To Mend or not to Mend

There is a modern tendency to throw material things away, often seemingly needlessly. If something is broken, our modern world discards it, rather than try to repair it. If this modern trend carries itself into the realm of people, then the poor and downtrodden might be seen as “broken” in some fashion and treated as morally or socially discardable or invisible. This is a concern since the trend might not be for a society to mend itself but rather ignore or ostracize perceived “broken” people. And this might pose a danger for the downtrodden since it’s a habitual and insidious process that’s happening. Few might realize it’s even going on.
Those who were born in earlier times, especially during the Great Depression in the 1930s, knew what it meant to be frugal and also that they had to repair things which were wearing out. One darned one’s socks rather than getting a new pair. One mended one’s trousers. One spliced together an electrical cord. The idea was that things should last.
But somewhere along the line, in later generations, this art of mending things and the attitude to mend things has been eclipsed and forgotten.
In our world, it’s frequently cheaper to buy a new cell phone than to replace the worn out battery in the old perfectly functioning cell phone. This attitude is great for the manufacturing sector which will keep producing more and more cell phones.
And it’s not just cell phones.
There are sea-going barges of tens of thousands of old, worn out, broken keyboards, computers, televisions, with the sea captain not knowing where to land with his freight. There is no waybill. No one wants it.
Eventually, it all winds up in the ocean, such as the floating plastic mass in the Pacific Ocean, or in a Third World country where they’re melted down dangerously for the gold and precious metals. Or they’re just dumped somewhere, sometime.
Many of these devices could have been repaired but it wasn’t a serious question. A keyboard costs so little, it isn’t worth repairing.
If we tried to repair it, we might learn something useful. But we don’t.
Repairing a pair of trousers is manageable if we know how to use a needle and thread. Some people don’t and give it to a tailor who might fix it. This kind of delegation of knowledge is sometimes useful.
But the question isn’t asked very often. “Can it be repaired?”.
One trouble is that we hardly understand what we have around us anymore. Infinitely miniaturized circuits aren’t something a human can fix with his own hands. Cell phones now have miniature computer chips in them which are more powerful than room-sized computers of decades ago. It can’t even been seen by the human eye to be repaired even if we had the tools. So there are complications to mending some things.
In fact, the corporate labor costs of having a service center fix something is very high. So, if we have a broken radio, and we need an estimate, it might cost a lot of money just to get an estimate. So much money that it would outweigh the cost of buying a new radio.
So the game is rigged, both by us, our disdain for repairing things, and by the corporate concept of “planned obsolescence”.
The trouble is that this kind of thinking, to discard something rather than mend it, may spill over into interpersonal societal relations. Perhaps it has already done so.
In the 1993 film, “Falling Down”, there was a scene where a man had been rejected for a bank loan because he was “not economically viable” and so he protested in front of the bank, holding a sign saying “NOT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE” and telling everyone in front of the bank. He was carried away by the authorities after creating too much of a scene. Maybe that’s an example of discarding someone. Maybe not, and it was just a good banking business decision. But it’s morally awkward.
When people watch TV today, they have a remote control and frequently channel surf. The trouble with that is that if overdone, no program gets a fair chance. Certain statistics indicate that the time given for a change of channel is very little, perhaps measured in seconds, less than a minute. This ability to turn off, perhaps prematurely, what doesn’t immediately please someone, can be a mixed blessing.
More generally, there seems to be a parallel behavior when switching off the visible perception of the sick, downtrodden, homeless, and afflicted. They just don’t seem to exist or are treated as invisible, like changing the channel on a remote, or throwing away an old cell phone because the battery has worn out and it isn’t economically worth replacing. One worries about the elderly in society too and how they are now perceived in a “throw away” world. They carry wisdom and understanding, these senior citizens, and should never be discarded. But one wonders how frequently the “nursing home” button is pressed with the elderly, rather than keeping them integrated into mainstream society and active.
We are cautioned to hold off on the tendency to quickly classify a fellow human being as “not viable”. It’s far too tempting and easy in our modern world to do so. In such matters, involving living and sentient beings, it would seem far more prudent to mend than to discard






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