One day I was out with my then baby son and it started to rain. It was quite cold, so with parental neurosis in full force and to avoid him getting certain pneumonia, I ducked into a the nearest shop and bought an umbrella for the princely sum of £5. The ‘catastrophe’ was avoided and my son and I stayed dry for the next half hour until the bus came to take us home.
A few days later I went out for a drink with friends and decided to take my newly purchased brolly with me. It began to piss it down but the three pints in my belly and umbrella in my hand put a smug smile across my face, I would at least walk home shielded from the rain. Stepping out of the pub, a huge gust of wind wiped the smile from my face and my umbrella inside out. The wind caught it at such an angle, most of the stretchers snapped and a good section of the fabric was torn. It was instantly landfill. I tried the best I could to shield myself from the rain with its remains but I may as well have just held a single hand above my head for all the good it did. In my frustration I tossed it in a nearby bin an marched home getting soaked to the bone.
This piece of shit umbrella got me thinking. If it rains say, 150 days per year and the £5 umbrella lasts for a day, it would cost me £750 a year to keep myself dry! Surely a false economy. Well a false economy for me but perhaps not for the world economy. The shit umbrella is sold in a shop selling other shit things. Each shitty thing sold goes to pay someone to run the shop, someone to deliver the shit to the shop, warehouse staff to store the shit, containers to ship the shit, factory’s to make the shit and mines and drills to get the materials to make all the many, many shitty things. To keep the price down every step of the shitty way a saving has to be made. This could be bad working conditions, long hours, immigrant staff, tax dodges, environmental destruction or just good old fashion low wages. Of course not everyone suffers, shit companies have shareholders and MD’s, who’s pay packets are no doubt far from shitty.
We complicity live in a society that allows us to buy such shit as it gives the illusion of choice. However, if that choice were to be removed and the shitty shop had not been there, I could have walked around the corner and found an umbrella for say, £20. It would be four times the price of the original but would have lasted me years and not days. This shit not only creates a huge amount of human misery and untold environmental damage it also doesn’t in fulfil what it is designed to do! What if life-jackets didn’t really keep you afloat or cheap climbing rope snapped half way up a mountain? Making shit to sell to add to human misery doesn’t really seem like progress to me and going without can really be the best option. Next time it rains I’m going to sit it out in a cafe. It doesn’t matter if I’m served a shit cup of tea, I’ll still drink it and I’ll still be warm and dry for half a shitty hour.