Material culture, considered (harmful?)

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Good things to know, but I hope the book goes beyond mere awareness.


Folks need the ABC’s of how to de-crapify their lives. Badly.


My wife and I have gotten to the point where almost every gift we give one another has to run through the filter of “will it require dusting”?


About 75% of the gifts I give people are consumable or will wear out: food, shirts, etc. The rest are relevant to their interests and I’m pretty sure will be used or used up.


I always love a good PKD reference!

AKA Capitalism and Imperialism work in concert.


Hey, that apostrophe should have a backtick! Also, we say a spell over the crap and mix it with graphene to make L-ultrahubbacrap, which has the property of a consistent ontology.

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I have a feeling that “material culture” is going out of fashion in some places. It used to be that only the rich and powerful could buy things and people wanted to imitate the rich and powerful.
Nowadays, at least in European cities, the rich and powerful like to pretend that they don’t need to own anything. Probably because of the cost of housing, having largely empty rooms becomes a sign of status. The rich also do not like to display brand names. Understatement is fashionable.
At the same time, the poor can now afford the bottom lines of known brands. Or maybe they buy counterfeit goods, I don’t know. Not the very poor, maybe, but the population who lives in high-rise buildings in not so safe suburbs tend to still believe that flashy clothes, cars and a big-screen TV are in.

The situation may be different in America, I don’t know.


It’s hard to get an objective handle on this. Everyone consumes food and clothes and transportation and housing, and it’s very difficult to evaluate the impact of our various choices proportionally. If someone lives in a small apartment and constantly throws out old phones and TVs, that looks very wasteful, and ties in to emotive Nat Geo covers showing mountains of e-waste. But someone who lives in a tastefully Spartan house might generate more waste in a single renovation than that other person would produce in ten lifetimes.

I always think about plastic shopping bags. It’s definitely better not to discard mountains of shopping bags, and we can change that regardless of anything else. However, the attention on that one thing is so disproportionate that millions of people end up thinking “I always use cotton shopping bags, so it’s OK if I replace my car a year or two early”.

I guess I’m saying, it’s hazardous to view ecology through the lens of lifestyle, because it wildly distorts the costs and benefits of things. If you wanted to give out letter grades for ecology, I suspect the best metric will always be to ignore specific choices and just look at income. Because ultimately, every dollar spent causes energy and resources to be consumed, and vice versa. But that needn’t be a depressing thing; it just means that you should focus 99% of your environmental concern on how you vote (or how you use your political power) rather than which brand of detergent you use.


A big part of the modern economy depends on consumerism. If that part is taken out then it becomes obvious that probably a majority of our economic activity is superfluous and so are the jobs that such consumption creates. The scary part of that fact is under capitalism it means the poor will get much poorer if consumption reduces or stops. So I think people need to aware of that fact and plan for it. Basically, just get ready to form your own mutual aid societies until enough people get clued in that maybe we don’t need capitalism (and consumerism) after all.


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