I decided to write this essay after having read Master +ORC's "modern zen"
essay... where (at the end) he
...did you ever calculate how much those "kleenex" and "Scottex" cost
every year in relation to any old wet piece of cloth?As usual
+ORC touches a VERY strong point here.
Are there any possibilities of escaping the mighty 'push' towards consume that
we are compelled to live in? From (almost) all radios, televisions, websites,
newspapers, magazines and walls of our cities a continuous message is broadcasted and
thrown at us: BUY! CONSUME! SPEND! THROW YOUR MONEY SOMEWHERE!
This 'push is at times so strong that it 'sinks' inside our habitat, and we begin taking for granted and for 'natural' things that should NOT be taken for granted and that are far from 'natural' (like the disappearance of the possibility to drink tap water cited by +ORC in his essay).
In fact we accept the guinea pig wheel where we are compelled to live to the point that we (almost) don't see neither wheel nor cage anymore.
I would like to (try to) propose a nice "reversing strategy" that I have devised. Please take care: most of you will NOT want to follow its various 'approaches', nor will you need it: I believe that the simple fact of knowing that these approaches do exist can be helpful. Besides this is only a start, and I'm a 'dilettante' in this kind of matters, so please be kind-hearted and send your comments/contributions. Well, actually I won't give you my email address... since some of the hints below are slightly (very mildly) illegal, like my supermarket trolley conversion approach ;)
Since this is a heavily "consuming" oriented society, the first 'methodological' problem, for me, was to
decide where, and from who, can we learn how NOT to consume? (or at least how to consume LESS, i.e. only that what I WANT to consume)
There is a simple answer: either from those who FIGHT against consumistic behavior, like +ORC and the few other reality crackers, or, also (and this was my Idea ;) from all those who CANNOT consume (because they are too poor or too socially excluded to be able to do it). Note that this attitude of theirs does not -of course- represent a "choice"... most of these people, given a chance to do it, would immediately buy everything in sight. Yet this does not change things: they still have something to teach us, as you'll see.
So I turned my attention to the socially excluded (and as everyone knows in our societies there are quite a lot of people in such a situation). And I have learned a lot. Here are the first hints and tips for all of you.
Use the city like a JUNGLE
With this I mean to act more or less like people living in a jungle, that is: using the trees and plants that 'lie around' for almost everything.
Take advantage of EVERYTHING that 'lies around' in a big city: from working emergence telephones inside malls, parkings, empty public offices and lifts (great for calling/browsing/ordering around without the possibility of being tracked) to working electricity sockets (almost everywhere, once you look for them ;) for plugging your portable (or else) knowing that you will not pay a cent.
Let's take a beautiful example taken from the life necessities of poor European city-dwellers (and swatters): supermarket trolleys conversion.
There are many 'forms' of supermarket trolleys and they can all be used, among many other purposes, for instance as very robust children gear
Some of them (the 'deep'
ones commonly used in the great malls: 1m20 to 1m40 length for 60 cm width and 60 cm depth) can be turned into perfect, basketlike, infant
beds, of course after having transformed them -(like jungle plants ;) i.e. after having had them well
cleaned and padded inside with nice
backrests and mattress pad supports;
Others (the 'flat' ones used for instance for the 'bricolage' DIY-malls, same surface but almost no depth, and the trolley main plane much higher) can be converted into beautiful "baby bath" trays surfaces where you will change your baby nappies at ease. (The lower plane being ideal as pampers repository ;)
I'm speaking VERY seriously: just compare! Those trolleys will be FAR more solid and useful (among other things they have wheels ;) in your bathroom than the stupid, dangerously wacky and pretty expensive 'dedicated' ones (in plastic and not in metal, mostly ;) that you'll find 'on offer' in the baby department of your mall.
Last but not least they are completely free and you'll be able, using at home, at ease, a simple screwdriver, to recuperate even the small change that you had to put inside the trolley at the parking ;)
As I said, the purposes for supermarket trolleys are manifold: in the room where you keep your washing machines you can have as many metal basket as you need to sort out or hang out to dry your clothes; in your library you can keep many 'small' trolleys (after having taken off the useless parts with wrenches and pliers) as shelves; and the 'basements' (with the four wheels) of the trolleys can be used (this trick comes from jobless students in Zürich) to install and fix on them beautiful leather bucket seats, for your living room, that you can buy for next to nothing in the car scrapyards... a couple of beautiful leather bucket seats for an old Jaguar for the price of a couple of pizzas. Mount them on two tough supermarket trolley basements, clean everything and you have two splendid chairs for your lounge ;)
This brings us to those splendid places that are the scrapyards... for instance for your furniture. We have already seen the 'armchair' example, yet -even better- the
leather bankets taken from the rear axles of big expensive (and after 5 to 7 years already 'wreckaged' ;) cars make for instance
In general a "consume oriented" society like the one we live into DOES NOT favor recycling or re-utilization of goods. The accent is always on throwing away, never on reusing products, for obvious commercial reasons.
The 'institutional' recycling plans, like the compelled sorting of glass and plastic from food-rests common in Germany, are obviously a farce used only in order to throw onto the consumers (in order to scrap some extra-gains) some of the work that could have been spared from the beginning if the packaging industries would not have used, say, half a kilo plastic and paper to package a single toy.
Therefore in a scrapyard you will be able -for instance- to buy (or simply to strip off) screws, lamps and electric cables for next to nothing whenever you need them, but there is MUCH more there for you: think at car-radios. A (very) good (used) car-radio, with loudspeakers, antennae and cables, can be easily installed in any room of your apartment (a small 220-12 volt converter will do the job) and will work MUCH better than any (cheap) Hi-Fi for one tenth of the price.
A first conclusion
In the urban jungle we live in, autos are one of the most common 'raw material'. In the consum oriented society we live in, shopping trolleys are among the most 'ubiquitous' (and easy to capture) 'wild game' that we can 'tame' for our purposes.
Back to the cast aside
Back to our 'field observation' of the socially cast asides, what do they buy? What can we learn?
Note: this is only a 'first and provisorial' list of subjects, hints and tricks that in my opinion deserve to be deepened. I hope, publishing this, to stimolate the discussion of this kind of things on fravia's site, and I will complete/correct/modify this list as I will feel fit in the next months.
Contrary to my first theorethical approach ("learn how NOT TO CONSUME from people that CANNOT consume") the consume habits of poor and cast aside people are unfortunately terribly ineffective. In fact they seem to spare on 'expensive' products only to fall prey of the most foolish bogus 'special offers'. So in many case, unhappyly, their behavior cannot be used to learn much... what should you learn from instance from people that live crammed with children and relatives inside incredibly small apartments and yet keep a whole room totally unused as 'parade' living room, often still with plastic sheets on the useless and never used forniture? What should you learn from people that prefer to buy a (relatively very expensive) box of frozen tasteless "fishsticks" for their kids instead of preparing a (much more economical and tasty) real fish for them?
You can probably learn more studying the 'gastronomical' approaches (and tricks) of the poor people of 50-60 years ago, say your grand-pa ;)
See, they were not yet "advertisement lobotomized", like we are, and instead of buying (and throwing away or wasting) terribly expensive frozen tasteless crap, they KNEW how to use remainders and scraps in order to cook very tasty meals. So in this case there is quite a lot to learn from old recipes and our grand-mas: they lived in a not so terrybly 'pushed' society, when it still made sense to know how to choose ALL PARTS of meat for instance (how many among you know how to stew meat bones?), or when to buy which fruits and vegetables (how many among you know this?), or how to prepare OTHER complete (and tasty) meals with the rests of the previous one (all those scraps that most of you probably throw in the garbage when you are finished... ).
This said, some basic global approaches can be
valuable: one kilo bananas cost the SAME as two small tubes of smarties... a good
meat steak costs the same as a
Mars bar, a good beer costs the same as a silly lemonade. So the big
question is: why do we buy smarties, mars bars and coke? How can we AVOID it? Obviously the problem is
the 'conditioning' that has a grip on us even if we don't notice it.
Let's extrapolate a little: a good idea in general would to avoid buying anything you did not wrote down on a list BEFORE entering a supermarket or mall, and nobody in his right mind would write on a list 'buy smarties' ;)
1) No matter what you see, no matter the price or discounts: NEVER buy ANYTHING you did not wrote on your list before. See +ORC's essay on the supermarket tricks to understand why this will enable you to save quite a lot.
As 'emergency' measure, always stop at the end of a 'supermarket journey' and EMPTY your trolley of everything you actually DID put inside (without noticing it ?) notwithstanding point 1.
2) More generally take the habit to AVOID carrying with you any money at all. Keep a big note folded in your wallet, just in case something happens that requires it, and a good book (downloaded from the Web for free) in your pocket. Watch it! Please understand me correctly! I'm NOT saying you should be a sort of 'nut stoical type', that never buys anything at all, suffers hunger or such stupidities... I'm just saying you should use some sound tricks to avoid buying all things YOU DO NOT REALLY WANT TO BUY. And that this apparently simple performance is on the countrary VERY difficult in a society bombarded by very powerful advertisement tricks and conditioning patterns. So I'm just suggesting a trick that I have found very useful myself when strolling around my city. If you want to drink your glass of champagne by all means carry THAT money with you, carry with you whatever you need to buy whatever you REALLY fancy, but be careful: a working credit card in a good bookshop can quickly cost you money you originally DID NOT WANT to give away.
3) NEVER follow 'trends' or 'modes', these "consum-whips for slaves" according to +ORC. If all adolescents are compelled -say- to wear shoes with huge heels, you may be sure that you will find very good shoes (actually mostly more esthetically appealing as well) if you DO NOT follow the (slave-oriented) modes, but only your own -let's hope good- taste ;)
"Spice girls" music modes and similar industrially chewed artifacts for completely baloney slaves can drop dead as well, cela va sans dire.
4) Always profit -shamelessly- from the more 'wasteful' aspects of the consum society. If a great mall (say Ikea) offers pencils for free, take all of them home, if a supermarket offers you free soap, or beer or cheese packages, take as much as you can and like, until they COMPEL you to stop, ignoring completely -of course- any related 'bargain offers',. This is valid as well for ALL mail offers and special presents that you can keep WITHOUT having to buy the product they are related to. I know that this may seem a little silly, but it won't seem silly any more once you have for instance collected, as I have done in 1997, 23 (twenty-three ;) pocket calculators from the Reader's Digest, great for Christmas presents, for instance, another socially compelled (and tragic) 'consument orgy' periode, where you for sure better stay home in order to read some good poetry, instead of going 'shopping' in order to be plundered.
5) Of course, more generally, never do 'what you are told': buy for instance Christmas cakes in January and Easter eggs two weeks after Easter, they will taste the same and cost you one third.
6) Some interesting activities are (still) relatively free, apart web-surfing, which is great fun, many museums, art galleries, sport activities (I mean real sport, sport that you practice, not useless slaves spectacles in TV, of course), cultural activities and, more generally, your social life (if you choose well your friends) are fields where you will be able to get A LOT without 'consuming' anything in a commercial sense. Be careful nevertheless: even something as theoretically consume - remote as mountain paths wandering can be transformed in a consument nightmare by special gore-tex shoes, mountain pathfinder gear, extra-light sack and whatever the clever slave-masters have devised in order to transform your quiet wandering among hills in a shopping parade!
7) Choose wisely the places where you dwell, eat, hang around: let's make an example: Every city I know of has 'Bistrot' or 'Weinstuben' or 'Osterie' or whatever where you can enjoy LIFE for next to nothing... Why on earth, if not due to peer pressure and advertisement lobotomisation, should anyone in his right mind eat a MacDonald? Mostly it is NOT cheap, (compared with local alternatives) it is NOT tasty, neither well-cooked (eating salami on an old newspaper seems to me MUCH more elegant than eating a MacBurger inside its awful plastic box) nor even "clean"! (as anyone that has worked for Macdonald can testify).
8) And yes, Scottex and Kleenex are of course a NO NO article... that's a very good teaching by +ORC, as strange as it may seem to some readers: an old wet piece of cloth will do the job quite fine ;)
Maxine+ (c) 1998 Maxine+All rights reversed