Wednesday 23rd December
We are living in a time of unparalleled materialism; as a child I would never have believed just how much stuff we would all possess. And yet at the same time everything is disposable. I can remember as a child we used to have a green plastic jug in the corner of the bath, for rinsing shampoo out of our hair. As a young man visiting my parents they still had that green jug, and for all I know it may still be lurking in their attic. But now we change almost everything all the time with little thought. People buying a new house often buy a new three-piece suite at the same time, oh and new bedroom furniture too while we are in IKEA. It has a lot to do with the growth of credit and more disposable income generally – and yet how we squeal when anyone suggests raising taxes. But it also has to do with our values. It seems that the more we have the less we value anything; it is all ultimately disposable and therefore has little real value.
In France I went the other day to the Vestiare. This is a mammoth charity clothes recycling project run by volunteers. There are rooms and rooms full of clothes, all neatly hung on coat-hangers or folded. They have all been donated, washed and ironed and are on sale. I bought two perfectly good and almost brand new jumpers and a denim jacket; price 3 euros the lot. And I have more clothes than I have ever owned or really want at all. But when asked for suggestions for Christmas or Birthday I automatically ask for a shirt, and get them. I can remember having just a few shirts and only a couple of pairs of jeans; in fact I used to constantly patch and re-patch my jeans, often scouring jumble sales for old denim. I wish I still had those jeans, and my Afghan coat which I wore until it literally split at the sleeves and was almost in tatters; I loved them. Now I have jackets galore and at least three suits I will never wear again. When our washing machine or telly breaks it easier to buy a new one than try and get them fixed, and part of that is that we really want to upgrade anyway; HD, 3D and curved screen, and plasma screens – when all we watch is rubbish anyway.
And this in a world where people are starving and without even the basics of life and the Daily Mail lambasts the Government for Overseas Spending and everyone moans about how hard up they are. It seems that the more we have the less we value what we have, yet it doesn’t stop us wanting more.