An Apple a day, kills the planet for you

Consumption, as a way of life.

With all my baggage as being a Free Software guy, this post is not only an anti-Apple rant. So, go on read it, even if you are, on an Apple device.

Apple is only an example, and the best to put forth my primary concern in this post – consumerism.
When was the last new Apple iPhone and their tablet released? Not the one that happened last week, but the one before that – sometime in September 2013. But it appears that within the last 12 months, the much coveted, revolutionarily designed hardware is obsolete and one has to purchase a new one?

Well, you are not expected to buy one, but what about your status quo in the Apple community. While everyone is flaunting away their latest, slimmer, bigger, newer Apple device, won’t you be put to shame if you still carry that brick of a device from last year?

I hope you are able to see the point I am trying to raise here – consumerism as a way of life has been the trait of the 21st century. Not that it has not been unseen in capitalist regimes in the last century, but it had never reached this sanctimonious status as it has with the electronic gadgets after the turn into the new millennium.

Without bluntly talking about the core of the problem (that I think it is), read on for a couple of minutes to be led into that alley, hopefully. Or rather, I will invoke the genius of George Carlin to put forth the point :

“Consumption. This is the new national pastime. Fuck baseball, it’s consumption, the only true, lasting American value that’s left . . . buying things . . . People spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need . . . So they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18 percent interest on something that cost $12.50. And they didn’t like it when they got it home anyway. Not too bright, folks, not too fuckin’ bright.””

While that was directed against the American culture of consumption, how different can it be elsewhere. In the land of the impoverished, back home India, and in the epitome of sustainability – Sweden, the culture of consumption is the same. The only true global value today seems to be consumption. That’s percolation of bourgeois ideas by Capitalism at its best.

Let me focus on the hypocrisy of Scandinavian countries – say Sweden.
On the surface, Sweden is all about sustainability, recycling and waste seggregation. It is passionately carried on – and it is most necessary. The manufacturing (done in Sweden)carbon footprint per head is really low when compared to, take the worst case – China. That is laudable, but only until you look closely.

Most of the manufacturing in Sweden, as in the advanced capitalist countries happens in the “third world” workshop countries. A recent statistic from WWF put things quite well in perspective for countries like Sweden – if all of us were to live as a Swede does, we would need 3.7 planets!

But, the most ancient of human fallacies – Out of sight is out of mind, still works well as an excuse.

Naomi Klein in her latest book talks about how Capitalism focuses entirely on one of the three R’s to save Earth:
“…… of the original “Three Rs”—reduce, reuse, recycle—only the third has ever gotten any traction, since it allows us to keep on shopping as long as we put the refuse in the right box. The other two, which require that we consume less, were pretty much dead on arrival. ”

This is entirely true in Sweden – I was first shocked at the unscrupulous use of paper at my University. Even at places where there is no need, printing was done to extravagant amounts, with no remorse, because paper can be recycled! No one seems to think beyond the nearest waste segregating bins! The manufacturing process, pollution and burden on the environment, because is legitmised by the excuse of the thrid R, many do not seem to bother about the first two R’s .

This is justified even at higher levels with gadgets. This is where I am compelled to take up the easy example of Apple products. Apple products are designed and catered to the self proclaimed elitist societies like in Sweden. If not almost everyone, every alternate person in Sweden uses Apple products. In this discussion, I shall refrain from talking about the perils of Apple as a technology company, but focus on its role as an agent for Capitalism and unscrupulous consumption.

With each release of their devices, the demand and brouhaha stand testimony to the myopic sustainability claims of again, a self proclaimed leader in sustainability like Sweden, USA, and other advanced countries . Changing you phone every 12 months, without focusing on the environmental damage is worse than pumping out carbon emission right from your vehicle.

And don’t even talk about cars. The same story – if there is no emission (or if you can’t see it), it is perfectly alright to own as many cars as you want. Hybrid and electric cars are good. There are very few talking about a future without cars! This to me is not bright at all.

“Those who control material production, tend to control mental production as well”, said Marx sometime more than 130 years ago, and look at the values today – “consumption is good” is  the prominent and dominant idea, validated by the class that controls material production. For, if Apple were to create a device that is truly sustainable and performs well for say even 5 years, they would not be ruling the stock market.

I don’t know what image you have about all this – by the end of this post, I see a clear picture of zombies, lined up on Flipkarts, Amazons and Apple stores, who slog their life off, to CONSUME.

About Raghav/Raghu

A fortunate mass of hydrogen cloud conscious enough to be contemplating that very fact.
This entry was posted in Politics, Sweden and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Apple a day, kills the planet for you

  1. Rahul Kondi says:

    This took me back to the first time we met- at the FSMk office, discussing the dotCommunist manifesto.

    Consumption’s damage clearly outweighs any amount of good/progress it is bringing. I cannot even begin to imagine a world that doesn’t function the way ours does now. Coming from a messed-up-right-in-the-head guy, that’s saying something. So, how would we even start to solve this problem?

    • Raghavendra S says:

      Consumption, for the sake of it is the imminent problem. Of course, the tone of my post might urge one to become a hermit from markets. But it goes without saying that a Utopian idea like that is not feasible. I think as technologists, we can work on making sustainable hardware to begin with. Reconfigurable design, improvements in the way updation is handled.
      But more importantly the status quo attached to consumption must be uncoupled. People must not be shocked or surprised when I say I don’t want to own a car, for instance! Unscrupulous consumption must be tabooed, and it requires an education, I think.

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