Several years ago Bobby and I watched a series on PBS about three modern families who were sent somewhere out West to live life like our ancestors did in the late 1800's. They had training before they went, and had someone come out and check on them throughout their time (they had to do it for about three months, I think) and then after it was over they were rated on whether or not they would have survived. One family had a ranch to run, with college age kids for ranch hands; another family had a farm, and the third started out with just land. He was engaged and his father was helping him until he was married and his wife came halfway through. I think in the end, it was determined that none of the families would have survived the winter.
I think about that show sometimes. I don't think I'd have fared too well. There's days like today where I work hard, but still don't get everything accomplished. But then I stop and think about all the time distractors they didn't have to deal with: no daily bathing, hair washing or fixing, and very little personal grooming. That can add an extra hour to your day right there. And you don't have to mop the floors because they're probably dirt. There wouldn't be a whole lot of furniture to dust. And no newspaper or television or grocery store or mall to divert your time. But then I think about all the extra work it would take for food and clothing. Maybe I'm just a big wimp or lazy person; maybe I would do it if I had to; maybe I would just be one of those settlers that couldn't hack it.
And from what little I've experienced of third-world/primitive conditions, when it comes to such drastic situations, hygiene and sanitation often go out the window. Whether it be in an Amish community, West Africa, or the countryside of China, I saw things that would make my mother gasp in horror at the filth. And yet the people seemed just fine. One of my Canadian friends used to laugh that we Northern Americans were just too clean for our own good. And maybe there's some truth to that. I'd get a whole lot more done in my day if I didn't have all the "proper" hygiene rituals we Americans do. Granted, I wouldn't feel as nice or look as good, but it does make me stop and think about what's really important and why we place so much emphasis on the outward appearance.
Meanwhile, I thank God I was born in this century.