Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Materialism

This post is more for my own benefit than for anybody else's but I'd be glad to hear comments. I want to get my thoughts straight.

Back in the days of the Second World War, when our island was blockaded, the whole ethos of survival was about grow your own, make do and mend, food vouchers and a genuine feeling of coping without luxury.

I remember hearing my parents and grandparents speak of this often and it leaves the last survivor of that generation on my side of the family, my Mum, with a genuine unwillingness to throw anything away, or replace anything that can be patched or fixed. I have got used to the fact that things such as irons, kettles and radio alarms need replacing not repairing since no-one can fix them at the cost of less than a new one. It breaks; we chuck.

After the 9/11 atrocities I remember feeling a bit of shock that our world had changed so much. Not at terrorism on our doorstep - the IRA nearly blew me and Lizzy up in 1974 - but when Tony Blair encouraged us all that the best thing we could do was to go out and shop as normal. We could make things more stable by not stopping shopping in a crisis.

It seems that 'normal' in this country involves encouraging people to buy more and more things they don't need. Perpetual growth in the retail sector is some sort of Holy Grail. And surely it can't last. I say this as one who has three members of the family involved in aspects of retail - vehicle lease sales, home goods sales and brochure design.

Have you noticed the ever-expanding market? We used to go to the cinema. Now we buy the DVDs. We used to watch the TV. Now we buy the DVDs. The current area of growth being examined to death is the idea of making things that were once one-offs into collectibles. And some people will buy ten copies of the same Q magazine if it is released with ten different cover pictures. Fewer people than ever use the library these days; they buy their own copy of the book.

But if we all stop shopping for everything except what we need then the loss of jobs will be catastrophic. We do need to keep the merry-go-round merry. It will slow though. Sure to, eventually.

Could a business still get an edge if it makes the ultimate green sacrifice - only selling necessaries? Maybe they could even offer on top of that to recycle the things they replace. You could call the chain 'ploughshares.' I wonder how many would get the joke?

This thought reoccurred on Sunday evening when I used Dr James Allen Francis' 1926 poem One Solitary Life in a sermon:

He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

Then for three years
He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never travelled two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
One usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three
When the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies.
And went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross
Between two thieves.
While he was dying,
His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on Earth.
When he was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone,
And today he is the central figure
Of the human race,
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliaments that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
Put together have not affected
The life of man on Earth
As much as that

One Solitary Life.

It puts things into a bit of perspective and I ask myself now, what do I need? Probably to read Matthew 6:25-34, slightly slower than usual.

1 comment:

fotofill said...

I agree with you 100% on this one. I have been obsessed with i-pods, PC’s, CD’s, VD’s, Mini-discs, TV’s and Phillips 2000.

My mother has the same mentality for keeping things. Even if something is rusty and is falling to bits as long as it can be used for something then it should be kept. “You spend your money like water…” She said to me last night. I think she got her metaphors slightly mixed up but I knew what she meant.

I have always loved the simplicity of the 1940’s. If you didn’t have it then tough. If you have you keep it, mend it and hand it on.

My living room has many bits of furniture from this era. Mainly all my grandmothers. I have no reason to replace them or get “new ones”. My brother bought a new dresser costing thousands. I kept my grandmothers as he wasn’t interesting in “old things.”