I have a problem every summer in my house when I go to get ice and find trays completely empty because nobody has bothered to refill it. I have a set habit of refilling the trays every time I use ice and I get as much satisfaction from seeing them full and ready as I do when my bins are emptied. This is not a problem for every household anymore as many have those automatic systems built in to newer refrigerators but I don’t have the space, the capital or real need for one and I won’t be able to justify such a purchase for many years.
Having ice cubes to cool beverages is a relatively recent luxury and not one most of humanity could boast today and for most of human history. This is a minor annoyance I have to deal with and what used to be called a “first world problem”. It is one of the least of my worries but it does serve as an example of how more significant problems become problems in the first place.
While most people in my household have the excuse of not being tall enough to reach the ice trays without a chair let alone go to the trouble of refilling them; there are others who just don’t bother. Many people use, take or consume things without giving any thought to what put it there. As with the ice, they find it there and take it as they want and complain if they don’t find it there.
I regularly witness people becoming frustrated or outright angry when they are presented with some inconvenience. Often something that with a little bit of patience they could solve or at least do without. Whether this is the WiFi password, no toilet paper, the TV not turning on at home. Outside of home, the bins not being empty, dirty public toilets or a supermarket being out of some product. Otherwise intelligent and capable people are becoming unable to handle minor inconveniences which does not bode well should they encounter a real problem.
Modern cities are only ever a few logistical disasters from catastrophe. Imagine for example how fast cities would become unlivable if sanitation services were shut down. Imagine, electricity and public transport being shut down. Imagine what would happen if there was a shortage of petroleum or food deliveries. If all of these things happened at once, a city would quickly become a hellscape. How many households would be able to manage a week of this?
Cities therefore need residents capable of handling more than minor inconveniences and not relying on “someone” or the “government” to fix it. Just yesterday I noticed a water pipe had burst and water was running down my street. This didn’t affect me directly but I made a call and found out someone else had also made a call. A crew was sent and problem was fixed by this morning. This required shutting off the street and possibly some residents water and digging into and then replacing concrete. What if nobody was there to do it? What would happen? If there were at least a few industrious men around, some sort of patch job at least could be done but I’m not confident there are many around.
Another concern is the way so much of our knowledge base has been separated so that multiple levels of knowledge have to come together to accomplish certain things. This was put in mind by this older article about lost knowledge. Highlights include the knowledge base for getting man to the moon being largely lost. Any attempt to repeat what is still the height of modern achievements would require people starting from scratch. I can’t believe that we even have the will or ability to accomplish something like this again.
In any case, what could be taken from this is simply learning to know how to do basic things. If you can’t change a tire or light bulb, you should probably learn. If you see a toilet roll about to run out after you finish, it would be nice to make sure another one is in reach of the next one to sit upon the throne. Filling up ice trays isn’t hard and picking up after others isn’t so bad on occasion either. Flying into a rage when there’s no butter or a computer doesn’t work straight away can be avoided too. Lot’s of little things from everyone could go a long way to making everybody’s life a little easier and with little effort. And where your knowledge or ability is limited, a little humility and respect can go a long way.