Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Disposable Society

I had a friend who was a bit younger than me. She grew up in a wealthy Indian family in Durban and married into one of the most wealthy Indian families in Botswana. One day she was in a panic. Their car was very near to 100,000 kms and her husband was not making moves to replace it. I didn't know what she meant. She explained that cars stopped working after 100,000 km. I told her that they didn't but she refused to believe it. I told her the car I was driving was already close to 300,000 and my husband's 4 x 4 was well over 400,000 km and both worked just fine. She was shocked. She called her husband from the nearby factory they owned and he had to come to the office so I could repeat what I had said. They were amazed.


I am not a fan of getting rid of large expensive things I've purchased with hard earned money. I feel like they should be repaired not thrown away. I have almost every computer I've ever owned, except the broken one the thief stole and the one I sold with my business. I don't change cellphones. I don't believe in buying new curtains or lounge suites. My husband and I sleep on the same bed we bought shortly after we got married. My husband is much like me. Our stove currently has no oven racks since the Tenants From Hell stole them. In this case, as I love to bake and it is impossible to find replacement oven racks, I've wanted to buy a new stove. When I mentioned it to my husband that we should maybe buy a new stove my daughter was here and they both laughed at me as if I'd lost my mind. We would get the welder to make racks for the oven. The stove only cost P700 when we bought it, but nevertheless there was no reason to lose our heads. They were good to remind me of that.


I don't like the way everything is disposable nowadays. Just throw it away get a new one. It doesn't seem right. Why struggle with getting to know all of those new things? And where will the old ones go?

I feel the same about writing. I don't throw away anything. When I cut away lines from stories where they are not needed but I like them and I think they might have a use some day, I save them in a file. If I start a story and it can't seem to go anywhere after the first line, or first page, I save it in a file. I have half finished novels I never think of as failures, I think of them as waiting, waiting to grow legs so I can walk them to their end. I'd never think of throwing them away. Why? I put a lot of thought into them, I'm used to them, I know somehow they still have a use.

I'm not a clutterer, though, I don't keep little bits of things with no use- no- those MUST go. I save useful things and fix them, to get them up and moving again. I'm just not a fan of the waste of this modern disposable way of life.

13 comments:

Jude Dibia said...

Well written, Lauri! In a way I am like you. I never discard an unfinished story... I let it be for a while until I am ready to face it again.

I am sort of intrigued about the couple who thought a car stopped working after 100,000 km... That's just hilarious! What a sheltered life they must have had while growing up!

karen said...

I can really relate to what you say! Apart from our IT gadgets (being in that business) we keep just about everything until it wears out! Cars - we often only buy them after 100000 anyway!

bonita said...

Cars die after 100k km? What a hoot! I'm pretty much the same about saving/repairing things. Many folks urged me to rehab my building, rip it down to studs and then build up again. I just couldn't see all that material in a landfill. Besides the 100+ year old design has excellent cross ventilation and winter and summer light variation.
I, too, save my writing—it's such a shame to discard brilliance! Problem is, it takes me way too long to find the brilliant scraps when I need them. It's more cost effective just to reinvent them. Besides, sometimes my scraps are out of date. I remember writing a feature about the inability of the Hubble telescope to produce crisp images from outerspace. There's a bit of writing that can't be recycled!

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

From comments both here and at FB where my blog posts also appear, it looks like most of us writers are frugal lot. Is it because we are too poor to do otherwise? I hope not. I hope even if ever I get a pile of money I don't change my ways.

Val said...

i totally agree with you! i hate the junk culture - we are even leaving it in space and n the moon!!!!!!! grr - dont get me started there.
We met someone once who was proud to say he made refrigerator shelves with built in obsolesence so that people would have to keep replacing them!! crazy crazy world
I am getting much better about clutter too.....

Miss Footloose said...

I feel much the same way you do about repairing things and not replacing things just for the sake of having something new and "improved" unless it really is and you need the "improved" which usually is not the case.

As I have moved a lot from country to country, what I have enjoyed is giving lots of household stuff away to people who need it or can use it and are happy to have it and then I go buy new stuff next time around (towels, sheets, pots and pans and so on.) My stuff always finds a good home and we save on shipping costs, which are considerable when you consider that they pack a tea cup in ten pounds of paper and stuff three of them in one heavy card board box of 1 meter squared (over 9 feet squared.) I'm saving entire forests being cut down.

Having said that, I have worked for years on ancient computers and cell phones because they worked perfectly fine for me yet were discarded elsewhere to be replaced by more sophisticated equipment.

Unfortunately we have found that many things that malfunction or break cannot be repaire anymore because they're not made to be repaired. And even sometimes if they can be repaired, the cost is higher than the price of a new item. Say coffee pots, irons, that sort of thing.

In the US getting racks made for your oven by a welder might well cost more than an entire new stove . . .

Miss Footloose, with a broken electrical water kettle only a year old. Boiling water in saucepan works, but is annoying and takes too long and probably wastes more electricity.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I admire your attitude, Lauri. We buy used cars because that's what makes economic sense - I refuse to spend a huge sum for a new car and then have it massively depreciate in value the second I drive it off the lot.

I try to make intelligent purchases. I buy good quality that will last. I'm not replacing a sofa or a TV every year just because there are new models available. New shoes,however...

Elspeth

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Miss Footloose that is one thing I HATE- things that are made to break and never be fixed. I used to own a business and some of our machines we used were like that.

Elspeth- In Botswana we get Japan and Singapore's throw away cars. Someone told me that there is a rule in Japan that they must get rid of their cars after a certian number of years or they get big taxes. I guess it's to promote their car industry. They bring them to Africa. So you can get pretty nice cars with air con and radios for pretty cheap.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I love that we own our cars free and clear. I don't need the brightest, newest car to feel good about myself. There's nothing wrong with buying a new car, I just don't want the payments.

My mother and father lived through the Great Depression. (My mother's family lived in a tent for a almost a year.) They taught us kids about the value of a dime. Frugality is esteemed in our family. Some think we're weird, but we don't care.

I save everything I write too. It's time for a new computer, but I'm reluctant, this one's been very good to me. When I replace this one I am giving it to a dear friend that has little money and doesn't have one. I promised to teach her how to use it.

Helen Ginger said...

I save my writing, too. Some people say don't save the hard copies, just the digital ones. But I save a hard copy of most. I've had too many hard drives die or backups get corrupted.

Your friend may have been wrong, but I swear manufacturers today are now making things with an expiration date built in. You get a new fridge today and it'll break down in a few years. Yet I have a freezer that's older than my kids, still running. And it's been used and abused. My husband uses it as an extension of his work bench.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Unaswi said...

thanks for your post; i like the idea of keeping things and being frugal, i also like the idea that Batswana are able to afford cars with the import of Japanese cars. however, i am concerned that they will eventually cause pollution, not only that, i am concerned with how we in Botswana are not having discussions on how to take care of the environment, going green and all the like.

Selma said...

I don't think it's that writers are necessarily more frugal, I think it has a lot to do with us being aware that there is a limited amount of space left to hold the stuff we dispose of.

I have a 20 year old car. People are always going on at me to replace it. It has done 160,000KMS and still goes really well. It is a BMW and I used to race it back in the day so I have a lot of time invested in it. If it starts to experience mechanical problems I will recondition the engine. I can also respray it and reupholster it if need be. I love that car and there is no way I will send it to landfill.

Being a disposable society is bad for the environment and keeps us in debt as we upgrade to the newest, shiniest thing that we don't really need. We have to change the way we look at the things we acquire. This is a very important post!

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Unaswi- you are so right about us Batswana being very unconcerned about the environment. I used to live in Lecheng and we got water from four boreholes. Pipes used to fall in the borehole and they'd just sink another one. Think of all of the oil and metal and other stuff getting in that aquifer- a huge one serving most of Tswapong. It used to give me sleepless nights. But I have to say recently I was doing research for the science textbook I'm writing and I came across an environmental impact assessment of the water situation in Lobatse (it is dire BTW) but there I realised there is now a master plan for water. There are people paying attention to what is happening and trying to insist on environmentally sustainable methods- though in some case like Lobatse - too little too late. I'm also happy about the Green Scorpions though they need to be given some 'poison'. But I agree -I'm shocked that Batswana seem to think it is fine to throw litter around and cut trees.