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The story of stuff Part II

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As promised before, here’s my take on the story of stuff video in the last post…

First off, I agree with the video creator(author?) that we are currently suffering from having too much of stuff around. There is so much around, that we have to be coerced into buying things even when we are not in need of it. Thanks to current advertising and attitudes, we are exposed to subtle messages saying that if we do not own an XYZ watch of a blah blah car, we ought to commit hara-kiri from shame and we land up buying new things and getting rid of the old just because thats the way things are done. To recount some personal experiences, one of my father’s colleagues once told me that he bought a new car every three years, without exceptions, and in fact it seemed as if he had a problem with people who did not do so. There was no talk about whether a car still ran fine, or developed some problem that would make it uneconomical to maintain or anything. It was like a deadline, and the job of changing had to be done.

Second example, me in Hyderabad, where I worked for quite a while. A combination of living close to my office, then travelling a lot out of town without knowing if I will coming back to the same apartment or not and a powerful desire not to drive in Hyderabadi traffic had made me put off buying any kind of vehicle. Once when I was chatting with a friend of mine, I was asked why I allowed this “self imposed loserhood” to overcome me. Does the lack of a car or a bike really mean someone is a loser?If a person owns a not so flashy mobile phone, does it mean that they are not successful enough or are they just pragmatic and have their heads screwed on better than the rest of us? Though I like to think otherwise, sometimes I find myself judging other people from their material possessions, which I find somewhat scary because then I wont do too well with other people. 🙂

However much I dislike the way this functions, I cannot deny that they are pretty much the reason that the world is functioning smoothly in todays age. If this vast consumer appetite hadn’t been created it’s hard to imagine what the people who currently work in the factories that feed it would do. Countries like India and China, alone home to about one third of the worlds population, are currently at a stage where their economies are heavily reliant on their manufacturing prowess. If the millions of people who derive their livelihoods from these factories were left unemployed, there would for sure, be big trouble. Unfortunately, human “needs” are simply not enough to employ the current world population of 6 odd billion people and so till things change, I guess this lifestyle is necessary and till then I will be a reluctant supporter of it.

The only “change” that I can see that will be able to reverse this trend is a lowering in population levels, something which is happening already in most of the developed world and should hopefully start to happen soon elsewhere. But the problem is that we should be able to draw a line saying “This level of prosperity is enough”. Every country that has a declining population is moaning about labour shortages which are perilous to economic growth. Until there clear limit to how much the economy should grow, I guess we will need more people, there will be an increase in the population growth drives some countries are launching and the current consumption cycle will probably just continue.

To end on a lighter note, I should confess that I have a vested interest in this lifestyle holding sway over people. Thanks to the “use and throw” culture, I have been able to land up amazing deals on second hand , but almost new, computer components, furniture, books, DVDs and a whole lot of other stuff I would not have spent my money on otherwise. So far there has been absolutely no setbacks from my second hand shopping so I am looking forward to a bright future trawling the second hand market 🙂


Written by clueso

February 21, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. I have been trying hard not to give in to the temptation of wasteful buying, it is so ingrained in our brains that its proving a bit difficult to shake off. But i think realisation itself is a start and if each one of us think twice before we set our foot out for a shopping trip in the high street and make that occasional desicion of dropping the plan or at the least chip off a couple of ought to buys from our list, i think it is worthwhile!

    Moon Shadow

    February 22, 2008 at 5:12 pm

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