All the world’s a used car lot

usedcarlot

Shakespeare never did say why we are all merely players on this stage. Perhaps in his day the reason was less prevalent than it is today. We act because we are all selling something… a product, a service, a talent, an idea, a belief system, or even ourselves, no matter the product, we all must be at least one part used car salesman. This little epiphany came to me the other day (you should know that when I say the other day it could mean any time period from yesterday to up to two months ago) when I was thinking about how I am now working in sales for the first time. Or, at least I thought it was the first time. As I thought further, I realized that I had always been in sales… even in my off time. We sell our personalities to each other without even  thinking about it. There’s the date personality, the job interview personality and even the friend personality and they are all a little different from each other. What they all have in common, however, is that they are all a better version of who we really are. For a society that supposedly values honesty, we really are a pack of liars. We are also willing dupes ripe for the picking by an experienced salesman.

A while back, as I was taking out my trash I saw a young couple by the dumpster. The woman was pregnant and telling her partner what she wanted from the bin. Her partner, who was actually in the bin, was happily retrieving said items for his beloved. They were healthy, nicely dressed… not what you picture at all when you think of homeless people. I asked the woman if she needed the name of a good shelter and she laughed and told me that they weren’t homeless, they were freegans. I pretended I understood what she meant and promptly went to my computer to look up the term and, among the multitude of websites, twitter feeds and Facebook pages on the subject, this is what I found:

“Freeganism is an anti-consumerist movement. It takes issue with society’s focus on buying new and throwing away old (but still useful) items. In the simplest terms, freeganism is a reaction against the waste of resources.  Participants, known as “freegans,” have two main goals: to buy as little as possible and to use only what they need.

While freegans are a diverse group, with a wide-range of life experiences and interests, members do tend to share certain characteristics. The typical freegan is: 

  • Committed to living off the wastes of capitalism
  • An environmental, political, or animal-rights activist (or some combination of the three)
  • A vegan or meegan (only eating meat that would have gone to waste)
  • A strong supporter of his/her community
  • Interested in being (or already) free from the restraints of a paying job”

 -from frugalliving.com

freegan

At first I thought that this was clever and frugal. As I thought further, I realized that this lifestyle was making me angry. It felt a little like this couple, who did not need to be in my dumpster, were taking things away from people who actually did need to be there because it was the new cool thing to do. Then I moved past anger and came to another thought. Perhaps the capitalist society we have all created has become so bloated that we have evolved a new class of people. A parasitic class who lives off the ample waste of the rest of us. It makes perfect sense. Human beings are, by definition, parasites with the planet as our host. The statistics on what we, as a society throw away every day are staggering. I guess what still bothers me about this is that it seems the movement is comprised of mostly young, employed people who can afford to have an online presence, a computer, or at least a smart phone so they can blog or tweet about their new lifestyle before they go to Sunday dinner at their folk’s house. This new lifestyle is being sold to us as an alternative choice to being part of the machine, the new hippies, if you will. Hippies had communes, grew their own food, were actually self sufficient and were rarely found in dumpsters providing for their pregnant mates. While freegans still depend on the machine in order to survive (or at least the waste it provides). My new sales oriented brain now wonders if this lifestyle was created by rebels, or was it waste management companies who are quickly running out of options for our waste problems who sold it as the new hipster fad to ease some of their own burden? I can see the ad copy now, “Try Freeganism because expiration dates and human dignity are over-rated.” or perhaps, “Go Freegan- we have to dump this crap somewhere, why not in your stomach?” Okay, so I’m not Bill Maher, but I can’t afford his writing staff’s trash bin.

conspiracy

While I do agree that our consumer culture has gotten out of hand, I don’t think this is the answer, but then I’m from the old school where the only time you’d get into a dumpster is if a bully threw you in. I guess the point I am making here is, even as these people think they are living off the grid, they are actively selling a belief system and a lifestyle. What they don’t realize is that the more successful they are at getting others to join them, the more they will need the machine to provide them with waste and this only serves to perpetuate the current cycle of sell, sell, sell.

5 responses to “All the world’s a used car lot

  1. There is indeed a problem with the capitalist system but freeganism, in my view, is not a solution. Apart from the risk of getting into contact with contaminants, it isn’t a healthy lifestyle. I can’t begin to imagine someone getting things off the dustbin in my flat!

  2. I live in an affluent upper middle class neighbourhood. The eve of garbage day puts me in a screaming rage. Instead of returning my bottles for refunds, I put my bottles in the alley for the numerous alley pickers who count on bottles to make up shortfalls. I try to wait until I hear their shopping carts rattle down the lane. Sometimes I forget or it isn’t possible to wait so I place them out. More often than not within a short while I hear clanking outside, I look to see them being loaded into an expensive car. Are you freakin kidding me! Likewise clothing donation bins – the other day my husband and I watched two women in a Mercedes , standing on a ladder as they pulled out the contents and threw them across the sidewalk looking for god knows what. Holy shit.

  3. Nothing is wasted here in Brazil. The recycling mechanism is extremely well-polished and blew my mind when i first arrived here. To be so efficient, though, it requires an underclass unable to find other employment. I’s a win-loose situation.

  4. What Thoreau fails to mention in Walden is that he frequently walked over to his mother’s for dinner. La plus ça change. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Hippies were happy to get care packages.

    I had a boyfriend that used to raid garbage bins. It drove me nuts, but he had a job at a business that was going under and didn’t get paid regularly. He was in the U.S. on a visa that didn’t allow him to look for another job. I could also see where freeganism could be putting a happy face on a problematic situation. A couple of poor girls I knew in high school managed to hide their poverty because thrift store clothes were trendy at the time.

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