Friday, January 14, 2011

Welcome to the Garbagerie...follow the happy feet.

I have always believed that there has to be a way. There has to be a better way, there is, there has to be, surely, some sort of approach. I mean at least until I’m made Emperor of all the land and am placed in a position of absolute power, (with many wise and trusted advisors at my disposal mind you).

There has to be some way some approach to living life that is ‘right’; some small way at whittling down some tiny piece of the Universe into a better thing than it would’ve been otherwise.

My bit.

Where shall I begin with this?
It’s a difficult thing to explain to anyone who wasn’t around for it, but back 30 years ago, when I were a gorsoon, the whole idea of Nuclear War really felt like a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’. There was 'two tribes' and 'If the russians love their children too' films like:'the day after', 'when the wind blows' and 'bomb threads'.

It weighed heavier on the consciousness of some kids more than others obviously and an interest in Science Fiction didn’t help; so many stories began in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse ('a dog and his boy''mad max''damnation alley') that it started to simply be more or less a given.

And you can see why it was a popular genre -the apocalypse is a great thing for the story maker because you just take the world that you know and the people you know and ask a big ‘what if?’ and take it from there. Pretty cheap to film too, it makes it possible to set your western in a dump.

It's kind of a depressing view to be taking in all the time as a kid though.

While I may have believed in the possibility of global catastrophe as a given; I have still always believed that there had to be a way to avoid it.

The apocalypse hasn’t gone away of course and these days it’s environmental, but it’s still there in fillums and books and comics and what have you, and it’s still inside my head. I believe in it, I suppose, it’s in there deep.

It definitely affects the way that I feel about my bit.

It’s not that honestly think that next week the world as we know it will collapse in some instantaneous natural disaster but, I dunno…all this waste is piling up so quickly. Those photos from space of all the detritus we've left up there over the past 50 years only.... there has always seemed an element of madness to the ‘work-and-buy-and-consume-and-die’ template of life that society in general and television in particular seemed to be telling me was the whole point of existence. And also, it seems to be getting worse.

People talk about raising 'awareness' but back when I was less aware, the problems hadn't become so acute,- for example:

Before I ever realised that i 'ought to'; I used to buy fair-trade sugar.
Grown by farmers who made a decent wage and were not the pawns of enormous multinational corporations exploiting unjust economic arrangements with weaker countries to the point of slavery: it was called ‘Siucra’, and it was made locally and you can’t get it anymore. You can get something in the distinctive purple and white package that’s called ‘Siucra’ but that’s only because enormous multinational corporations exploiting unjust economic arrangements with weaker countries to the point of slavery recognise a trusted brand when they see one. To buy fair-trade sugar now, I have to pay extra, get less and have it shipped from half-way across the world.

There’s a lot of these kind of things, ‘dissappearing world’- old git type complaints really, that I’ve witnessed in my life and continue to witness and that depress me.

The policy of ‘planned obsolesence’ in manufacturing for example seems to me to be an actual intentional crime against the future. It makes absolutely perfect sense economically to create irreparable products with a limited life-span, the fact that this is a shocking waste matters not. The factory needs orders like the body needs food. The waste product is 'the product'. In buying this product the consumer not only hands over their capital but also takes upon themselves responsibility for the waste. There is no reason in the world, from the factory’s point of view, to make a repairable long-lasting machine. It’s counter-productive to the factories aims (and the company's survival) to do so.

Looking after my bit will never change this. I feel that exercising my right as a consumer to choose more sustainable products e.t.c. only turns that desire 'to do the right thing' into a commodity itself.

One example:

Recently, I bought a torch, (I say recently I actually bought it for the Electric Picnic) it was about three times more expensive than a normal torch because it wound up and not only didn’t need batteries but could charge my phone. I don’t get to splash out often on, what was for me, a frivolous ‘boy-toy’ so I was only delighted with meself. It could charge any phone*.
(*Any phone; how? It could charge any phone because all phones charge the same they just have bizarrely different sized and shaped attachments so that you have to buy a different charger for each different type of phone. There is no godly reason for this except economics).

I had splashed out. On a torch, that I couldn’t afford, but that I felt in some way represented my attitude to a society built on constant consumerism.
I needn’t tell you that it took all of ten seconds for someone to point out to me that the many plastic moving parts required to make it work were not manufactured with either longevity or repairs in mind and I had simply been another 'consumer-sucker' fooled into buying a piece of straight-to-bin-tat having been fully convinced that it represented some aspect of my personality and ‘aspired to’ lifestyle.

Looking after your own bit is a lie.

I think that I’m going to have to stop whittling. I think I’m going to have to abandon my own personal feeble attempts at staving off the apocalypse and just accept that actually sorting this stuff is not an individuals job, it’s a governments job, it’s a global governments job. And even if I could magically grant tomorrow to each person a global right to vote for a global government to solve these problems no global population would vote that global government into power.
And if i could, and if they did, global business would not allow it to exist five minutes.

And I thought the idea of nuclear war was depressing.


  1. Apocalypse Now?

    Well, here we are teetering on the edge of the Apocalypse, and i should know, Lord, i've been through a few in my time.

    Cold Wars,comets,suicide cults,super plagues, Y2K and scampi fries, sure, those lads of church of the latter day saints erroneously predicted the apocalypse three times for the last century alone.

    And now 2012, John Cusack, for shame!

  2. Ah, a minor point of order Mr Chairman - it was just "Threads", not "Bomb Threads".

    I recently had a conversation with a young whippersnapper in work (in his mid-twenties) about the horrific nuclear armageddon sword of damocles hanging over all our heads in the early eighties growing up - about how it was the thing that kept 10 year olds awake at night and so on. He was visibly unimpressed - I felt like Uncle Albert trying to explain it to him - "Duwing ve hang on....waiting faw ve waw.....".

    Has there ever been an era in human history when there hasn't been an imminent, impending global scale disaster....? Probably not, but I agree with you - none of them before have ever been scientifically proven and verifiable to a high degree of accuracy in the way that AGW, planned obselescence etc is......

  3. I have no doubt that you are correct, and I have no idea why I called it 'Bomb threads' or even 'The bomb threads' except that I'm sure I was making the same mistake way back when.
    I empathise completely with the 'Uncle Albert' sensation; but, when I was a kid
    (in the 80's)- the 60's was, to me, an ancient historical period, akin to The Restoration or Ancient Greece or something.
    And i suppose that the snotty-nosed-come-latelys of today will in turn become Uncle Alberts and it was ever thus.

    I have wondered if that particular 80's memory, of the imminent '4-minute warning and all will be gone' notion, that I remember, was the true zeitgeist of the time or just the personal feeling of a slightly neurotic child who watched too much telly.

  4. Ah yes, "Threads" (which I have at home if you want to scare the living bejasus out of yourself again) - Waaaay more frightening than the American produced "The Day After" because it did not just the day after, but the day before and up to 20 years after.

    Shiver, mutant babies scavenging through frozen rock like fields for chunks of sharp rotten potatoes.

    But I digress, you have hit upon a very valid point with your accusation of a crime against the future, one that has been noted in other circles, and even produced a Manifesto:

    The Self Repair Manifesto:

    Peace and Hope