Obsolescence: Built In? Consumerism, Government and Environment; the Urge to Buy; Is Government Environmentally Friendly
Definition of Democracy
A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
The key words here are 'the whole population'
Through the Eyes of the Young
I’m a teacher. I’ve had discussions with 3 year-olds and 20 year-olds. They have more sense in them than any politicians I’ve heard. They still have an innocence; they still have hope.
If I said to my class, you have to be fair, kind, hard-working and not wasteful, they would agree with me, they would see the sense in that. So would most people I know.
So why can’t politicians see sense in those things? Is government not a part of the way we live? Are they not human beings who live life like that in their own homes? It would seem not.
Do we spend thousands on a business project, then throw our office furniture, our machines, our employees out the window? 'Don't be silly' I hear you say. But the government has done that, realising that some faddy project isn’t going to make as much money as they thought, isn’t working the way some jumped-up civil servant said it would. Did they sell the furniture? No, it went on the tip. Were the new machines passed on? No, they went on the tip as well. Were employees offered other jobs? No, they went on the dole. Did government care? No.
Emerging from War and Poverty
After the war and into the 50s, a reasonable way of life slowly returned to shell-shocked Britain. Prosperity began to increase and to help it, government had an idea. We were encouraged to buy to help the economy.
Wages were rising so why not treat ourselves? Why not buy instead of make? Why not eat out instead of at home? Why not spend instead of save? Life had been austere, we had to make do and mend. We deserved a break. Yes, we did, but did we have to tip the scales so far?
Chain Stores and Holiday Camps - Spend and Enjoy!
The car was a great invention. Wasn’t it? We no longer needed a bicycle and the effort it involved. We didn’t need to walk a mile to the shops, especially in the rain. We didn’t need to walk with our friends and enjoy a chat and a laugh in someone else’s house or at the local coffee shop.
No, we could have a car, be lazy, not worry about the lack of exercise, not worry about getting fat or compromising our health. We’d meet everyone in town and spend even more money on more expensive drinks and food. We’d spend less time at home, we’d desert our parents and younger siblings and leave them worrying about when we'd get home, whether we would even get home at all. It was fun and no one saw what was happening.
Mr Ford said ‘You can have any colour as long as it’s black.’ Having a car was exciting, fun and, yes, useful too of course, here in Britain just as in the US.
Then suddenly, practicalities like the importance of a well-running engine and safe brakes took second place to trivialities. To encourage us to spend even more, industries gave us a colour choice surpassing an artist’s palette. We had white-walled tyres, fins on the wings, spoilers at the back. We had to have the latest design, what everyone else had.
So it continued, as we were swept off our feet by the dashing Mr & Mrs Materialism.
A Basic Car - then a Fashion Accessory!
Let's Stop, Let's Think a Little
Until, that is, a few of the more enlightened realised that something had to give. What about all those fumes? Industry had already given us smog in the cities. Wasn’t the car adding to that? Weren’t we poisoning our environment? Where were we to put the old oil, discarded metal and broken plastic?
Ok, we’ll have smaller cars, safer cars, hybrid cars, said industry and government. Yes, but they still need petrol. Really? Ok then, we’ll have those electric cars that someone’s come up with. We’ll give a concession; £5000 off the price for anyone who buys a new electric car. Each council will provide charging points in town centres. Aren’t we good? We’re doing our bit to save the planet.
Pollution in the Cities
Is Government committed to Helping the Environment?
Technology is improving all the time, meaning that now electric cars are a feasible alternative. However, even with £5000 off, the price of an electric car is still higher than the smallest available conventional car. There are nowhere near enough charging sites and not every electric vehicle is eligible for the £5000 concession. It’s not an easy option because government doesn’t want it to be.
If we go electric, they will lose millions in revenue and so will the oil industry. Yet they call us cynics if we point this out as a reason for them stalling. They’ll find a way of taxing the chargers, I’m sure, but it won’t come anywhere near the revenue they have now. Will they put their money where their mouths are and encourage a change to electric cars? Will they have the courage to practise what they preach? I don’t think so!
Electric cars might not be the best way forward but it would be a start. However, cars are not the only consideration.
Every house now has a washing machine. My first washing machine lasted 25 years! I buy one now and I’m lucky if it lasts half that time. Why? Have we not progressed in technology? Can’t we build them like that any more?
Of course we can! I was startled to learn, from a documentary, that many machines have built-in obsolescence. It didn’t surprise me when I found out why but I wasn’t aware it affected so much of what we buy.
There is a little chip added to many machines, a chip that counts down to melt-down from the moment we switch on our washing machines, our printers, our phones - you name it, there’s probably a chip in it. We spend our money on something we want to last, something we look after, and it will run out when the manufacturer wants it to, so that we have to buy another and another.
What a waste! What deceit! What a lie!
If machines last for ages or even for ever, manufacturers will lose out, the economy will dive, is their argument. Will it? Won’t there be other inventions? Won’t companies come up with ingenious commodities? Won’t necessity create something better, more appropriate?
How Long Will These Last?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Addiction and Politics
We’re caught up now in this world of materialism and consumerism. We’re hooked, we’re addicted. We don’t know how to live without it. We’ve been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs, to bite and swallow when something new comes out, when the signal is given. It’s the latest, the best, the brightest, the tallest, the smallest, the most efficient; then, mindless as we are, we buy it, we follow the crowd, we don’t stop to think.
Household goods, furniture, fashion, they all come under the same heading. We want it all, whether or not we’ve got something perfectly adequate at home. All our houses have the same furniture, the same colour walls, the same machines. We want to wear the latest trend, designer labels. Whatever happened to individuality?
Where’s the spirit of making do and mend, the individuality of not keeping up with the Joneses, the pride in making things oneself, the thriftiness of repairing at least once before you throw something out?
We’ve been taught to spend, spend, spend; it’s good for the economy, you should support your country. What they really mean is they want more and more money to feed their schemes, their individual pockets, their political aims - yes, it is political, yes they do have sticky fingers in fattening pies.
Furniture and Fashion
We Can Make a Difference
Some groups and individuals are beginning to have the courage to be different, to bravely shrug off this consumerism, this nagging voice inside that says, ‘Oooh, I want that.’ Some live life carefully, frugally and are no less happy because of it; I would suggest they are in fact happier.
We need to make those voices louder. We need to add our own voices so that the noise swells until politicians can’t help but hear, so that they can’t ignore it. We mustn’t stop until government changes, until we have politicians who truly believe in a better world and who are willing to go about their jobs ethically and honestly. Am I being unrealistic, idealistic? Maybe, but we have to try.
What Can We Do?
We can take action ourselves! Here are several ideas we've had for our home, some of which have been put into action:
- have a tank of rainwater (higher than the waste pipes, inside or out) to feed the toilet flush
- have a water butt in the garden to collect rain for watering plants etc
- use solar energy to run a 12 volt rechargeable battery which can run your lights at the very least
- if you want a new kitchen, keep the units and just replace the doors (maybe with recycled wood)
- plant herbs and vegetables wherever you have room in your garden (or more if poss)
- revamp furniture with fresh foam, recycled wood, anything else you might be able to use
- save old nails, screws, hinges, nuts, bolts, taps, plugs etc in jars in the garage
- use old wardrobes and drawers for storage in the garage
- regulate any heating to the minimum you're comfortable with - or put on a jumper!
- revamp old clothes by shortening, trimming, adding beads - use imagination!
- old garden furniture looks great with a lick of exterior paint and/or a varnish
- learn how to make.... anything!
- challenge the local council when necessary
- challenge your local MP; press them to tell you their true beliefs and aspirations
- have a local voice when you're unhappy about a local issue
I'm sure you can add to this list. Do share your ideas in the comments!
Store, Recycle, RestoreClick thumbnail to view full-size
Are the Politicians Listening? Can we Make them Listen?
Until those who pretend to look after us begin ruling us with kindness, fairness, with a view to making the world a better place for each and every one of us, then we’re lost.
They try to make their mark on history. Don’t they realise that if they make the right choices, the brave choices, they will go down in history with a big tick against them, with a glowing report, with smiles and pats on the back?
But no, they don’t want that. They want fame, a posh house, holidays on the yacht with famous people; most of all, power to make them feel good and investments to make them rich.
He’s a tall man when he stands on his wallet - who has the courage to be able to stand tall through his endeavours, his principles and the kindness of his heart? If only, oh if only...
That’s my challenge to every politician in the world. If we all challenged them, we would win.
Do you think we can make a difference?
© 2014 Ann Carr