Do you want to see something that makes me really cross? Say you are flying over a city, about to land, and you fly over this lovely suburb with its trees and houses and backyards. I love thinking about all the families in their houses, living their lives, cooking dinner, yelling at their kids to do their homework, and here I am, flying over their heads. Spooky. This is not the bit that makes me cross.
This is. This is the other bit you fly over on your way to the airport, and this here, these giant, giant warehouses, are full of all the ticky tacky crap that the people in those houses up above (that is, you and me) need, to fill up our houses and backyards and sheds and storage units. And all of this stuff is made in China and brought here on giant cargo ships, and our government feels it is just so important that they get those cargoes of toasters and lamps and flat-pack end tables here in a timely manner, that those cargo ships are allowed to take a short cut through the Great Barrier Reef, because, lordy, what could go wrong? And then all the lamps get packed into giant trucks and trucked through the night on giant freeways, then repacked into giant warehouses so that we can go to Target and buy a $20 lamp to put on our end table, until in a few years it begins to look Not Quite Right, at which time we'll pop it on the curb on hard rubbish day, and go back to Target and buy a new lamp, because, hey, there is always a new lamp. There is, it appears, an inexhaustible supply of new lamps. Each season, at a Target near you.
I have a lamp from Target. It was half price in a clearance sale. I am nothing if not thrifty.
Isn't it quite cute? It is a little bit French provincial, next to the little bit reproduction classical Roman urns, which came from one of those nice shops full of things that look like they came from France. But of course, they both came from China in a giant container on a cargo ship, and my French Provincial decor is a fake pastiche that just hints at how I might really want to be living my life, you know, in a tiny but tasteful manor in a pocket-sized patch of forest with quite a modest moat really, and a walled potager with lots of espaliered fruit trees, and really, just a teeny conservatory with grapes trained under the glass ceiling, and... where was I?
But really, it's all just a big fake. Our tastefully arranged middle-class lives are pre-made for us on factory assembly lines in China.
I have a dream, not a great big noble one, like MLK, but a smaller, more personal one. I don't want to fill my life with stuff that doesn't mean anything real. I don't want to buy stuff that is made out of other stuff that is wrecking the earth in various ways, that travels around in giant cargo ships threatening fragile marine ecosystems, and requiring acres of bug-ugly warehousing to store. I don't want to live in a world that is that ugly. When I moved here to the lovely town of Launceston in beautiful Tasmania eighteen years ago, cows and sheep grazed around the airport. Now the paddocks around the airport are an industrial estate with no actual manufacturing, just giant warehouses, full of lamps, presumably.
What I want is a life where, if I feel I need a lamp, I can a) find or buy one of the millions of lamps already in existence that have been tossed aside in the quest for a more hipster lamp, or b) find an actual craftsperson who can make me the most beautiful lamp I and they can imagine, and I will save up for a whole year for that lamp, and will treasure it forever and pass it down to my children and their children. Or maybe I could c) make one myself. Most unlikely.
I am beginning to see that 'thrifty' is not buying trinkets at half price that are cheap for me, but really cost the earth. 'Thrifty' is making the very most of what I have, being careful with the good things the earth has given us, not being greedy.
The things on that end table that have actual meaning to me are the little glass vase, chosen by one of Posy's good buddies from an op shop for her 5th birthday, and the ceramic pot pourri bowl, made by hand in the highlands of New Guinea, where I grew up, and given to me by my mum.
These are my stories. Reproduction classical Roman urns from China? Not so much. I am thinking about the world I want for my kids. It includes meaningful work for creative people, which is all of us. Can I avoid contributing to an economy which wants us all to be automatons during working hours, and mindless consumers in our time off? I'd like to. I expect it will be annoyingly inconvenient. Stay Posted.