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When Technology Replaces Community

Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier write in “Living Gently in a Violent World”:

Once when I was at the University of Notre Dame we had an extraordinary snowstorm. They get a lot of snow in South Bend because it's on the wrong side of the lake—every time a wind blows across Lake Michigan, the moisture gets dumped on South Bend. We were used to snow in the winter. But this particular time, we got thirty-six inches in twelve hours. It literally shut the city down. We couldn't do anything. Now, when Notre Dame was first established, it was made up of ethnic Catholics who didn't have any money. So the students did most of the work on campus. But as the students became better off and didn't want to do any work, the university increasingly hired contractors. However, this thirty-six-inch snow was so wet and heavy the workers couldn't move it with their machinery. So somebody thought it would be a good idea to ask the students to come out of the dorms and clean the sidewalks. They announced over the student radio station, "Come to the student union and help us clean the sidewalks." Only they forgot the students would need shovels. People started looking around and discovered there were only five snow shovels in all of Notre Dame's campus. We had used mechanical snow removers for so long, we couldn't just go back to the old way.

I remember thinking, When technology replaces community, you ain't got community to fall back on when you're in a crisis. That seems to me to be an image of how speed has produced technology, which then undercuts the viability of community.

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