We are redoing our kitchen, which is an enormous amount of work. In the process, we are throwing out all the old cupboards and linoleum flooring from the 70s. We are also getting rid of some of that Tupperware that's been in action since before I was born. So basically, much of the old is being relegated to the trash.
When we went to the gym the other day, a German acquaintance said that here if you do not want something, it is easy: you just put it outside your house and some pedestrian will surely take it. Now it is true that because of the poverty in our country, there are many people who are less-fortunate and to whom your trash might be quite valuable. On Tuesdays, when the municipality comes to pick up the refuse, there are many people going from house to house, sifting trough the waste.
I know how it is to change the trash-bags in a public place, how disgusting it is to find it open and leaking strange fluids, and the odour of old nappies.. horrible. So I have a great respect for people who try to seek out a living from others' waste.
What bothered me was this man's dismissal of their struggle for existence. He seemed condescending, as though he were saying, "Well, back in the First World, we also put our trash outside, but nobody wants it. And that is how it is supposed to be. Nobody should want your old stuff. That is beneath a cultured society."
I kind of like the idea that what I cannot use, somebody else can.
If you read the current National Geographic (July 2011, with Cleopatra on the front), with reference to the soon-to-be 7 billion that the planet will have to sustain, there is an article on how to feed all of us and how much food is wasted annually by the consumers. For instance, in the US, almost half of the poultry produced (perhaps I should rather say raised? Or grown?) is wasted. So just under half of all birds killed for food lost their life needlessly. You can read more about the 7 Billion.
Also interesting in the same magazine is the eradication of regional species, in favour of higher yielding plants and animals. Just look at the what we see as potatoes and what genius potatoes grow in Peru ( with names like "Guinea Pig Fetus" or "Makes the daughter-in-law cry").
So I think the silly first world should stop flying in their apples from New Zealand and their steaks from Japan and actually consider what can be grown locally. Perhaps the problem is that they no longer have the space or the climate to support the growth of food that can sustain their population. Perhaps the third world producers should reconsider their placement in the power-scale, and realize that the power lies here, with us, with having the land and the weather to farm sustainably for the future.
We should take more responsibility for what we buy, instead of accepting that everything is available on a shelf at the Woolworths or Pick 'n Pay. Where does that chicken breast come from? What if everyone ate less meat, and saw the death of an animal for our consumption as a sacrifice, as something to be appreciated and as something that is only for special occasions.
But I digress. So the kitchen is almost finished, everyone has taken what they could find a use for. It bothers me when wealthy people give their old clothes to their cleaning ladies to sell, and then expect half of the money. Give it to her, to use. Give it to a charity. Give it away to someone who is more in need than you are. You can do without those R50. Maybe to someone else that could get their family through another day. Keep what you need, but do not become too selfish to see the needs of other. Not everyone has been as fortunate as us.
Haha, I know lately I have been rambling on about how one should give and see the suffering of others, but I really feel as though we are all sinking into this hole of self-obsession and that if the attitude of humanity in general to one another does not change, we leave an even worse legacy. We already have to deal with how previous generations ruined the planet, and I do not want my sister's children (at the moment I plan to have none) to one day look at us and say : how could you not have changed? How could you have fucked up so badly? And I don't just want to say: well, because we are a selfish kind.