This is bonkers

Three things have come together today that have made me have a change of heart about my blog post. I felt that a light hearted, hopefully amusing post was due after yesterday’s reflections on death but I’m sorry it will have to wait.

The first of the three items was the announcement from Oxfam this morning that it won’t be long before 1% of the world’s population will own more than 50% of all the wealth. That is such a sad indictment on how the world is developing and it seems that it is an ongoing trend, which is even more depressing.

Secondly, my cycling and blogging friend James uploaded a monster post today all about the terrible state that we seem to have got ourselves into and the difficulty of trying to turn back the tide of self-destruction that threatens to overwhelm us.

James’ blog was all about global causes and effects but my own experience today, the third thing, involved what goes on right in our own back yard and it brought home to me what a terribly mixed up world we live in. As I drove home I was trying to think of an eloquent way to describe what I saw today but in the end I decided ‘bonkers’ did the job better than anything.

I spent the day at a re-cycling charity where they reclaim and refurbish all manner of household goods to save them from landfill and give them a second life with somebody who might otherwise not be able to afford such luxuries. I say luxuries but really, by today’s western standards, they are really considered to be necessities. I’m talking about furniture, white goods and Personal Computers all of which have been dumped because they have reached the end of their useful life in their owner’s eyes. A better, faster, smaller model has been released which they simply must have.

Image from Trasch.co.uk

Image from Trasch.co.uk

I have no doubt that in the case of the computers they probably aren’t even broken but just considered too slow and not worth spending money on. After all, three years is considered to be the maximum life of a computer these days even though it may actually go on working for ten or more.

As I mentioned the organisation I was working with is a charity and they rely heavily on volunteers to do their refurbishment work. Most of the volunteers I saw weren’t retired people doing something useful with their spare time, they were all younger than forty and I therefor concluded, in most cases, probably out of work. The irony of this wasn’t lost on me. People with no jobs, picking through the cast off goods of those who are wealthy enough to just throw the stuff away because it’s a bit tired and out of date so that it can be sold at a fraction of its true worth to people that are just marginally higher up the wealth ladder than the volunteers that repaired it. As I said, it’s bonkers.

I came away with so many questions buzzing around my head. Why does so much valuable stuff simply get thrown away and how have we reached a state where people think it is acceptable? Why does it take a charity and an army of volunteers to fix the problem when thousands upon thousands of people don’t have a job? Why can’t we legislate to make it financially detrimental for companies to build in obsolescence into their products? Why don’t we value longevity in things anymore?

The answer to most of these questions of course is inevitably about money. Which is where we came in I believe. The seemingly irreversible process of more and more wealth being accumulated by fewer and fewer people leads to a world which, to me, seems to be increasingly bonkers. There is no other word for it.