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The one-room house with no electricity or modern conveniences --- the lifestyle of mankind throughout the ages



   When Americans go to some third world country, some Latin 
   American country for example, and see people living in one-
   room, thatched huts they are shocked.  It is so completely 
   alien to anything they have ever seen.  They think "What 
   desperate poverty!  How terrible!  These poor people!"  For an 
   American it is a real culture shock.  But what the American 
   doesn't appreciate is that probably 75% of the people in the 
   world live in this same way.  Think of all the people in the 
   world who live in India, China, southeast Asia, Africa, South 
   America, all of the third world countries.  In all these 
   countries the most of the people live in one or two room houses 
   with no electricity or running water; no indoor toilets; no 
   bathtubs, showers, electric ranges, refrigerators, washers, 
   dryers, telephones, etc..  These houses don't have the lovely 
   interiors and the modern kitchens and bathrooms that one finds 
   in America and there are no automobiles parked outside and no 
   supermarkets or shopping malls nearby.  In fact, a very typical 
   house in the third world is probably 8 foot by 12 foot with mud 
   brick, mud wattle or flattened-bamboo walls, a packed earth 
   floor, a clay tile, corrugated metal or thatched roof and few 
   or no windows.  There is no heating system and cooking is done 
   either inside or outside the dwelling on a three stone fire or 
   on an elementary wood, coal, charcoal or kerosene stove.  There 
   are no toilet facilities either inside or outside the dwelling.  
   Water is fetched from some source some distance away and one of 
   the occupants of the dwelling (possibly a child) will spend two 
   or three hours a day scrounging for enough firewood for the 
   day.  This is the way of life for countless millions today, 
   probably the most of the world's people.  When the American 
   sees these primitive third world houses and the primitive 
   lifestyle that they imply he probably doesn't really realize 
   that this is the mode of life for most of the world.  Nor does 
   he stop and realize that this very way of living, this 
   lifestyle of the one-room house with no electricity, running 
   water or modern conveniences, is the way the vast bulk of 
   mankind has lived for thousands and thousands of years.  This 
   is the way the masses lived back in ancient times.  The ancient 
   Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Assyrians, Chinese, Indians, 
   etc. all lived this same way.  The construction materials and 
   the way they built their houses may have differed from one 
   place to another but their basic lifestyle was the same.  None 
   of them had electricity, running water, refrigerators, 
   televisions, telephones or supermarkets.  They had to go to a 
   well or some water source to fetch their water, they had to 
   wash their clothes on some stones in a creek, they had to 
   prepare their meals from scratch and cook them on some 
   rudimentary wood stove or fire.  There were no toilet 
   facilities like we have today.  That is the way the ancients 
   lived and that is the way the masses of humanity have lived all 
   through the ages.  The modern lifestyle of the three bedroom 
   house with hot and cold running water, electricity, and all the 
   modern conveniences is a thing of only the last seventy five 
   years.  And then it has only appeared as a way of life of the 
   masses in the advanced industrialized societies.  The most of 
   the modern conveniences hadn't even been invented a hundred 
   years ago.  Thus when one looks at things in perspective one 
   realizes that it is not the one-room, thatched hut in India or
   Ecuador that is the oddity.  The real oddity and amazing thing 
   is the millions and millions of three and four bedroom houses 
   up here in the United States with all the modern, plush 
   luxuries and two cars out in front.  The real wonder is the 
   millions and millions of Americans who all live like kings, 
   each in his own palace.  That is the real wonder.  Those living 
   in the one-room hut in Ecuador are just living in the way that 
   has been the norm for the common man throughout the ages.  Many 
   billions of people have lived out their lives in that same way 
   with no thought that they were living in poverty or that they 
   were even poor.  Even in the matter of food the Indians living 
   in the one-room hut in Ecuador probably eat about as the common 
   man has probably eaten throughout the ages --- a diet 
   consisting mostly of cereal grains, roots and vegetables and a 
   relatively small amount of meat.  It is only in modern America 
   where people think it is necessary to have plenty of meat and 
   all the tender delicacies of a king every day.

   Modern houses cost a lot of money.  Most of that cost is the cost 
   of luxury.  For example, modern flooring is expensive.  One can 
   spend thousands of dollars just installing a new floor covering.
   Foundations, flooring systems and flooring constitute a big part 
   of the cost of a modern house. The following is from a 1973 World 
   Book article on flooring:

   "The first floors were probably only the leveled dirt of the land 
   over which the house was built. For hundreds of years the houses 
   of poor people continued to have only dirt floors. The log cabins 
   of early American pioneers usually had dirt floors."

   The function of a house is to provide protection from the elements.
   Some kind of protection from the elements is essential in most places 
   where people live.  Some sort of house is a necessity in most places.  
   Living in a log cabin with a dirt floor is living at a very basic 
   level.  But when we add a floor, we are getting into luxury. What 
   function does a floor serve?  Why do we need it?  A floor is not 
   a necessity, it is a luxury.    
 

  Feb 1984




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