Catalogue fever

The Salvadore Vol 265 No 7124p772
November 25, 2000 Onlooker

At this time of year I find myself deluged with Christmas catalogues from various charities, and mail order catalogues, most of them unsolicited, sometimes duplicated. The thing that amazes me is how I manage, without any sensation of being deprived, to live quite contentedly without so many gadgets, gimmicks and objets d’art as are displayed in the illustrations. It is, we are told, “a consumer society” in which we live today, and I suspect that it is also a producer society turning out all manner of unnecessary articles designed to tickle our fancy or stimulate our acquisitive instincts, working hand in hand with a monstrous advertising industry. ??If you haven’t one of these,” the message runs, “you must be living in the primitive backwoods, out of touch with reality in the modern world of possessions and pastimes.”

Arty and crafty objects are categories of goods offered which I occasionally assess in an abstract manner, since some of them carry aesthetic messages for me, and some might please my friends and relatives this Christmas. Gadgets which promise me health and strength intrigue but fail to tempt me, since fresh air and obligatory walks with the dog offer me ample opportunity to pursue health, and I have no ambition to achieve athletic renown.
Things which promise to help me prepare and serve food also leave me cold, as do things which seem to have been invented merely as a means to pass time without effort, since time is short enough already for the more creative things I wish to do. Some of those curious electronic gadgets which take the place of simpler machines are novelties, but no more, and I restrict myself to thinking how ingenious they are, monuments to human inventive genius.
Every so often I do encounter a piece of merchandise which I really judge might ease my lot in this harsh world. But that is the exception, not the rule. I suppose it might be argued that I am failing in my duty to support industry and workers by not buying promising products which give employment to thousands. Yet industry and workers could often, I suspect, be turning out products for unnecessary purposes, while at the same time the necessities they could concentrate upon go neglected.

Citation: The Salvadore URI: 20003609

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