Sunday, December 10, 2006

Slob Chic.


With steamrolling consumption bearing down, avid anti consumers will do well to live like Henry Thoreau. From Walden we get this gem, “I’d rather sit on a pumpkin and have it to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion”.
Of course, a bit more grace and vivacity than the priggish Concord Curmudgeon makes the run more fun but his basic premises are sound and increasingly essential to ward off encroaching affluenza.
We aren’t likely to be crowded on velvet cushions but the search for pumpkin options well rewards the effort.
.Henry is Slob Chic’s grandpa but it was a common feature of life as recently as the material starved home lives during World War Two when people just made more of their household stuff because they couldn’t buy it due to strict rationing of nearly anything needed for the war effort.
The aesthetic is grounded in enhanced utilitarianism. A free object from the nations bloated avalanche of castoff stuff is MORE valuable than a store bought object sold to serve the same purpose.
Why give Ikea a dime for shelving when the land provides milk crates, produce boxes, wine cases, boards and such in overwhelming abundance?
A wary look at curbside trash will often reward the searcher with all kinds of usable furniture up to and including a couch. Upgrades are always possible and the rejects can finally resume their trek to the landfill Valhalla or recycle rebirth.
The castaway stuff of our complex and demented material is, by itself, unimaginable wealth to impoverished peoples of the Sahel who make most of their usable stuff from sticks and baling wire.
Consider the plastic milk jug. This thing can be by turns a plant pot, a funnel, lamp shade or furnish good stock for guitar picks or any other purpose suggested by need for the plastic.
With a little imagination and appreciation for a materials intrinsic utility potential as it careens through the trash stream, one can eliminate entire categories of costly consumer clutter and its bite on the wallet.
And, when you move, you can always send it back on its journey to the landfill knowing you gave it a temporary reprieve.
And the best part is the reserve snob gloating one can apply to guests. “Hey, check it out, we just tricked this whole dump out and it did'nt cost a dime, have a glass of the great Syrah we bought with the money while we wait for the steak to come out of the broiler.”
There’s the rub. The best way to rein the heartless corporate world is to stop giving them so much money. Here’s a fun hierarchy.
When you need some consumer thing run this string. 1. Can I scrounge it? 2. Is it in a thrift shop, yard sale or second hand source? 3. Can I get it from a small family owned business or wholesaler?
A thorough Thoreau run down this chain may be the only real power of direct choice we can bring to bear on laissez faire run amok.
You may well discover that the number of things you need to feed the mega hogs maw are few and comfortably far between. That, in turn, lets you save more or work less and reduce your exposure to the other side of the merciless laissez faire coin, that shabby travesty called ‘the workplace’.
And if it catches on we may one day see the pests shrink back from their drive to make little profit centers of us all.