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Life Arts

Can Infrastructure be Human?

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in fra struc ture (nfr-strkchr)
n.
1. An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or system.
2. The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons.

infra structur al adj.

Usage Note: The term infrastructure has been used since 1927 to refer collectively to the roads, bridges, rail lines, and similar public works that are required for an industrial economy, or a portion of it, to function. " Today we may hear that conservatism has an infrastructure of think tanks and research foundations or that terrorist organizations have an infrastructure of people sympathetic to their cause. The Usage Panel finds this extended use referring to people to be problematic, however. Seventy percent of the Panelists find it unacceptable in the sentence FBI agents fanned out to monitor a small infrastructure of persons involved with established terrorist organizations.


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

So, the Usage Panel of Houghton Mifflin sees use of the word infrastructure, as it refers to people, to be problematic. What is clear, however, is that people inhabit the physical infrastructure and use it for their own benefit, as a person driving a car and using a road to get from A to B, or the fire department using the system of reservoirs and pipes emanating from those reservoirs to put out a fire and thus benefit the community and its residents. In addition to the normal infrastructure of roads and bridges, we also have to consider schools and universities as part of the educational infrastructure that contributes to the common good of the community and the country. That the physical buildings and sports facilities associated with learning institutions are part of the infrastructure is obvious, but what about the people using those institutions? Are they not part of the community infrastructure as well? Are they not being used -- or going to be used in the future -- in order to enhance the common good of the community or nation?

These rhetorical questions can only be answered with a Yes! A most definite Yes!

Of course we, as human beings, contribute to the wealth and health of a nation. Therefore we are, in the most basic sense, the individual elements of the infrastructure of society. A road without people to use it is a useless strip of land. And nature abhors uselessness and in a very short time, geologically speaking, the untraveled road is engulfed and eventually erased by nature. People make that road a useful thing. And it's people that make nations and all of their structural parts useful things. If there are no people in a corporation, the corporation does not exist, no matter how often one says: "Corporations are people my friend." No. It's the people who inhabit the corporation that give it life as an entity. Remove the people and it's an empty useless hulk that will very quickly vanish from the business landscape.

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If you neglect physical infrastructure, let it decay, then it becomes unusable: roads full of potholes, bridges that collapse, rail lines that cause trains to derail " many examples can be found. In the same way, if you do not care for the human element in the infrastructure, it decays. But humans don't necessarily become completely unusable. Decayed, degraded humans become useful to the manipulative criminal elements in society. They become useful for fighting wars, as cannon fodder of course, and they become useful as slave labor. The more of the decayed and degraded human elements of infrastructure there are around, the more useful they are as tools to keep the trained and cared-for humans in check through fear, not only fear of their less-fortunate fellow humans coming to do them harm, but fear of the very real possibility that they themselves may at any moment be pulled down into that mass of neglected and struggling humanity.

Germany, despite its political misadventures of the past 100 years, has always reemerged as an economic power and a model of efficient social structure (though the Nazi years were what one might describe as a model of social structure with extremely negative elements and horribly negative results). The reason for this phoenix-like rebirth from the flames of destruction after each of the world wars is the German emphasis on an efficiently functioning infrastructure. They learned long ago that commerce depends on the efficiency of transportation of goods. Canals, roads, bridges and ports are the nerve centers of commerce. If they don't work efficiently, commerce is paralyzed. In the same way, Germans realized early on that education for the mass of humans was a necessary component for an efficient infrastructure in order to make the newly industrialized economy work smoothly. Therefore, schools were started for the common people and general education up to a certain age became compulsory.

This concept of general education for the labor force was not limited to Germany. It spread to other countries as well, countries that were industrializing and realized that workers who could read and write could better serve in factories and shops than uneducated workers. The workers themselves eventually realized that education was a way to free oneself from poverty. Workers' movements arose, and as the workers became more educated, their demands became more focused on the elements in the infrastructure of the political system that would help free them from their quasi-slavery. Democracy became more universal in character until it even applied to women, and eventually to 18-year-olds as well.

Then something completely unforeseen happened.

After the second world war, especially in Germany, the survivors went back to work and put all their energy into pushing aside the destruction caused by the war and stoked the fires of an economic renaissance which gave them things they had never had before, automobiles, television sets, a home of their own, and the opportunity to send their children on to a higher education most of them had never had the chance to obtain.

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Was everybody happy?

Well, more or less, until in the 1960s the hyper-educated children of the survivors of the last war were confronted with a new war which was, in their educated opinion, a war of domination, a colonial war, rather than a war of liberation. The colonies in Africa were being set free to find their own destinies and yet this little country in the far east, Vietnam, was being invaded and bombed and devastated. But despite the overwhelming odds against it, Vietnam was not being beaten into submission. Why was this happening now, only one generation after everybody said they were sick of war and destruction? The educated opinion of the new generation was that this war was only being carried out for economic gain. That the newly expanded infrastructure of military bases and the arms manufacturing industry was raking in huge profits for its backers while the human element of the infrastructure was being decimated -- on both sides.

The educated opinion of the new generation became active resistance and the people who were profiting from the war, afraid that their money and power would be diminished, were able to convince the state apparatus in the United States as well in the countries of Europe where unrest had also erupted, to hit back hard and suppress the unrest. To a certain degree it worked. Of course some elements of resistance survived longer than the mass movements, and some of these resisters became violent, which allowed the state apparatus to point a scolding finger and say: "You see! They are at heart bad people!"

The end result, in the policies of most of the states where this educated generation showed its resistance to the powers that be, was that the education infrastructure has been slowly but surely dismantled, allowed to petrify and decay until today, in many of these states, education has become a commodity for which you must pay a high, sometimes completely unaffordable price. This in turn has produced a visceral fear in the third and now the fourth post-war generation that their expensive education will be more of a burden than a boon, especially if they don't kowtow to the owners who have monopolized the system and do their bidding.

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Expatriate living in Europe. Host of the radio program FREE WHEEL on FSK in Hamburg,a non-commercial community-sponsored station. FREE WHEEL is also on the following stations in Germany: Freies Radio Freudenstadt, RundFunk Meißner, Radio (more...)
 

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