There’s a war going on. It has been going on for many, many decades, quietly, but the battles are numerous and daily. The conflict shows no sign of dissipating, either. If anything, the longer each side remains entrenched in their attitudes, the worse the carnage. The consequences of the battle are waste, frustration, pollution, underemployment, wasted time and continuing impoverishment. It’s a first world problem that has extended to the second and third worlds, spreading like a cancer. The war is played out with every product purchased and every piece of software we have to use.
At the root of the issue is the conflict between makers of things and the people that use what they make. Makers are treated with utter contempt, by “sovereign” consumers that erroneously believe that their money gives them the power to regard makers as lesser human beings. Consumers behave tyrannically toward makers, insisting they jump to their orders and paying them a pittance and a fraction of the real worth of their skill and effort.
Makers, for their part, treat their consumers with utter contempt, trying to pass off sub-standard, low-quality, low-integrity wares onto a population they regard (with a little justification) as being stupid and ignorant, worthy only of being ripped-off unashamedly, for their lack of knowledge and skill in making things. Why produce high quality things, when it’s wholly unappreciated by consumers that can’t tell the difference and doesn’t pay any better? Why place pearls before swine?
On recognising that they’ve been sold utter crap, consumers’ regard for the character and honesty of makers only further erodes, undermining any possibility of a rapprochement between the two warring sides. They treat the things they’ve been sold with equal derision and condescension.
Animosity has been baked-in to the very design of the products made.
Somewhere along the line, money has corrupted the transaction. Makers of useful or beautiful things are not treated well by those they make them for and never have been. Those that want to use things they can’t, themselves, make or who wish to be surrounded by beautiful things, find that what they want to purchase is not even available. Only pale facsimiles, with every corner cut, are on sale.
When a maker makes a thing of beauty, think how abused it is by the average, ignorant consumer. Fine tools are rendered useless, by brutal treatment in wantonly ignorant hands. Incredible, previously unimaginable marvels of technology are discarded like toilet paper, once the novelty has worn off. Software that places incredible creative possibilities within reach of everybody is routinely stolen. When something breaks, usually through insouciant misuse, it’s thrown away, as if the remnant of the thing has no value at all and as if the repair were automatically impossible or prohibitively expensive. Wonderful things, made by people that care, are almost always used contemptuously.
Knowing that nobody values anything, once the novelty or fashion wears off, makers make disposable products. They know that consumers will never bother or pay to have the thing repaired, so they design it so that repair is an utter impossibility. They encourage the abuse of their products and of themselves as makers, by delivering less than best. In other words, by making contemptible products or software, treating consumers as contemptible too, consumers feel justified in treating the goods with contempt and their producers in exactly the same way. We have a giant, circular contempt-fest going on. Each act of contempt only reinforces the next, in the cycle.
We all pay. We’re kept impoverished as makers and we are kept poor by having to replace, at regular intervals, things we’ve already bought, as consumers. Our sweat is regarded cheaply. If we are both a maker and a consumer, as many of us are, then you lose twice.
Meanwhile, the planet is despoiled and irreplaceable resources are squandered. People that are capable of making things that are more durable and better, waste their lives making crap. Consumers that could have used their earnings for betterment are, instead, forced to replace broken crap, just to maintain their standard of living, making no progress whatsoever. In the final assessment, we’re producing and consuming mountains of crap, which drip with condescension, when the alternative could be the production of quality things that last, which would enable consumers to progressively improve their standards of living. All that thwarts us is our contempt for each other and the contemptuous nature of the money system, in how it commoditises and depersonalises exchanges of valuable, useful, beautiful items.
Software is now the face of most businesses. The only interaction people have with a company is via its applications and web sites, not through face to face exchanges, with well-trained and smartly-dressed company representatives, in bricks and mortar stores or offices. The company literally is their software. Yet most software induces feelings of learned and imposed helplessness, when it goes wrong. We’re left feeling powerless and helpless, when software fails, because we have no redress and no means to fix it ourselves. Most don’t even have the comprehension and understanding to put software right, even if the tools and source code were available.
Software has become a take it or leave it proposition, built mostly to save costs, rather than provide rich human experiences. When the end user license agreement, which permits you to use but never own the software, exceeds the length of Magna Carta, what possible legitimacy or legal force can a check box that asks if you have read, understood and agreed to the terms and conditions laid out in the “agreement” have? Of course you haven’t. That’s what the check box should say, if it were honest.
People check the box, because their only other option is a huge loss of amenity. If that’s not a tactic straight from protection rackets, that menacingly ask to be paid to protect your establishment from “unforeseen accidents”, knowing full well that they, themselves, are the only possible saboteurs, then I don’t know what is.
And so the war perpetuates. Makers make crap. Consumers treat it like crap. Consumers treat makers like crap. Makers regard consumers as crap. All the while, both sides worry excessively about their money.
What if purity were restored (if it ever existed)? What if makers made things with integrity, to the very best of their available materials and ability, to have durability, utility and beauty? What if their primary concern was the enrichment and betterment of other people’s lives, in important and meaningful ways, enabled by the things they produce? What if their goal was to increasingly make available new and better items and experiences, which better human existence? In return, how refreshing would it be if the grateful recipients of their improvements to life were respectful and fair in their attitudes toward makers, ensuring that their needs are met and that their lives are more than tolerable? What if consumers sought to enrich the experience of being a maker, providing things of value? What if makers loved what they made and the people they made them for and consumers loved and cherished those precious, made miracles and adored the makers that made them possible?
Then I awoke from my somnambulant reverie.