Values

My grandparents lived with the same furniture all their lives. Almost all the pieces were made of wood and they could certainly be used for a few more decades, but nobody wanted them. After they died, we all had to dispose of the old furniture.

When I was little, my parents had saved old farm furniture and tools from destroyment. They restored them and kept them in the attic for years. Thank God, a few years ago a small museum opened in the village and they were able to donate many pieces from our attic. There is no interest in these old pieces today and even if there was, they must have come from China. Otherwise, when the attic was rebuilt, all these pieces of furniture would also have been condemned to destruction for lack of space.

If you ever drive through Zurich when the weather is nice and it’s not raining, look at how much furniture has been left by the side of the road and marked with a piece of paper saying “free”. What you see is simply unbelievable. Whether everything will find a buyer is questionable. I was once in the incineration plant in Zurich and was amazed at what people were handing in for final destruction. Musical instruments, furniture, prams – much of it in an almost intact condition so that it could have been used further. I wondered if one of the instruments could be taken away. It was explained to me that this was not possible. It has to be destroyed! You just have to imagine it.

My grandmother and my maternal grandfather were both tailors by trade. And with both of them I could always find incredible textile treasures that enabled me to change into different roles, depending on the dress. Later, when I reached puberty, my grandmother sewed incredibly modern and chic dresses out of these old dresses for my dance school and dance competitions. My dress style of my grandmother at that time was rather conservative. However for the national competition of classical dances she sewed me a sinful fiery red dress from her fabric treasure chest. And lo and behold, we managed to get 2nd place. Not because of the dress, but with its help, I’m pretty sure.

Today, when I look at the mountains of clothes in the textile collection and think about the fact that our waste disposal and donation of old clothes has destroyed local textile production in many poor areas, I have to think of my grandmother’s uncanny creativity. She made something completely new and modern out of something old. Today 75% of our dresses produced in one calendar year will be destroyed. Each inhabitant in western Europe buy in average 60 pieces of textile a year from which 1/3 will never be weared!!

Or I think of our neighbour’s old typewriter. As a child I admired it and wished I had one like it. At the time it was an unattainable dream because it was far too expensive. Today it would be unsaleable because nobody wants it, or rather because nobody can use it. So once again, the only option is to dispose of it. Yes, of course, mechanical typewriters are virtually worthless today, but the neighbour has had it for almost half his life. Who of you still has a telephone that is more than 5 or 10 years old? And it certainly shouldn’t be half your life.

25 years ago carpets were very fashionable. A good carpet made of wool was not cheap. If it was hand-knotted, it was really expensive. For a few months now, I have been noticing how these carpets, which were made in countless hours of work with a lot of love, are now offered on Ricardo and other platforms for ridiculous prices up to a maximum of Sfr. 50, without really finding any buyers. They are probably also doomed to destruction by incineration.

No, I don’t intend to say “the good old days”, as I don’t think they were any better than today’s. But I wonder how we as a society show little appreciation for the work invested, for the values created. Only the latest is good enough. People camp outside a shop all night to buy a new tech gadget and want to get rid of the old one (which is maybe 2 years old). To be among the people who have the latest thing. Old stuff is not in demand.

This mentality, or culture, is being transferred to people. What is in demand is the young, not the experienced, the old. What is in demand is the flawless, not the wrinkled. The old become non valeur, their experience drawn from the past, not of interest. What is of interest is the future. The 45-50 year olds are seen as too inflexible. They are thought to be unfamiliar with the latest and not adaptable enough. The working world is brutal. Trying to find a new job at 60 … not easy.

I could have a utopian dream. If things were so expensive again that you could only afford one wardrobe in your life. If clothes didn’t cost as much as three coffees, if goods were so durable that you could have a washing machine for 25 years, then maybe we would have started to show more respect for the value of what we have. And even better if we transferred it to the world of working human beings.

Image source: http://unsplash.com

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