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Front Porch Correspondence:

By Remy Benoit

The Time to Take Inventory is Before the Need is Felt

I grew up in Philadelphia. When William Penn laid out the plan of the city it was on a very neat grid, but the city has a warren of narrow alleyways. The reason for this is simple - cottage industry grew out of the backs of houses.

Cottage industry was in large part replaced during the Industrial Revolution that changed the face not only of this nation, but of the world. Yes, the factory system had many, many abuses: terrible working conditions; no compensation for injuries; sweated labor; child labor; belching smoke, etc. Gradually, legislation was passed, unions were formed, trusts were busted and the worst of the abuses became history. We are still working on the rest here. In other parts of the world, they have only just begun.

There is a commonality between cottage industry and factory work despite the fact that one calls for skilled labor and the other, after Mr. Ford instituted the assembly line, mass production. They produce commodities.

Yet even mass production at the bottom line called for skills.

Someone has to make the parts.

Someone has to make the machines.

Someone has to design them.

Just as an experiment ask your children if they know what these terms mean: machinist; machine design; tool and die maker; machine shop.

The bottom line is that Americans made things.


At home.

On April 16, 1942 Adolph Hitler called a meeting at Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair) near Rastenburg. The Führer had one great fear of the United States; he feared its tremendous industrial potential. He was not wrong to fear that. He was so afraid that he launched Operation Pastorius to sabotage our industry. You will find a full account of that in Michael Dobbs, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America.

The US made things - lots and lots of things that in the end brought the jackboots to heel. Perhaps we need to think about self-sabotage; and where the bottom line rests today. We need, once again, always, to function as One Nation, pulling together.

When I lived up north autumn was not only a time to enjoy the fantastic display of nature’s gowns, it was also the time to clean, ready the house for closing up for the winter. It was time for filling the pantry for when storms came, when silent falling snow piled deep, and icy roads settled in.

Yes, we are totally interdependent in today’s world. I produce words, books, websites. The sheriff here provides protection; the feed store keeps the local animals happy but none of those people see that there is water in my house for when the power goes down. I do that.

Too many things have become, or are becoming "forgotten arts." Too much perhaps is dependent on outsourcing.

We have skills .

We have minds.

We have stockpiles.

We have resources.

We have many people who would still be only to happy to be "Dollar a Year Men."
Dollar a Year Men.

But we need the skills to do things passed on. Our seniors are left alone all too often when they could be passing skills on. Our schools are in real trouble, need to re-structure and with responsibility could include teaching self-sufficiency which is much more reliable than a microchip. We need to remember that each generation builds on the previous; it is irrational to throw away all that was gained. For a good study of these Connections, see James Burke.

Doyle once had Sherlock Holmes say that "electricity is the high priest of false security."

How do we define false security?

It is something to think about.

Taking inventory, recognizing strong points, acknowledging what needs work is not paranoid.

It is responsible.

Taking inventory does not mean we should not be part of a global movement toward understanding, cooperation, and compassion. War, after all, is a start from a point of failure. We need to take inventory there too and look at all the things we put into motion with that. Today we have thousands of reasons to look at it carefully.

We are a country that treasures trial by jury; no conviction where there is any reasonable doubt. That same precaution must be applied to our international relations.

If we are to remain strong, if we are to be able to care for ourselves and others in times of extremities, then we need to know how to make machines, inventory our supplies open cans without electric can openers, grow and preserve food, supply those who protect us, and to protect ourselves and our allies. We need to act in concert with those who share our world views; we need to learn to communicate with those who come from different perspectives.

We need to take inventory and ask where the true bottom line should be - we don’t want our trust to be busted.

Or our freedom.

Or our ability to protect it.

To paraphrase FDR, we have nothing to fear but complacency.


Eternal Vigilance.

On all fronts.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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