Efficiency is the peril of our Modern Times

16 Apr

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

Today would have been Charlie Chaplin’s 122nd birthday. I can only imagine the horror on his face to see the world as it is today.

The image of Charlie as a worn out machine in ‘Modern Times’ always strikes me as remarkably advanced for its time. Had he looked into the future and seen the self service check outs in the supermarkets and the cuts to library jobs to make room for self service stations? Could these efficiencies be the problem with today’s struggling climate?

The lapse between human and machine is certainly not a new thing. The film, made in 1936, depicts a Capitalist world where the welfare of the worker was non-existent; as long as goods were being made efficiently the employer didn’t care.

The film is described as a “comedy”. Yet behind that delicious smile and delightful awkwardness is a horrifying picture of today. In the film, Chaplin cannot cope with modern industrialisation. He is therefore thrown into a hospital. I see this every day on the London underground, the weary faces of commuters grasping onto the thread of employment fearful of losing their jobs.

When I can, I refuse to use the self service check outs. If it means substituting that for a job, I know where I’ll be taking my basket.

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One Response to “Efficiency is the peril of our Modern Times”

  1. mrtotes April 17, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Great article. I only realized a couple of years ago that an inefficient government was a good thing; keeping civil servants in jobs and so reducing unemployment and giving a sense of purpose to people’s lives…

    It hadn’t occurred to me that I ought to be shunning the machines elsewhere in life that try to replace people too. I’ll give it a go: thanks!

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