Monday, September 10, 2018

Needles and consumerism

At university in an early English drama course, We were required to read Gammer Gurton's Needle. It was one of the first plays and although it will never rival productions of things like Les Mis or Virginia Woolf, its story has stuck in my mind over the decades.

Why?

The premise is simple. Gammer Gurton stands out in her community because she is in possession of something very valuable -- a needle.

By those standards if existing today, I would be very wealthy. A sewing box, handed down from my grandmother must contain maybe 20 needles. I never counted.

What the play did do, was call attention to how ownership of things help define wealth. Depending on the era and place, compared to most of the people who ever took a breath on this planet, I am a wealthy woman.

Until recently consumerism as it exists today just wasn't. Except for the very wealthy, people made do: they used things up. My grandmother, a New England Yankee in every cell of her body embodied this. A double bed sheet tore? Turn it into twin bed sheets. If they tore, it would become an ironing board cover, a dress for one of my dolls, rags or anything else she could think to use the cloth down to the last thread.

I am not that frugal. I don't mind replacing. But replacing only when it is really needed.

My husband will say, "I want to replace the TV upstairs." He's referring to the studio I bought for my retirement home for cash.

I cringe.

The TV works and until it doesn't work, I see no reason to buy another.

Almost once a day he says, "I want to buy..." I cringe.

We have much too much in our flat as it is.

I will admit I want a dust ruffle for the twin bed in the second bedroom/office. There things under the bed that show, although my first preference would be to reduce those down to the minimum. I will buy books although I prefer to go to the library (as a writer who earns royalties I still would rather someone use a library to read one of my novels than kill trees--I do want people to read me). Don't you dare use a paper towel when a cloth will wipe up a mess.

We did need a new couch. We found one at recycle center along with a coffee table for 104 Euros including delivery. Also it gave work to the people who refinished both. The items didn't end up in the land fill either.

If everyone though as I did, GNP would plummet but maybe by using less the danger to the planet would be reduced. People would not need to work so hard to buy the latest iPhone, gadget or whatever the craze is at the moment. Maybe neighbors would help neighbors, even sharing their sewing needles. 

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Ellen said...

Ahh, sewing needles. I had to sew something a couple of weeks ago and discovered that all the needles and pins in my pincushion had rusted. It must have been general humidity, as it was in a box on a shelf in the basement.
One of the downsides of making do with what you have and the general decline of number of people who can actually sew or knit is that there are fewer and fewer notions (haberdashery, mercerie) stores in France. I live near Paris, so it means I can still find whatever I need up in Montmartre at the Marché Saint Pierre. But the shops that used to be within walking distance (1 in Nogent, 2 in Fontenay sous Bois) have closed. I used to be able to find notions, fabrics, and yarn at the department stores in Paris, too. There are other shops, but too few and far between.