Saturday, 1 September 2007

Dead weight

"That's lovely, but do you really need it, little man?" my grandmother would say as I showed off the latest acquisition I had made with my pocket money. I would always reply "Come on grandma, the war has been over for decades!" (The second world war and the resulting economic slump also had a profound influence on the psyche of the war generation in South Africa.)

Yesterday, I spent some of my "pocket money" on a new wallet - the previous one having worn out. When I got home I took the contents from the old one to sift out those things I do not need or use. I was dumbfounded by how much dead weight I carry in the form of various customer cards. Every day I haul around this useless plastic due to unrealistic financial incentives. After all, my fiftieth loaf of bread is free! I could not think of one time I have profited from this. Away with this, I say!

Of course, dead weight is not only found in our wallets. Our lives and our homes are full of it. And all of this translates to dead trees. I refer here to the earth's finite resources that are being used up for no purpose other than window dressing. I am not suggesting that my new-found refusal to get coaxed into more plastic carrying customer-discount scams will have any significant influence on the environment. However, grandma was much more of a visionary than I realized.

My grandparents lived comfortably but frugally. Nothing was bought without an express purpose and without being absolutely necessary. Their home was not cluttered by dead weight. Before replacing something that had broken, they would first enquire whether it could be repaired. Case in point: long after the advent of autofocus SLR cameras, my grandfather was still shooting with a beautiful old Rolliflex. "There's nothing wrong with it, and besides, the picture quality is far superior."

After all this moralizing I realize that my grandmother would not have bought a new wallet in the first place. She would have had her old one repaired. Shame on me.

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