Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wrecking the world for trinkets

There’s a certain genre of products that I vigorously hate. The stuff you buy in gift shops, or in the kind of surplus stores where every item in the store costs a euro or two. Cheap toys, cheap tools, decorations, colorful blinking gadgets.
At every birthday you end up with a heap of these items. Trinkets, little curiosities, jokes. A pen radio, a weird looking plastic sculpture, a set of screw drivers...
My problem with it is that in one sense these things are not cheap at all. There’s a price. You get a clear sense that behind each of them, there’s some horror story of dreadful working conditions, toxic materials, and poor people slaving at miserable salaries.
How else can you make money on transporting an item all the way here – where somebody still is able to make money on it, though it only costs a couple of euros.
Another reason I get upset is this whole idea of producing stuff so cheaply that it doesn’t really ever work. Tools that are so imprecise and cast from soft iron so soft you can’t do anything with them. Toys that only work for a few minutes, ”funny” figures of plastic that are fun for a moment – and then gather dust. What are we teaching our kids by giving them this crap?
Items made of finite or toxic materials, wrapped in even more materials, shipped across the globe, giftwrapped – all this, just to proceed straight to the junkheap.
I get the feeling that we are wrecking the world for trinkets.

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