Rethinking the Donkey: When Technology Makes You Obsolete

Donkeys were once the indispensable workers of the Mediterranean. A group in Split, Croatia is trying to create new jobs for donkeys in the 21st century.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were in the Mediterranean city of Split, Croatia. Overlooking the city is a forested hill called Marjan that has been a popular destination for thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the Venetians to the sun and fun-loving Dalmatians of modern times, people have long been climbing this hill to experience commanding views of the Dalmatian islands.

Today, you will see more than just people on Marjan. This hill is also home to a donkey sanctuary. These friendly, fuzzy animals were once the indispensable workers of the Mediterranean and were used to carry building materials, food, water, and supplies.

However, with the arrival of the automobile and the internal combustion engine, the donkey was no longer needed to literally carry the weight of civilization on its back.

Here is my short video about the donkeys on Marjan:

Due to the donkey’s obsolescence, it is now threatened with a declining population. Fortunately, a group in Split called Toward Europe is taking the initiative to rethink donkeys’ role in society.

The group is seeking to make donkeys a symbol of the region’s history by honoring its role in helping build the societies of the Mediterranean. Their efforts include encouraging donkey-inspired artwork and inviting visitors to interact with these smile-inducing animals. They are even equipping the donkeys with solar-paneled saddles that will charge your cellphone while you’re busy feeding them carrots.

Toward Europe is helping donkeys displaced by technology to overcome unemployment by repurposing them into new jobs. Their efforts are an inspiration for all of us concerned about jobs lost as a result of technological progress. 

For more on Marina the Donkey, Toward Europe, and Marjan Hill, please feel free to visit Tricia’s blog post.


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