Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The gargantuan glut


1. an excessive amount, as in the production of a crop, often leading to a fall in price
2. the act of glutting or state of being glutted
vb (tr) , gluts, glutting or glutted
3. to feed or supply beyond capacity
4. (Commerce) to supply (a market) with a commodity in excess of the demand for it
5. to cram full or choke up: to glut a passage.

Periodically (and really only rarely) Facebook's algorithms hit spot on and something enters my feed that is so relevant that it deserves more than a quick Like or Share. The article at the following link is such a thing, and I'm shocked that it was published in 2012 and it took me this long to find. It moved me, and I want to talk about it, but first you must read it. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Can you breathe yet? Because that's the way that all this glut of stuff makes me feel. When I walk into Target (or any other big box store) this time of year I feel frantic - I simply have to turn and run out the door just so I can breathe. The excess presses me from all sides, the coercion of guilt compels me to want to buy useless stuff for my grandchildren in some freakishly corrupt desire to secure a place in their hearts.

George Monbiot's statement that, "this boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it", was born out by the stacks and stacks of things we ended up throwing away because we couldn't even sell it to move onto the boat. No one wanted it. My kids didn't want any of those countless ridiculous Christmas gifts sitting in boxes, sealed, that I had worked so many hours to foolishly buy. Not even perusers of Craigslist could be convinced.  Selling what we could and moving onto our boat helped sever the ties, for sure. But still the pull is there to fill even this small space with the latest boat gadget, and to spend money we don't have to honor some obligatory exchange. The latest cruising glossies as well as most of the popular sailing blogs are rife with gift lists for sailors. Facebook is full of Amazon ads for the perfect gift.


So what can you do? Monbiot's assessment, "When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics," seems to fit those of us in the cruising community so well. We have resisted and denounced and yet the tethers to this maddening glut of consumption are still strong. But there's hope. Our consumerist society can be salvaged if only we would learn to spend our money on experiential gifts rather than grotesque assemblages of cheap plastic and glitter that feed the pockets of Disney or Mattel. This holiday season, and for the rest of the year for that matter, give the gift of time. In Monbiot's words,

"Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for God’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t "

(Ed Note: for more reading on the issue, The Story of Stuff Project)


Unknown said...

Well put Deb. This time of year stresses everyone out to buy, buy, buy. It makes me crazy. I would rather build a snowman with my grandkids instead of buying them plastic crap that will be thrown out in a month. Or buy them a plane ticket to come visit!

Unknown said...

It's hard to read, it disturbs me. I share it so I can disturb other. Rightfully so.
Thank you truly

David said...

I can't thank you enough for introducing me to this journalist. It's depressing to discover your worst fears are in fact true, but also hopeful to find someone so unafraid to point out the king is naked. David Owens

Robert Sapp said...

I do all my Christmas shopping at the liquor store. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever thrown away, not used or gotten bored with the gift I gave them. :-)

Merry Christmas to you two!

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Deb said...

@Robert - that's a great approach for adults, but I think my kids might frown on liquor store gifts for the grandchildren ;)

Unknown said...

I completely agree with this! A few years ago I had gotten to where I started to hate Christmas. It was stressful and expensive. My kids didn't play with toys anymore, didn't really "need" anything and when they did it usually wasn't around Christmas any way. I got sick of the "lists" given to me from family members and wasting money mailing packages out. For this reason we decided that we would go on a trip for Christmas every year and this trip would be the present. This year was our 5th Christmas taking a trip and my kids who are now 20, 16 and 16 talked about the memories they treasure from these trips exploring different parts of the Caribbean. I wouldn't change a thing and it has given my children the chance to experience what I experienced as a child living aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean.