Don’t say the D-word
A kerfuffle is raised every time a comedian, politician, or businessperson uses the F-word or the N-word. I understand that. But to me, the D-word is the most obscene. I’m referring to disposable. Let me explain.
When I was a boy, we were poor and it was a big deal when my parents bought me a new coat. I would quickly outgrow it, and it would be passed on to my sister. My parents boasted that three of their children had worn the same coat. They weren’t concerned (nor were we kids) about gender differences or fashion; it was the coat’s ability to keep the wearer warm and its durability (now there’s a good D-word) that mattered.
We now have an economic system in which companies must not only show a profit each year, they must strive for constant growth. If a product is rugged and durable, it creates a problem for even the most successful business — a diminishing and eventually saturated market. Of course, any product will eventually wear to a point where it can no longer be patched, so the market will continue to exist to replace worn products.
But that’s not good enough in a competitive world driven by the demand for relentless growth in profits and profitability. So companies create an aura of obsolescence, where today’s product looks like a piece of junk when next year’s model comes out. We’ve lived with that for decades in the auto industry.
A couple of years later, a much better laptop hit the market. It had an LCD screen, a huge memory, and it displayed almost a full page. I got one. A year later, I got a new model, and then half a year after that, another. Each served me well, but every year, new ones would appear that were faster, smaller, and lighter, with longer-life batteries and more bells and whistles.
Try to get one fixed or upgraded, though. As with digital cameras, I was repeatedly told that it would cost more to fix an old laptop than to buy a new model. This is madness in a finite world with finite resources. At the very least, products should be created so components can be pulled apart and reused until they wear out.
You see why I think the D-word is so obscene.