal quality of life for factory workers, degeneration of the family as a work unit, and the rise of product uniformity. Although I would not alter history to prevent a calamity, I firmly believe in workers’ rights, which could have been symbolically preserved had the mechanized wheel of progress not been thrown into motion.
Keeping textile production within the home would have prevented the developments that followed in the “successful” steps of the textile industry. Instead of a modern world governed by mass consumerism of uniform products, clothing and other amenities would still be made individually, allowing for the creator to take pride in the work and giving the consumer a piece with greater character.
Individualized production promotes a level of workmanship that is conspicuously absent when giant factories become involved. Both the creator and the consumer are denied the practically tangible allure that pride and individuality bring. No longer would cloth be wasted by changing seasons and fashions; conservation would become key. Although the industrialization of the textile industry did lead to many improvements, I would rather keep my individuality.
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