Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Culture of Waste

There's a scene in Scent of a Woman where Frank (Pacino) is having a suit tailored and he offers to have a suit fitted for his companion for the weekend, Charles (O'Donnell). Charles tries to reject the offer, but Frank insists. He tells Charles that after the weekend was over, he could simply give the clothes away if he didn't want them.

This idea of giving the clothes away suggests that clothes can endure--that even after being worn, they retain some value. Clothing is meant to be worn many times, and, if made properly, can last multiple generations. I think this idea is lost somewhat in today's current cultural climate. We're constantly craving something new, and we quickly discard that which is old--last season's clothes, the last generation iPod, etc. We're very quick to look down upon things that aren't the latest and even more so on things that are "used." I call it the Culture of Waste--a societal aversion to reuse. We waste water, energy, food, time, and talent. We consume at a rate that we can't sustain. We're trained to constantly buy new shit even when we don't need it. The result: a marketplace that sells products that aren't made to last, but only to satisfy our undying hunger to consume. We sell shitty cars, computers that break too easily, and food that really isn't food at all. We've become perfect consumers where all we do, literally, is consume. We forget about everything else, important things like civic responsibility, community, and even our own health. (I keep saying "we" because I'm a guilty party).

So, let's start demanding better products, and by products I mean everything from vegetables to retail goods to infrastructure. Better clothes, better toys, better food, and better cities. Let's stop wasting so much of our resources, and not because we're giving in to some tree-hugging liberalism, but because we're humans living in a civilized society and we deserve better.

Psuedo-related: For further multimedia fun with the idea of "better," check out this speech.

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