Saturday, March 12, 2011

Value and Happiness

I had such a wonderful and provocative response from my friend Rama to my last post and I will attempt to answer her questions in today's post.  Basically she asks why I continue to belittle imports from China and not just concentrate on my art, saying that there is a market for both.  I agree with her 100%!!!  The people who buy imports are not my customers and for the most part, my customers do not buy imports.  So there should not be a problem there at all.  But I see two problems and they stay with me.
     The first is interesting actually.  Why do we buy things to make us happy?  I have spent most of my working life creating additions onto houses to accommodate more stuff.  I have seen four car garages so full of stuff that you can't even walk in them let alone park a car.  We don't use this stuff.  We accumulate it and store it, have garage sales and haul it to the dump.  It seems in my experience that the wealthier people buy less stuff than those with less money, but they buy things of better value.  Maybe that is a trap of poverty, always spending money on junk and never saving enough to buy something that might last.
     Food, shelter and medicine, these are things people need and for most of the world people spend every waking moment to secure these essentials and they are not given the luxury of wondering what would make them happy.  For others, "happiness" become a vessel to be filled.  We get the attitude of "make me happy"
or buying our way to happiness.  I am sceptical of all this consumerism.
     And here is the other thing.  I go to our local "dump", landfill/recycling yard at least three times a week in search of interesting discards, something I can make "art" from and I see what gets thrown away.  These areas are the biggest monuments in a modern city, taking up far more volume than the Empire State Building!
We don't keep things.  When they have lost their allure we toss them and most of us have no clue as to what happens to this stuff after we put in in our trash cans.  Most of it is buried, creating mountains, and covered in plastic, leaching chemicals into the waterways for thousands of years to come.  Buried and forgotten.
The steel is mostly recycled and that is a good thing.  More steel is produced today through recycling than from mining iron ore.  I have seen truckloads of brand new imported steel products, chairs and tables, trellis's
and exercise equipment that have been taken to the dump because of a slight defect, missing one bolt, or a chip in the paint.  From the beginning these are not worth repairing!
        Here is another interesting example of what I am trying to say.  I can buy an American or German grinder, a hand-held machine I use in my shop every day.  This might cost $100 and twice a year I will have to replace the electrical brushes, costing about $5. to keep this machine running in top form. These are repairable machines and will easily last ten years, maybe longer.  Also on the market (and I admit I own some) are cheap Chinese imports costing less than $20.  These will last, maybe, three months and are not repairable.  They are designed to be thrown away.  Which one is cheaper?
      We don't repair anything any more, from grinders to kitchen appliances to televisions and electronics, to Chinese "garden art" and paintings on the wall.  Everything has become for now and when finished it is tossed.  This has become normal.  I think it is all nuts, that is all I am saying.


Clipped Wings said...

Not rich, I do save for quality buying. Usually quality doesn't ever need repairs, just replacement of worn out parts. What we see with waste is this crazy need for much at the cheapest price possible, and cheap muchness doesn't have a long lifespan. China gets lampooned, because even though they do produce quality products, they also produce probably more of that cheap stuff than all of the other countries combined. They certainly have learned the lessons on making the most bucks. When I managed one of the largest gift shops in our state's park system, we attracted large numbers of tour buses that drove us crazy with their spending frenzy. We did this by sticking with the cheap not bad looking crap, instead of the cheap crappy crap...most of it was produced in China, some in Mexico. We learned from experience that quality did not sell, because of course, the price tag was considerably higher. An artist creating hand made pottery out of clay that comes from the state's natural resources has to charge more than a bobble created in china where perhaps the poor individual was paid a mere penny to create. I guess we promoted this slave trade, but it's business, and I liked having a job. We have become a society of disposable products and the waste it creates is shameful. One of the many things that urks me is disposable razors. What a crock! Strickly done so the companies can keep you spending your money over and over on more costly disposible razors that only last so many shaves, than just buying a made-to-last razor and only replacing the blades over and over. And we buy into all of this big time. I still have my metal well made razors, one single edge and one double edged...I've had them for 40 years and they still work fine, and I still just replace the blades. It is so sad how the economy has 'progressed' at our environment's expense, so sad.

rama said...

There is a point in what clipped Wings had to say. We in India and other such countries like us don't believe in just and use and throw business, there is always a person who can repair TV, radio,cars, cycles, scooters, watches, grinders and other such items. There is enough business for him too. It is only the west where this use and throw idea first got its birth, leading to a whole lot of waste products into our environment. It is in the west the ideas like paper napkins and all such nonsense came up. People hardly use handkerchief to wipe the sweat from their face, for everything they have to use only paper, the more fancier the better, in fact I know they have toilet papers that feels like a silk cloth made out of paper. Just think how many trees have to be cut to make so many papers to be used so senselessly. So much of earth's resources is being wasted. But who is to question their habits. Life goes on. People who invented the use and throw culture are now preaching of saving the earth. My husband who is an environmental engineer is helping big apartments save thousands of Rupees per day by recycling their toilet water into clean water which can be used for watering the plants and washing their cars and so on. Just because some countries do not suffer from water shortage doesn't mean they should waste.
The so called advanced countries , want their basic jobs also to be done cheaply from developing countries, and at the same time also crib that their own country men are jobless. Why can't you have the same job done by your own people we cannot understand.

stonepost said...

I would be happy if it were just the West that was to blaim, then at least all the pollution would be in one spot! Regretfully some of the world's worst pollution can be found in Mexico, Russia and China, where they have yet to create laws to protect the environment. We get the pollution Twice! in manufacturing and then when we throw it away! Old televisions with tubes were repairable. The new digital ones are not. It is too funny that we buy "local souveniers" to remind us of our travels that are "made in China" where we probably have never been!

AutumnLeaves said...

I will say that even if I end up buying cheap, I take care of it so it lasts years and years, unlike most of my family members. I am always appalled by that. Michael's favorite phrase everytime he breaks or loses a pair of his readers is "its only a couple of dollars." Hah. To me $15 isn't just a "couple" and if he took care, he'd only have to invest $15 once. Gah!