I spent years refurbishing electronic goods, giving them a new lease of life and earned a great deal of money from it. Although our jobs provide a living, where are all of those items now? I imagine most are in landfill. Some may still be in use and maybe one remains gathering dust in a museum. A few will have been reused in part and a percentage will have been recycled and put into new products. At the time, all the work we do seems so important. With perfectionists willing us to make sure the items we sell are the best they can be. We fuss over all the details and it makes us proud that we did a good job. When we look back at all the heartache making sure everything is ready in time and presented as nicely as possible, you think that although people got some use out of them, they were soon dispensed with. So long as people made money and got by that is all that needs to be said.
The packaging however elegant makes it to the bin first followed shortly afterwards by the item itself. At each stage people get a sense of the significance of what they are doing. The factory worker will be doing their utmost to get the most done, the most assembled in the working day. It can be a repetitive job doing the same thing over and over for a meagre existence on the pay given. They will have people working upstairs devising new ways to do the job faster with more mechanisation to get greater numbers made at a lower cost. There will be people digging out all the raw materials risking life and limb shrugging off the impact on their health to feed those factories. There will be marketeers and advertising people working late into the night ensuring the campaign fulfils the remit. Then all the delivery people on ships and in lorries transporting the items making sure deadlines are met. They are all content to get paid for their undertaking, equally proud of the service they give. Finally, it gets to the shops. The people there create the displays and start feeling the pressure of hitting sales targets to ensure the overheads are covered. It is left to the shoppers to decide what to buy and take home and determine how much use it will get before it is thrown out.
When we make something, we have this hope that someone will appreciate the effort gone into making it. We envisage people wearing the cloth we stitched together or enjoying the product we designed and put into production. We focus on the upside and keep our focus away from how often items get damaged, destroyed on purpose or just left in a cupboard unloved. Once it is yours you can do what you like with it and disregard the feelings of those that made it. In the process of taking something from mine to landfill we don’t pay much attention to the many meetings people have had in determining the path of their products. So much discussion about what needs to be done. They will have drawn up road maps, laying out routes the company should take and worked on strategies to embark upon. Talk to any retailer and they will brighten up your day with tales about the sharp end of what being in business entails. Dealing with the taxes, hassle from customers and countless other troubles they contend with. Nevertheless, we work through the issues and place a high importance on our involvement.
Some items are used more than once unlike the produce a farmer brings to market. After all the toiling in the field to get the grain to send to the miller and then on to the baker, we eat the bread. It gets consumed then dumped. The cycle of life providing us with the sustenance to go to work, to shuffle some more documents. Your magazine that was edited, spellchecked and proofed gets torn up and put at the bottom of the animal cage. You work hard to develop your skills and become a computer programmer, someone who rearranges rust on a disc. However, it is no different. Your project gets released, used then deleted or updated and forgotten about. So, you decide to get a hands on outdoor job landscape gardening. You shift all the mud around in people’s gardens making rockeries and ponds. Then if you are smart you leave a business card around so that someone at a later time will ask you to return. You then make some more money levelling it back over again to make it easier for old people using walking frames to get about.
I went over to see one of my tenants and whilst there they wanted me to marvel at all their redecorating. They said in jest that the house was worth more now that all this work has been done. Sadly, although it may look nice to them now it will all be painted over back to plain white when they leave. Even the buildings themselves are not immune from this endless changing and tinkering. Many get put up nice and neatly then knocked down to make way for a road or a new development. If it is not deterioration, then a building has to avoid fire, floods and earthquakes and unless it has some preservation order placed on it is unlikely to be left alone. Whatever happens, it will need a lot of maintenance year after year. And that is what it is about - doing what is needed to keep on top of things. Leave your garden for a short while and it soon becomes an overgrown jungle. You can plot and plan a garden placing plants here and there but someone else arrives, this new custodian has other ideas and will rip them all out. Still, a little refresh whether inside or outside our home, gives us an uplift which lasts for a good few days. We do smile more when the furniture we get replaced is more comfortable than the last lot we ejected. All the upgrading brings us up to a new norm, raising our expectations whilst also removing arduous aspects of life.
It can be all about the temperature. Some like it warm some like it cold and things breed and spread according to the temperature. However, nothing you make or do is immune from a degree of heat, it can all be melted down. All the arrangements and construction that we spend a lifetime working on can be unravelled in an instant. Yet each person in the chain feels what they are doing has some significance.
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