Posted on 7th May 2014
From time to time, my idea of the perfect life shifts from one end of the spectrum to the other. Sometimes I feel like, when I get out, I just want to go off and live in a small house in the country, perhaps near a lake or a stream, where I can survive almost entirely self sufficiently. There would be no electricity, no telephone, nothing. I think I’d like that. In fact, I think I’d love it. On the other hand, there are times when I see how brilliant computers are these days, or any number of other gadgets, and I realise how much I enjoy technology. This leads me to what I call ‘The Cleckheaton Conundrum’.
Cleckheaton lies 40 miles into my journey and, in 1812, it became a site of conflict between modern technology and traditional manpower. As the industrial revolution had progressed, and people were replaced by machines, General Ned Ludd began to amass followers in his opposition to the movement. These followers came to be known as the ‘Luddites’ and began attacking factories and destroying machinery across the country. The poet, Lord Byron, spoke in defence of the Luddites, but soon the Prime Minister introduced the death penalty for anyone convicted of machine breaking.
The biggest Luddite rebellion took place in Cleckheaton where two hundred of them attacked Rawfolds Mill. However, the owner was ready for them and two of the Luddites were shot dead. The following week, another mill owner was killed and over a hundred Luddites were arrested, seventeen of whom were subsequently hanged. Three of these were for murdering the Mill owner but the rest for attacking Rawfolds Mill.
The conundrum is whether it is really possible to live without technology any more. It is certainly impossible to live without technology in our cities, but is it possible in remote areas of the country? In order to do this, you would have to completely remove yourself from society. Not living against it, but living beyond it. And my fear is that this has become something that societies rulers just cannot tolerate.
If I were released, would probation ever permit me to live in a house in the middle of nowhere, with no internet or phone line? Or would I be forced to live in a large city and remain in contact twenty-four hours a day – if only for their own convenience? I have to wonder. But then, would I really mind? After all it would be a bit strange for a prisoner to fight for the freedom to blog from prison, only to give it up upon release!