Notes on a hundred things
To the Ends of the Sea

the politics of shopping

I’ve been feeling overloaded with media choices lately. I want to enjoy so many different things, I can’t choose between anything, and end up choosing nearly nothing. But that’s not very satisfying.

Anyway, as now isn’t quite working out in terms of “time to deal with that,” I decided to work on the kitchen, instead. I was telling my brother the other day I’ve gotten a lot of kitchen items from thrift shops, and it occurred to me today that those are most of my favorite things.

Long past are the days when I needed enough of everything for eight people and then some. And it’s good to have a wide variety of baking dishes and pans, but there’s plenty else I have that seems a little redundant now, so I'm going to streamline the collection, and keep only what I love and use often or regularly.

Here are pictures of purchases from thrift shops, mostly over the past six years. It’s not all inclusive; there’s a set of Pfaltzgraff stoneware mugs and saucers, and lots of books and records, and some other things.

In the “liquor cabinet,” all the glassware on the top inside shelf and the blue cocktail glasses above it are from thrift shops, mostly St. Vincent de Paul, though the nice wine glasses are from Salvation Army.

The baking dishes are from St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill. The stereo components, also. The couch is from Goodwill and the loveseat from Salvation Army. They were perfect when I bought them, but a cat hurt them, annoyingly. They sanitize these things, by the way, by law.

As you look at these few pictures, you will see I have launched into an adjacent personal concern in the midst of them. Bakeware

Some years ago I was discussing this with a friend, and I said, “I buy plenty of things used; why encourage them to make more?” And he said that was very non-conservative of me; the idea of reducing production. Teacupsthere are two more saucers in use elsewhere; also a few crystal bowls I keep perfume and makeup samples in, and things like that.

I’m kind of literal about language, though. If I say I’m “conservative,” I mean it. I’m conserving here, and I do also mean I am personally slow to change. But it is only sensible to understand when old ways and means and things are best, and when it’s better to make some changes or embrace new technology. I conserve, and embrace conservation, at home and in nature, in whichever ways I am able to. I am conservative about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater in terms of new patterns of life, but at the same time, there’s no reason to keep the river polluted just to serve people unwilling to sacrifice a little profit in exchange for the betterment of us all. Mostly I’m driven by logic, rather than by heightened emotion, which always gets people gnashing their teeth at each other, and usually gets nothing done. Antiquedishesjapanese dishes produced in 1912

Thinking other stuff like “all the people matter,” “let’s pool our resources specifically where it can work well to do so,” and “let people decide for themselves the life they are best fitted to live,” I know that’s all been politicized into awkward sports teams that spend all their time arguing with each other. But team sports are not my thing, and dogma is dreary, at best. Glasses

My views are kind of like how our country was set up. When the large group working together can do the best job, okay. When a smaller group works better for some of the jobs, okay. When new is safer and cleaner, okay. When old is still good and serviceable and frugal, okay. What my neighbors do inside their house doesn’t harm me; what they spray on their lawn might. Messyroom

Social justice demands personal context, and that’s so often missing; it’s no wonder people think they disagree even more often than they actually do. It also demands that people stop looking at everything as though we’re in a stadium cheering or booing the other side. We have to live life on the playing fields, not shouting across them from the stands.

For example, I dislike the term "privilege" and how it's tossed out all over the place, but lately I've been noticing that many people who use it completely ignore their own levels of it, and would be surprised if you pointed it out. They are so certain of the issues they tweet about or make “memes” for, they sometimes disregard other concerns right in front of their faces.

Yesterday, this "ironic" Goodwill date thing popped into my Facebook stream again. Maybe you've heard of it. The couple gives each other a $10 limit to buy ugly clothes at Goodwill that they then wear on their date. This particular couple wore late 80s-looking attire and gave each other fake names to maximize their amusement.

I don't exactly think it's such a terrible idea. But I go into Goodwill now and then to look for books or old dishes, and I'll poke through the clothes, also St. Vincent de Paul, where all my household/clothing offerings go, and I watch many women spending a long time going through all the clothes, and I know that they are not doing it to be hilarious, but because they need to spend as little as possible.

Thus, I cannot be amused at the idea of people entertaining themselves with poor people clothing. I feel maybe we have a different idea about liberal hearts and minds. Very many of us have had financial troubles. Fewer of us have desperately hoped to find something to fit for a job interview that won't cost the kids' supper tonight, which wasn't going to be all that great anyway. There is a grim anxiety to poverty that clings to a person like air pollution on a humid day. It should hurt you to witness it or even think of it, if you are as liberal as you say.

Comments