Opinion: The fix should be in
This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.
Great, isn’t it, about housing sales being up, and the demand for big-ticket stuff too? I’m starting to allow myself to think Churchillian thoughts, as the Great Winston did in 1942, after a victory in North Africa: `'Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
But I think there’s wisdom in not falling back into all the old ways -- not on Wall Street, absolutely. But also not going back to making consumer spending, buying new stuff, the alpha and omega of the economy. Amid the home-building and home-buying and manufacturing, we also need to cultivate another, older value, one that was both necessity and virtue during the Depression and the Second World War.
We need to learn how to fix stuff again. Repairing and rebuilding, making do and mending, are as high value as building and making. They’re skilled jobs for people with skills. We’ve added to planned obsolescence the appeal of impenetrable complexity and low, low prices.
When it’s almost always cheaper to throw away and replace than it is to repair and reuse, we miss regenerating not only an ethic of thrift but an economic niche of skilled craftsmen and artisans who earn a good wage by letting us hang on to our things longer. Shoes, refrigerators, clothes, computers, cameras, kitchen sinks. What’s that phrase used about some flawed government programs? Mend it, don’t end it.
Some of the time, I’d rather pay one of my fellow Americans, maybe even a neigbhbor, to repair or make over something I already own than buy something made five thousand miles away.
Technology keeps adding new iterations to all of our gizmos to make them more desirable, but does that necessarily make them better for us? We’re finally, wisely beginning to ask ourselves whether we need this or that, the latest and the hottest, if what we already have does the job.
Rather than this sharklike eat-or-die imperative, what about remaking part of our economy to rework what we already have? Don’t keep chewing up all the precious, empty landscape just building new homes; rehabilitate the old ones. There are genius artisans and craftsmen out there in this country, just itching to get their talented hands on things that need fixing and remaking and bettering. For the first time in many years, let’s think about what we can keep and improve, rather than just what we can discard and replace.