The Story of Stuff

The ‘Story of Stuff’, a video that talks about the way we live, and represents opinions similar to my own on the topic.

When you walk into radio shack and pick up a radio for $4.95, and feel happy about how cheap it is, you don’t realize that it’s actually much much more expensive. Only, you’re not paying the whole price. Others are pitching in.

For instance, the factory worker in Taiwan who’s getting paid a fraction of what he deserves. So, when he gets cancer from the toxic conditions he works in, he won’t be able to spend the money-he-didn’t-get on his treatment, because he involuntarily spent that money-he-didn’t-get, on the cost of your radio, so that YOU have to pay less for it.

Or the thousands of displaced people who have to spend disproportionate amounts of money as rent for shabby and less than human housing, because their homes were taken from them for mining, without proper compensation or being provided with alternative livelihood. In a way, a part of the rent they pay for their slums in Dharavi, or Malwani, goes towards subsidizing your cheap radio.

Your radio is also paid for in part by the millions of dollars spent on, say cleaning up a landfill of toxic waste, because the guys who built the radio decided not to clean up after themselves, so that they could save money and make it possible for YOU to spend less on the radio.

Oh and not to forget, since the radio you bought cost you only $4.95, you’re probably gonna break it, or lose it, or get bored of it, and buy another one after a couple of months. Because, you know, its so cheap.

Blame Evolution

If you think about it – really, just give it some thought – you might come to the conclusion that evolution has got it all wrong; quite upside down, really. Take for instance, human beings. We represent the pinnacle of evolutionary sophistication and success; we are the most highly evolved creatures to walk the earth. But, are we? Wouldn’t one be reasonable to assume, that the level of sophistication of an organism ought to be measured by the ease with which it is able to sustain itself? Or in other words, by how convenient it is for said organism to access sustenance from its immediate environment. I mean, just look at us humans. From the moment we wake up in the morning, to the moment we go to bed, all we’re doing really is either eating, or prepping to eat – and even if we’re not, someone, somewhere, is working towards it.

Shouldn’t we, the highly developed beings that we are, be able to spend much less time dwelling upon our basic sustenance, and be able to spend more time, well, doing other stuff? I mean, if the process of evolution was indeed as smart as they say it is, wouldn’t it have made much more sense for us to be able to just walk out in the sun every morning and soak up all the energy we need for the day in a 10 minute supercharge? Wouldn’t it just be so much smarter to rely on the one source of energy that will undoubtedly be there for us, easy to access, all the time? In fact, I would readily argue that trees are perhaps far superior to human beings; that we, evolutionarily speaking, have regressed since. This, simply because of the fact that their entire sustenance support system is right at their fingertips at all times (for you cynics, a gentle reminder that trees don’t wither and die on a cloudy day).

But instead, look at us. We’re quite incapable of sitting and focusing on one tiny little task for more than 3 hours, without hobbling over to the pantry. And that is not the end of it. The contents of your pantry are a result of hundreds of millions of farmers toiling year in year out, tilling, shoveling, sowing, watering and harvesting all kinds of crops. And then there’s the millions of people who process your food, package it, transport it, distribute it. Even if you couldn’t be less bothered about that, take into consideration only the fact that you need to drive down to the supermarket, or the grocery, or the farmer’s market EVERY week, which, as illustrated above, is just the tiniest iota of the front end of the process of filling up your pantry. I mean, even if you said to hell with the economics of it all, just take a moment to consider the cost in terms of man-hours to produce food. That’s just an awful lot of work for something as basic as sustaining our own survival.

Really, I would’ve trusted evolution to come up with something smarter.

Tales from the Road – I

Now I hadn’t meant no harm, I promise.  I just wanted to give a broad picture, but as soon as I said it, I knew ‘pat’ would come the response in self-defense, and sure it did.

It had been yet another disturbed night, spent worrying over a wallet in the loose track pockets, and a pair of sandals tucked away between the rucksacks beneath our berth. After six nights in the hills, this seventh one was spent on the berths of Ranikhet Express.

Having reached Old Delhi at 4:15 AM, we had an hour to kill before the metro doors would be thrown open, and the thought of indulging in laziness and hiring a rickshaw came invariably to us all.  It was Shashank though, who first voiced his lack of patience.

I of course, carrying the single point agenda of proving that I knew the city best, proposed that Vasant Kunj was way too far and we mustn’t even entertain the thought, forget consider it as an option. I promptly added only in order to give a clear picture to my Bangalorean friends, that Old Delhi to Vasant Kunj probably spanned a distance longer than the length of Bangalore itself. And I immediately knew I had asked for some trouble.  Shashank was quiet for a moment, but one could tell from the look on his face that his mind was groping, half hurt, half boiling with anger.

“You know why Bangalore is not as big?” he began, unable to keep vengeance from clinging to his voice, “Its because Bangalore is not a state, Delhi is a friggin’ state!”

Now of course, I couldn’t take that lying down could I?  I had to let him know that Delhi was still a city as well, and we were just going from one locality to another.

“No…” he said, “New Delhi is the city, our capital, Old Delhi is not part of it.”

“-of course it is”

“-of course it isn’t”

I hadn’t exactly prepared for legal battle when I had dared to compare the size of Delhi and Bangalore.  “We’ll check it up…” I said, and we both sat on, quiet, dejected, our prides visibly hurt, cursing each other under our breaths…