I want to be an Apothecary – but what if that no longer exists?

It’s a strange thing if you find that the job you would like to have no longer exists in the modern era. I would have liked to be an apothecary. Now the modern equivalent would be a chemist or pharmacist who dispenses mass produced drugs and doesn’t go out cloaked in the moonlight of the small hours to pick herbs to brew into home made remedies.  I guess a closer equivalent to an apothecary would be a naturopath or some sort, such as a homeopath. However, such a person would still rarely make up the medicines themselves but would order them from a company who obtained them from a factory.

If you examine what underlies what I have said you will see that it is really a comment on industrialisation and how we have lost a link to both what we create and the fruits of our labours. Before every house would have had its own cottage cheese. Now most of our food is mass produced. (Interestingly enough there seems to be an increase in my area of people running their own small baking businesses from home as we come to tire of mass produced, processed food.)  Some might say that we are entering a new, post industrial age where you might imagine we have more freedom due to more sophisticated technology.  However all the technology we have available to us actually has the effect of allowing us to get more done in the same time rather than to give us more free time. So for example, in the past we might have seen a room of 12 typists in a company. Because every time you made a mistake you had to retype the whole page.  You could not save documents as we do now.  But now, with all the software and hardware which make a typist’s work much easier, instead of seeing those 12 typists work ONE hour instead of EIGHT and then go and sit on the beach you will see 1 secretary doing the work of 12 and probably working longer hours than they did. Food is quicker to prepare because we obtain it at a further stage (e.g. bread rather than flour rather than sheaves of wheat), but we live in smaller family units and fail to achieve the time economies of scale (e.g. if you cook for 4 it is not half the time of cooking for 8 – better to cook for 8 every other day than 4 every day, but few of us do. I try to get around this by making more and freezing it). As many tasks are quicker to complete we try, instead of spending less time on them,  to get more tasks done – or are forced to do so by the boss –  instead of creating space for ourselves.  It’s actually akin to how life was in Red Queen’s country.

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

We live in Red Queen’s country. Do you not think?

(Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, 1871)

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4 thoughts on “I want to be an Apothecary – but what if that no longer exists?

  1. Apothecaries haven’t been out in moonlight picking their remedies for centuries and buying the stuff rather than picking it themselves seems to be the whole idea of that job. What your thinking of sounds more like midwifes, folk healers type. I would disagree industrial progress espcailly in agriculture and such has made it a lot easier and farmers can even sometimes go on vacation, unthinkable before. Housework has gotten easier and gives more free time. When you are on the job you get paid money by the hour so I don’t see how you need time for yourself at work?

    • I think you are missing the underlying point. If we look outside the box, this secretary could well be having a lower standard of living than the 12 typists if she is time poorer – at any rate she is unlikely to be time richer. People commute much further to work now too – I was commuting over 4 hours a day at once point – well my father’s mother worked at the butcher’s shop in the same village! So then I tried to push on to – well, are things improving if we are post-industrial? e.g. working from home, well that is definitely a shorter journey than even walking to a shop in the same village. But I decided that if we keep trying to do more as technology speeds things up it often fails to benefit us. Farmers grow food which is essential – but many of the things industries produce are not essential such as chewing gum which people spend their time marketing, selling, etc all to get money to get a share in the basics such as food. All kinds of things we could either do without or are actually harmful but if you are not economically active then you suffer. This post is trying to look outside the system and see to what extent technological changes are actually failing to benefit us in our working lives (when I expect many assumed they would and when they first come in, they do but then employers realise they can cut down on staff and the benefit ends up being lost to the individuals). We have unemployment and again – on an individual level it may make people work harder but stand back from they system and it seems crazy for society that many work long hours and others are out of work altogether and suffering from it!

  2. I still think that perception is skewed but I would suggest googling “basic income” or basic income guarentee, if you havent heard of that concept yet. It sounds like you would interested in that idea.

    • I’m really making the point at how industrialisation has distanced woman/man from the fruits of her/his labours and de skilled us. So instead of being a tailor someone today might work in a clothes making factory.

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