The Candle-maker

Candles were the only reliable way to know that you would have light these days. Within the city walls power was not guaranteed, especially in the outer districts, and personal electrical supplies were strictly prohibited. Consequently, candles were in high demand and so they cost a fortune. The only way to be sure of getting your hands on one was to save two weeks’ worth of luxury goods tokens to trade with someone who had been able to get their hands on one. However, Rokas hated getting ripped off in the trade forums and had learned of a way to make his own candles using left-over cooking oil. He glanced at the clock. 22:19. He lit the candle ahead of the 22:30 power curfew and carried on reading his ESAO-3 Study Guide.

Rokas worked as a level-2 electrical salvage and assembly operative (ESAO-2) and has just been invited to study for promotion to level-3; his job was to put together whatever devices were called into production. This could change from week to week, sometimes even day-to-day. It was last week that he had been assembling computer screens from various reclaimed components when he was instructed to cease work on the current job as there had been a ‘P-1’ assembly requirement for ten camera units. He’d never made a camera before, and nor had any of the others, but they were given the component requirements and assembly specifications and just had to get on with it. Without questioning, fifty people were then dedicated to producing these camera units. The shit thing about the ‘P-1’ jobs is that no-one could return to their residence until the job was complete. But that’s just how it was. Of course, all ESAO-2s had been given training, but this was fairly basic; they could follow instructions, but didn’t really understand how things actually worked. Progress was sometimes slow, but opportunities like this allowed the more talented operatives, like Rokas, to really stand out and gave a chance to prove one’s worthiness of progression. As soon as the ten units had been produced to spec, the Production Director had performed final quality control, confirmed acceptance and had terminated their shift. It was in the project analysis that he had highlighted Rokas as ‘a notable talent’ and invited him to advancement training.

We live in exciting times

We live in exciting times.

Ah, that age-old saying…

Things are changing so fast.


One might argue that this is not this case, that things are not changing

Thoreau spoke of change over a century ago, and it sounded remarkably familiar; industry was on the rise; people getting more disconnected from themselves and from nature; people missing the glorious gift they have in their humanity.

We have advanced so much in the time between, yet really haven’t gone that far. The industry leaders, the government, they would have us believe that we are subject to such remarkable fortune these days; that we enjoy richer lives, better health. But when looking at the cost vs. benefit, we have gained comparatively little; a few extra years on our lives; for everything else we make trade-offs with our labour. Things have become far more efficient as well as our labour, yet the things we labour for are ever more numerous and unnecessary.

For example, when I was a child, my family did not have central heating. We had a single fire in the house, but it was enough. The answer really was very simple: If one were cold, one would simply don more clothing, or use a blanket.

We had a basic television for moving pictures and sound, and we had four channels to watch. Nowadays, televisions are the main feature of the room, measuring at least 32 inches; they are flat screen, curved with high-definition and built-in free-view. There are so many channels now, that half the time is spent trying to find something decent to watch, where previously if there were nothing of interest, one would read a book. People are too quick to just watch the ‘least rubbish’ thing.

Karl Marx, proposed that unemployment was a good thing as it was a testament to our efficiency. Note that a just over century ago, the chief industry was agriculture, and the chief employment was an agricultural labourer. Now, farming has become so efficient, only a few people are needed to operate the machines that do the work of fifty people in a day.

He was right to notice this. Why should the principle endeavour not be for everyone to work towards a unified goal, for the benefit of everybody? If people were less concerned about amassing wealth, just imagine what humanity would be capable of.

Humanity’s true achievement is that we do not exist merely to survive; we have moved beyond mere survival of the species. We are gifted to be able to survive without spending all our efforts trying to do so. Our baser instincts to mate and produce young are no longer needed, and if anything, will be our downfall.

The most remarkable thing that has changed is not our technology, how we move about the planet, how we consume information, or how we produce food — all these things have only become faster and more efficient.

The most remarkable thing is how quickly the population of this planet is growing, and how ill-equipped we all are to deal with it, not practically, but culturally and psychologically.