I’m going to start a series of posts on my observations of our consumer culture. I’m trying to get a handle on my own desires, fairly judge the norm around me and hopefully offer some new insights or at least old insights into how should we respond. These posts aren’t directed to anyone but are usually inspired by certain conversations and circumstances over the past few years. More specifically most of these conversations are inspired by conversations about something that I am going to buy or the person I am talking to is going to buy.
I find that we have these catch sentences or phrases now that we use to justify our purchases. For the most part, it is these catch phrases that I’m going to attack and try to figure out what lies beneath them. The first one is this idea of buying something that lasts. I think this is probably the biggest one out there, that when someone is looking to buy something, they are looking to buy something that is going to last a really long time. Or maybe you hear that type of thing with instead of time language, we use phrases like “good quality.” We do it with almost everything: from pairs of shoes, to cars, to houses to our appliances.
The underlying problem with this desire for something that lasts is very, very few people ever use stuff until its done lasting. After a number of years, we are usually upgrading what we had to the newest or latest model. After a few years, we want something more reliable or something else that is going to last. When is the last time you saw someone buy a nice car because it would last, and then they actually drove the thing into the ground and used it until it was done lasting? We in the West don’t even know what it means for something to be done lasting because we are changing and upgrading so quickly.
I don’t think I would take such an issue with the idea of lasting, if we actually used things as long as they lasted for. This isn’t to say that nobody does, but I think that the way our industry works speaks for itself; in general we don’t use things to their full potential. It’s not a bad thing that things are built to last a long time or that we want something that will endure. The problem lies when we use phrases about lasting as a façade for something else. Very few of us are thinking that far into the future that we are planning for our stuff to last twenty years, but we know that if we can convince ourselves and others that what we are buying now will last that long then all of sudden it becomes a better purchase. Maybe we really want it because the style is in, or we just plain want it, but phrases like “I want something that will last,” is one of the best ones you can drop to justify almost any purchase.
So really, I don’t think things that last are bad things. We should be weary though of using it as our prime excuses for buying one option over the other. If you are only really going to use it for five years and then throw it out, or sell it for a ridiculously low price, don’t play the game with yourself that you are picking that option because its going to last. Sometimes we probably don’t even need to buy at all some stuff but because it “will last” we convince ourselves it’s a good purchase. We need to be honest with ourselves and not let this idea of longevity create desires to consume more or be the pushing force in making our decisions especially when we probably won’t have any use for it way before it ever finishes its course.