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.
Close to the library there are many murals. You note several bags of garbage below the beautiful lettering on the wall. There are a lot of homeless people around the library. I cannot imagine why. Certainly I never see them hanging about in the library. George Orwell mentions the library as a favorite haunt in his “Down and out..” book. Not in Montreal. The library is across the street from the long distance bus station. What is it about bus and train stations that attract the homeless? They seldom have the money to go anywhere. Are travellers a soft touch for pan-handlers? I doubt it. When I travel I am often paranoid about losing my stuff or being robbed or conned. These fears have little basis, judging from my little experience. I don’t like to write that the homeles people and the garbage bags in the shadow of the museum have a disturbing connection. I have to write it though. The library is a sacred spot where homeless are somehow not welcome.
I had a garbage moment myself today. I got a rejection letter from a well established Canadian publisher. You know they’re well established when the ask you to send hard copy instead of electronic and you must put in a stamped self addressed envelope if you want feedback. My feedback was in part ” the acquisitions editor commented that this is an attractive selection of your poems, but he did not find the sort of heft necessary to attract potential readers.” I ask you readers, do you like hefty poems? It is a mysterious comment and one that will not, I fear, inspire the slightest change in my writing practice. It was a garbage moment but as I have done more times than I like to admit, I will get out of the garbage heap. My poetry is homeless but not hopeless. Self publishing starts to look better and better.
I had heard this phrase but confess to not knowing what it meant. Having just listened to a CBC radio item on this ” toy” “surveillance agent”, call it what you will, I admit to a feeling of repugnance at the very idea. Doesn’t anybody distain tattle-tales any more? The premise is that parents can put this toy on a shelf, it observes a child’s conduct during the run up to Christmas and day-by-day it reports back to Santa as to whether the child had been ” good” or not. The child is told that the elf goes back to the North Pole every night and squeals on him or her. George Orwell must be nodding sagely in his grave. Of course, any child of intelligence and spirit would simply destroy this bizarre control tool as soon as Mum and Dad’s backs were turned, but, seems the grown ups have thought of that. One of the ” rules” is that the child is not allowed to touch the elf. Such an attempt at liberation is the worst offence of all. Can this really be considered a toy? Oh, well, I suppose one could look at it as a preparation for a life of observation by surveillance cameras in stores, parking lots, government buildings and even the public street. It is the responsibility of parents to train children and to judge with fairness and kindness as to whether their actions warrant discipline or not. Lying to them and enforcing often poorly defined standards of ” niceness” by means of an inanimate object sound like . . .. . something other than parenting. Of course, the most serious flaw in this arrangement is the undermining of the ultimate authority of Santa who has no need of man-made minions. He is all-knowin, all-seeing, benevolent -or am I confusing him with another beloved figure who makes an appearance at Christmas.