or is it? In George Orwell’s dystopian novel the slogan that heads today’s blog is a fundamental tenant of society. It is an absolute ” value” of consumer society to create in the masses (and make no mistake, you and I are part of that class) an unquenchable desire for new objects. This desire is the motor that drives the manufacturing, delivery and sales divisions of industry. Notice that I did not include the service sector as this is fast becomming obsolete and archaic.
You may argue that we are more than mindless plebeians, forced to toe the party line of Big Brother. Certainly, but how many of us take the time to examine and challenge the relentlessly promoted idea that new is intrinsically better than old? When did discarding everything at a faster and faster rate become a virtue?
I present a couple of examples of recycling. Two mailboxes have been fixed to the wall of my modest duplex since before I bought it 18 years ago. The tenent’s box somehow lost the lid that protects mail from rain and both boxes were seriously chipped and shabby. New boxes cost between $ 18 for a,cheap and nasty plastic one designed to become landfill in 2 or 3 years and $60 for a sturdy metal one of particularly ugly design. A dear one offered to make a new hinged lid. I was a little doubtful but persistence, a bit of spare tin sheeting and a can of spray paint can do a lot. I promise you pictures of my two good-as-new beauties next time
The stoves? I shed a nostalgic tear as the little blue one was dragged out and replaced by a second-hand one ($235 delivered with a year’s guarantee on parts and labour). The little blue stove had been more of a decor choice when, inspired by a couple of trips to Mexico, I decided to go with colour in my kitchen. Our Lady of Guadalupe smiles gently down from the wall but during an attempt to produce duck a l’orange the switches on the elements failed and even her intercession proved ineffective. Before parting with the blue beauty I invited that rare breed, a repair man, to tell me if it was a hopeless case. It was.
Even counting the cost of the repair man and a little bottle of enamel to touch up a couple of chips on my ” new” stove, I still came out about four hundred dollars ahead. As to reliability, nothing is more infuriating than to be offered an ” extended waranty” when buying a new product. It requires me to bet that what I am buying will break down in short order. That the manufacturer offers this insurance confirms that he too agrees that his product will soon fail me.
In Sweden consumers are given a tax break on the cost of repairing products or buying refurbished second-hand ones. The choices we make have consequences. The mindless acceptance of our image-worshiping culture results in great destruction of the environment. Consumers willingly incur massive debt that causes worry, anxiety and family conflict.
Let’s a grip. Make do and mend. Shop at the Salvation Army or second-hand stores and let’s pressure our MP’s to follow the good example of innovative policies like those of the Swedes.