Ownership Is A Myth

Everything you know is false; all of the assumptions you have ever made were done in some vain sense that you have a firm and concrete grasp on the world. In short, lies are maximally abundant.

We do not need new things; we do not need to throw away many of our old things. There are probably as many things as we need already in existence on this planet, if we would just wake up.

Everything is a product of, and a precursor to, consequence. That new TV we bought cost a lot of money, but it also took a lot of resources to manufacture. It took more resources to package up and to send our way. How much of that packaging will be recycled? What did we do with the old TV? Is it cluttering up a spare room, pretending to be useful? Did it go in the bin, unthought-of, along with all of yesterday’s leftovers? Did we give it away to someone who may have benefitted from it?

We were fortunate to be born in to an era of relative prosperity. We were unfortunate to be born in to an era of almost complete ignorance of the environmental and social consequences our actions would inevitably cause. We were fortunate to be born; unfortunate to be greedy and profligate.

We throw too much away. Genuinely, that piece of furniture you have no use for any more: what do you do with it? Do you smash it up and try to squeeze it in to a bin – a bin already jammed with all of the unnecessary crap and its packaging you have thrown away this week. Do you leave it out in the back lane, and hope that some passing ne’er-do-well absconds with it? That actually often works.

There are now myriad Facebook groups dedicated to the notion that someone might want or need something which someone else has and doesn’t need. This comes in to conflict with our own internal definitions of success, but sharing things makes us all feel better. Trust me, I have felt it before.

When we, my little family of four humans and two dogs, have been doing things in our house, it has inevitably left us with a little pile of stuff which we – in our hearts of hearts – know that we do not need, but which we know that there is nothing wrong with. The adults cannot bring ourselves to throw out anything which is perfectly usable, and the children want to keep everything, so that they can craft with it. And so create more rubbish, but in future. The solution is to pass it all on.

Insisting on brand new items for anything is a waste of resources. If you’re going to be using it for a decade or more, buy new. If it is going to be making contact with you in an intimate bodily area, buy new. Otherwise, why on earth bother? The problem is that this is all mingled up with our sensations of status and of expectation. If we’re using a second hand thingumybobbins then we are poor, yes?

No, we are environmentally conscious. Passing something on that we no longer need, so that it can be used by other people is socially conscious; they may make better use of it than you have done. Buying new for the mere sake of buying new, and appearing to be doing what the done thing is is morally unconscious. It is the mindless doing of something simply because we have never thought.

As a society we make fun of the people who get everything they need from skips and from junk yards, and that is our cross to bear. The problem is that everything they remove from the rubbish chain is one less thing weighing us down as a rubbish-creating species. As the only rubbish creating species. We are drowning in our own filth, and we are producing more at an exponential rate.

We understand all of this to be true for houses: we are temporary custodians of the bricks and mortar which surrounds us. We would not think of knocking down a house and starting again every five minutes. We look for an existing home we want to live in – it may be centuries old: that’s fine – and then we attempt to buy or rent it. When we don’t want to live there any more, we repeat the process, selling / vacating the house we’d been living in. The person moving in to the place we once called home may touch it up a bit here or there, but they do not feel like it is not absolutely theirs.

The same pretty much applies to cars. At the top, some companies, and unutterable wankers, only buy new cars. They sell them not long after, and normal people buy them. They keep them a lot longer, because they grow attached to them, and because it takes time and money to sell them and to buy a new one. Eventually they sell them on, and they go to a lesser market of people who need cheaper cars. They go down and down, sale after sale, until they cannot be used any longer. That makes perfect sense to me, and it is a market driven process, keeping every level served equally.

The primary usage case is children’s clothing. I have two small children, and I was shocked when the first one was born just how many items of used clothing we had dumped upon us by family, friends, and just general passers-by. And then I witnessed how fast they grew out of them. Mind-boggling.

Not the growing in to clothing; that’s all part of the panic and the multi-coloured chaos of getting up and ready and out in the morning. It was how frequently a much loved item was thrown against the wall in a fit of “Oh well, that’s that done. Pass it on.” And pass it on we did: to her little sister.

Children’s clothes are not possessions; not theirs and not ours: they are temporary coverings which pass through their spheres of influence, just like a house is to a family. I frown to myself when I see a baby in shoes, or a toddler in some gratuitously designer clothing: Those things will either be thrown away with barely any use, or have cost a fortune for barely any use. Both seem an absolute waste.

If we could care less about our status in the eyes of the venal watchers; if we could realise more what is out there for us to have for free; we could use a lot less stuff, and cause an awful lot less waste.