Saturday, March 18, 2006

Freda Fickle

An aphorism that has stayed in my head for a long time is "ending is better than mending", from the book Brave New World. It's a philosophy that is essential for modern capitalism to work - we need to keep money circulating by buying new stuff all the time. And it's something that seems to be speeding up. The phrase "disposable culture" has never been more apt than it is in this weirdly nameless decade. On the tv at the moment is an advert for some new Flash wipes - once you've used them to clean your work surfaces, you just throw 'em in the bin. Forget buying a dishcloth and rinsing it out to use again once it's dirty. We buy clothes that we're only expected to wear a few times before chucking them away. Advances in technology also make this inevitable in a way. About 5 years ago I started to replace my collection of videos with DVDs, in some cases rebuying the same film, just because it would take up less space in the house (I don't care about better quality pictures or DVD extras or commentaries to be honest). In a few years time, I guess I'll be throwing out the DVDs because the films will be in HDTV or holographs or get zapped into your brain and let you partcipate in them.

Our celebrities are increasingly disposable - reality tv makes stars out of people and then a week later they're forgotten. Even in our personal lives, sites like gaydar turn sex into a conveyor belt similar to the one full of prizes at the end of Larry Grayson's Generation Game. If a relationship doesn't work, get a quick divorce and move on to the next one. Ironically, the one area where we are encouraged to develop lasting relationships is with companies and businesses rather than people - so many shops have Reward or Loyalty schemes these days, where if you shop exclusively at one place for a whole year, you get a million points, which translates into a bottle of Timotei shampoo for dry/damaged hair or something.

Our culture seems to be developing so quickly, that at the same time I often feel that collectively we are losing a sense of the past and a sense of permanance or stability. Old things have a lesser value than new things, and it takes so little time now for something to become "old". Phrases like "That's gonna get real old, real fast!" permeate modern life. However, a lot of new things are simply old ideas, repackaged with a shiny gloss on them - we often essentially pay for the same thing over and over again, and that's the trick of capitalism. Not to offer us anything that's really new, but to trick us into buying the same old rubbish forever.


Dessie said...

That's an interesting point, about the loyalty cards.

However, one could argue that progress is improvement...? Flash wipes in the bin would be more hygenic than a dishcloth full of germs. And since we all want to live longer (goodness knows why) these sorts of things are "essential".

Personally, I've become quite fond of decadence ;)

Lubin said...

I've always been a bit wary of getting rid of too many germs. We need a certain amount of dirt in our lives so we can develop intolerances to them. Or is that just me being lazy!

Dessie said...

I think that's more a childhood thing. The older you get the less you want of them. I for one am sick of colds ;)

Lost Boy said...

I'm all for new stuff, but when you're just expected to throw something away because it's broken and nobody can be bothered to fix it, it itks me. My camera has devloped a small fault, is just over a year old, and I can't find anyone in LONDON willing to even try and fix it. I've been advised to 'get a new one' (at £250+) or 'send it back to the maunfacturer' (in Japan?). TSK.

Dessie said...

Yeah but new stuff is shiny and smells nice. You can't take it with you, and you're a long time dead!

Embrace your inner capitalist! Become decadent!