It is a worthy undertaking to redefine what we know as “materialism” in today’s culture. The word is so often associated with excess, waste, and possessing more stuff than the neighbors have. Keeping up with the Jones, or what not. I have recently come to the realization, as have others in the past, that the materialist tendencies of our culture is a misnomer or at the very least a misunderstanding of the term, and if we really were as materialist like some critics may argue than we should have a real appreciation for material goods, rather than just merely consuming them- to be discarded like a used napkin when they no longer appeal to our needs or wants.
Our collective consumerist nature is no doubt a concern, and is a one of many defining characteristics of a diseased culture seemingly determined to destroy the natural world from which we have taken so much. I would argue, as have others, that a materialist culture should set a high standard for their goods and possessions, rather than settling for mass produced junk I usually view as landfill garbage sitting on a store shelf, waiting to be thrown out. I know I’m not alone in this assessment; it is common in our cynical culture. Planned obsolescence as a conceptual term has reached the mainstream lexicon long ago, and although so many people demand something better, for various economic reasons fundamental to the system, and marketing strategies absurdly effective in their ROI, we live in a throwaway society. Nothing will change until the conditions of the economic system change- a change will be made for us, based on true resource scarcity, rather than artificial capitalist driven scarcity.
The values we use to evaluate goods for their usefulness is obviously decided by the culture and conditions of our lives at the time, and unfortunately on the grand scale, the consumerist trends are going to continue until the material wealth (squandered for two centuries or so) no longer can provide the standard of living so many people take for granted. Societies rise and fall, power centers shift, and ways of life which today seem natural and concrete, will one day be viewed as antiquated and silly, or forgotten completely.
So much is lost when a society collapses, and I doubt the Facebook server farms with your vacation pictures to Costa Rica will be a high priority when folks are struggling to keep from starving. There is no solution to these problems- no technofix. The time for change has come and gone long ago.
Everything I say and do comes back to refrigerators, and this article will be no different. A better refrigerator won’t save our way of life, that’s absurd. I don’t want to save this culture; it is diseased and claims to dominate the universe and everything in it. That’s why I have said before that the refrigerator I want to build is for no one alive today- it is for the yet unborn. It is to be a expression of my appreciation for a technology that will cease to exist one day. Perhaps in a few hundred years, the knowledge and technical ability to mechanically cool food stuffs will have vanished. Perhaps it will no longer be necessary as human beings return to a way of life similar to that of successful people of the past few hundred thousand years.
In the interim, we have a surplus of human beings, and refrigeration has proven to be useful tool in the storage of food nutrients. In fact, artificial refrigeration allows for expanded populations- a great threat. It is in fact one of those dangerous technologies we have become dependent on like automobiles, electricity, and agriculture. It is quite likely that folks will need refrigerators for the remainder of my lifetime, and probably after that as well. I’d like my refrigerators to be durable, serviceable, and beautiful enough to foster the same appreciation I have for the technology, and the values I have to be communicated well enough through its construction, that it is not only worth restoring and maintaining, but those values encourage others to pursue a better refrigerator of their own, or the creation of other durable goods for a culture (or even subculture) that cares about real materialism.