Paul's Internet Landfill/ demons/ Our Lives Are Waste

Our Lives Are Waste

As I write, people I know are throwing old hardware and boxes of software into a dumpster. They are doing so because the software and hardware is out of date, and they need to clear space on the 4th floor, where Computing Services stores all of the components we no longer use. I threw out one box of stuff to help. Then I got angry and rescued a single computer from the landfill. It is sitting in this room, and will remain here until I take it to Goodwill.

Once, just once, I wish that I could be less of a coward. Some of the hardware that is going into that dumpster -- printers and monitors and sturdy computer cases -- could be used again. Furthermore, there are people -- in our province and around the world -- who could put that hardware to good use. I know this. I think the people who are merrily disposing of our old hardware know this as well. But we are all too lazy to find organizations to whom we could donate our wares. Throwing the stuff we don't need in a dumpster is easier. But it's not right, and if I was brave I would have found some people to whom I could have donated these electronics, or I could have convinced the others to preserve the hardware for a week so that I could find somebody, or I could at least have spoken out. But instead I participated in the wastage. I got annoyed and ran away to this office to type a futile essay instead of working for what I believe in. I am the worst offender of us all. Fuck me.

I'm angry now, because I'm feeling helpless. If I had tried to stop the others, they would have mocked me. I would have lost my temper and become self-destructive. I hate living in this society, and I hate living in this world. Since when did greed become a virtue and waste become a necessity?

I have no use for the computer I rescued. It has a nice case and two disk drives, and could easily be refurbished into a nice powerful machine. I will take it to Goodwill and hope that they can sell it for ten dollars, so somebody might benefit from what little resistance I offered. But there is lots of other stuff that will be lost to a landfill site now. We did not even attempt to recycle the papers or plastic. We did not spare the hardware. We did not recover the floppy disks. It is all wastage now. It will be shipped off to the Britannia landfill site and we will never see it again. It's that easy.

My world is a world of waste. When things are new, we worship them and call them useful. When things are old, we throw them away and call them old. I consider my notebook computer new because I just bought it. I think it is powerful enough for my needs. But the computer is second hand -- somebody else thought it wasn't worth much, and they sold it or discarded it. Why? Because it is five years old. Current computers have four times the memory and eight times the processing power of my 75MHz 80486 chip. Some computers come with bigger LCD screens. Most computers come with CD-ROMs and sound cards, luxuries my computer lacks. Provided no components break down, my computer will be just as good as it is now. It will play the same games I play now, and it will write these pointless essays just as well. But in ten years, I will surely have discarded this machine for something sleeker and faster and more powerful, and I will call my wonderful new notebook worthless. Why? Because better things exist. There will still be many people in this world who would not dream of having a computer like my 486, but the computer would seem useless to me.

But no matter how fast and powerful the latest machines are, there are always new developments looming. The 600MHz monsters my companions drool over now will give way to the 6000MHz screamers of the future, and my companions will be throwing away the PowerMacs and Dell Pentium IIs into the dumpster. The 100 copies of Windows NT will bite the dust even sooner -- they are teetering on obsolecence already. That's the way it works in the computer world.

We do not limit our distorted perceptions of worth to computers. Cars deprecate within years, unless they are antiques, in which case they increase in value. Clothes go in and out of style from one season to the next. People deprecate in value as well. Babies are precious, adorable little parasites. Teenagers and the 18-34 age group have the most disposable (there's that word again) income on their hands. University graduates are sought by headhunter job recruiting agencies because they are young and well trained. But then we become older and more worthless. Older workers often find it difficult to get jobs because companies prefer younger workers. And by the time we become senior citizens, our lives are virtually forfeit: We cannot have children or work, and our spendable income is limited. We might as well be thrown in the dumpster when we are old.

I hate it. I hate every bit of it. I live in a disposable society. When we decide that something is no longer worth keeping, we throw it out. Furthermore, we keep buying new things to replace the old things we throw out. Worst of all, we don't feel any moral pangs when we dispose of the old or buy the new; we have been brainwashed into believing that planned obsolescence is acceptable, when any moron can see it is not. We think we are so clever; why cannot we understand that every computer we build costs resources, and every computer we throw away wastes land and potential? Why do we accept plastic bags for everything when we go to the store? Why do we not complain when our fast food comes packaged in containers that are useful no longer than it takes us to finish our meal? Why don't we become more responsible and do something about our wastefulness?

Why didn't I speak out? Why didn't I find somebody who would put our unneeded hardware to good use? Why didn't I offer to sort out the plastic from the paper from the floppy disks from the metal so that we could at least recycle some things? I had the time. But I am worse than the rest of you, because my conscience screams at the wastage in our society, and I do nothing to counter it even when given the opportunity.

This is my curse to us: I hope that we all get old and useless one day. I hope that we understand what it feels like to be useless, and that having taught us our lesson the world continues to punish us by ignoring us. I hope that we become irrelevant. I hope that our wastage comes back to haunt us, that each and every one of us gets scarred by a situation where we need something others feel was useless enough to throw away. I hope we understand the crime of wastage, and that it hangs heavy in our hearts until the day we die. I hope that every one of us who wastes food suffers from hunger, that every person who throws away computer equipment is faced with summing thousands of numbers by hand, that every person who takes his or her wealth for granted has it taken away, I hope these things because I am vindicative and mean-spirited, and because I think we are too stupid to realize our faults any other way.

And I wish we could grow up before our immaturity hurts us. I dare not hope for that, though.