We went for a wee walk yesterday, around a still iced-up Loch Ard, in unexpectedly bright sunshine. I forgot my camera of course (yes I know, I’ll never make a blogger), but we had a great time, stopping in a clearing to fry up some burgers on the camp stove. Anyhow, for some reason it made me think about some words I read last year that were truly a revelation for me – something that struck a very deep chord:
Back in the 1920s, Paul Mazur, a Wall St. banker from Lehman Brothers suggested that:
“People must be trained to desire and want new things even before the old are entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desire must overshadow his needs”, “If what had filled the consumer market yesterday could only be made obsolete today, then that whole market would again be available tomorrow.”
This idea was implemented by General Motors in 1924 as “dynamic obsolescence”; their cars were designed to be replaced in just a few years by newer and more fashionable models.
And suddenly I realised – we’ve all been had!! (Car scrappage scheme anyone?)
I’ve heard it said of fisherman that we start off with a rod, reel, line and a handful of flies, and then progress until we’re clanking along like robots, laden down with a hundred and one expensive gadgets that never catch us any more fish. I realised a few years ago that I was taking far more stuff with me fishing, and so pared everything back to the absolute minimum, and have since found fishing far more enjoyable, not to mention cheaper!
If society depends on economic growth, and on us as ‘consumers’ taking an ever greater share of the world’s resources, then truly this game cannot go on forever. I know an archeologist who likes to refer to ‘stuff’ as ‘Instant Landfill’, which when viewed from a geological timeframe, includes most of our posessions! (If this interests you, then I recommend ‘The Story of Stuff‘, which is a short animated video investigating this line of thought.)
So now I try to think about things in terms of the cost and benefits of their ownership (both monetary and societally / environmentally) over their / my lifetime. The case for “Live simply, so that others may simply live” is becoming unavoidable. I can’t say I’ve got there yet, but it’s a fascinating journey.
I like this wee story too:
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”
The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends……………………….”