This post is part of my 30 blogs in 30 days series. More details here.
Consumer society turns households into a vessels for trash on the path to their destiny. Mass-production is just an engine to produce trash. Our oceans are just warehouses for trash, where it is becoming larger than most islands. Our idols’ sole job right now is to sell us trash.
Last year, in the Before-Times known as 2019, I had to move a house all on my own. The circumstances of my predicament aside, when I was handing the keys over, the landlord asked me if I wanted to take the stuff in the drawer. I said no. I was sick of taking care of stuff. My family and I had accrued so much ‘stuff’ that it was impossible to deal with for a single human being. Most of it I did not remember purchasing.
In between all the single-purpose kitchen tools, the 13 styles of glass, the unfathomable number of cables and tiny electronics, and the papers, I developed a distaste for ‘stuff’. I would never use most of it. Why did I accrue so much stuff? The term used is ‘consumer’, sometime pejoratively, seems inaccurate. Most ‘stuff’ we buy we never consume. It stays in a cupboard, or a drawer or a shelf, until resold to be put in somebody else’s shelf, or cupboard or drawer, or thrown away. Most of the ‘stuff’ you buy is Trash-in-Waiting.
Trash is History
Most human achievements have faded to time. Maybe a raiding party during war destroyed/razed your city to the ground. Maybe famine or disease or a natural disaster caused your civilization to crumble. What survives is the refuse. The pots, pans, the cave paintings, and even the human remains left behind are the unimportant stuff. Trash is the default of history.
It continues to this day. Our oceans our filled with trash. Long after we are gone, future humans will discover our only artifacts; trash floating in the oceans. They will dig archaeological sites and discover that they were built upon landfills trash. They would think we worshiped plastic bottles and aluminium cans. They will see us as primitives all to consumed to be consumer.
The Garbage Machine
I would defer to a better writer, Bertrand Russell:
Suppose that at a given moment a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins as before. But the world does not need twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work.
Most mass production is producing trash, to be sold and resold and dropshipped to people who have no use for it, and do not want it until advertisement tells them they need it. TV, the centerpiece of modern culture, exclusively produces visual trash so you watch advertisements and buy more trash. Modern economies can not survive if you don’t buy all the trash that you don’t need. People will lose jobs, businesses will shut down, governments will stop getting tax revenues to function properly(as is happening during the current COVID19 pandemic) if we don’t buy all the trash.
In the early days of the Internet, we were all freaks and geeks and degenerates. Everyone was still enamored with punk era ideals. If you tried to make money by shilling for a someone, you were a sell-out. Making ‘content’, as it is called now, that appealed to a wider, more commercial audience black-listed you on the internet. Things have changed.
Now, not only are people willing sell trash, but it is a badge of honor. So much so that people pretend to be sponsored. These are our idols. They spend all day trying to prove how authentic they are in service of selling you trash. They are called ‘influencer’ because that is their job; to convince you to accumulate yet more trash. You are supposed to need that makeup pallet, that iPhone, that laptop and that video game, and they are supposed to convince you.
Servicing The Overlord
You need a high-paying job to afford all the trash. You need a big house to keep it. You need a big enough car to transport it, and you need a pay a lot in taxes so someone would take it away when you realize it is, in fact, trash. Trash rules your life. You do not produce trash. Your life is merely in service of it.
You also need a conscience to know when to recycle trash and when to throw it away. Of course, chances are it will end up in landfill. A few years ago, China stopped accepting world’s recycling. Trash processing companies could not handle the volume. Every government that sold recycling as a conscionable solution to the trash problem has since been scrambling to find a solution. It was never really a ‘solution’. It was a band-aid. Nobody will take it now.
We may never be able get rid of it. It may, however, devour us all.