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Are you a victim of ‘the use and throw’ culture?

By G. Balasubramanian

Sixty-five years ago, when I got my cycle out of the house for a ride, I was interrupted by a friend with the question “Hey, where are you going?” I replied “I understand that Ramesh living in the next street has passed class eight and hence his books are available for sale. I thought I could visit and approach him for the same.”

“Even Siva living in that corner house has passed his class eight. His family is exceptionally good. They will give you the books for free. They usually don’t sell the books.”

We lived in a culture where the books used by one student is kept well and passed on to a younger brother, a family friend nearby, a poor young boy in need and so on. ‘Throwing away’ the books was considered a sin. As I approached the house of Ramesh, his mother said “I just wanted to sell the complete set for five rupees, but you can pay only two rupees and take them away. Some of his partly used notebooks are also there. If you want to take the unused pages and compile them as a notebook for you, please do so.” OMG! The concept of ‘using’ things and ‘recycling’ them for better use so long they have lived their full life was a social culture.

“You look good with that shirt” – the aunty in the nearby house remarked. I was delighted. “But aunty, this is an old shirt worn by my elder brother. I have started using this because it doesn’t fit him anymore.” She smiled. “What if? So long, it is useful, you must.”

Be it books, be it clothes, be it materials or be it food, the concept of preserving them for a future use to meet the needs of some one else was born out of a ‘compassionate’ culture which rested on the idea of co-existence, celebration of the fraternity and respecting the value of materials.

We have moved away to a "use and throw culture" – a culture where ‘one-time use’ is considered as pride and privilege, and things are thrown out of the window resulting in huge waste and pollution. Over the years, we have moved not only in ‘throwing away’ materials but we have entered a culture of ‘use and throw’ of humans. Sadly, the expansion of this consumerist culture has impacted the physical and the human nature with possible threats to the planet itself. Sometimes you feel thrown out of an organization, a family, a relationship or a business partnership. And you are frustrated and you start wondering about the truth and relevance of a bonding.

Said Pope Francis in one of his speeches in 2014, “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throwaway’ culture which is now spreading. In this way life too is discarded.” (Audience with Italian Movement for Life, April 11, 2014)

The evidence of ‘use and throw’ culture has impacted the social dynamics quite significantly not only leading to social, economic, cultural problems, but have impacted the ‘psychological well-being’ of the entire society immaterial of geography, economic stature or age.

Some indicators of the victims of the ‘use and throw’ culture are:

1. You feel isolated and rejected.

2. You feel unwanted and ‘out of use.’

3. You suffer from remorse and depression.

4. Your relevance and self-worth are put to test and debate.

5. You regret having contributed to growth with pain and stress.

6. You suffocate for some belongingness.

7. You feel like a waste in a dustbin with no body to pick you up or listen to.

With the failure of the ‘joint family system,’ everyone is a burden to another, if they are not of any use. Further the definition of the usefulness of a person has undergone a significant change relating it to their economic value than other latent human values. “The fundamental dogma of Modernism - that, if the past is irrelevant to the future, then today is irrelevant to tomorrow - has created a throwaway society of disposable objects. That is sick” says Marcel Wanders, the Dutch designer and art director

When Joseph was called by his boss to his chamber, he never predicted what was in store. “Well Joseph, sorry to inform you that we have decided to part with you. I know you have worked with the company for last twenty years, but increasingly your skills are of no ‘use’ to the company. Certainly, we will compensate you for the action taken.”

Joseph was not really worried about the compensation, but his self-worth and social esteem have been put to a decisive test. “We live in a disposable, 'cast-off and throw-away' society that has largely lost any real sense of permanence. Ours is a world of expiration dates, limited shelf life, and planned obsolescence. Nothing is absolute” said Myles Munroe, an evangelist.

On the other side, Col. Vaidya, after his successful and impressive tenure, retired to home only to find that everyone was busy and had their own priorities. He considered himself more as a visitor and as one who was ‘exhausted.’ He preferred to move to a senior citizen home along with his wife.

I, you and everyone else is a victim of this ‘use and throw’ culture. Who do we blame? None. With the concept of ‘inclusiveness’ kept on the culture’s reference shelf, the emotional and the resultant psychological impact of this culture is likely to be more impactful. And as a society we need to be ready as there appears no possibility of reversal. With parental contribution to the growth profile of their wards being considered more as a social obligation and commitment, their relevance appears ‘finished’ with the self-dependence of the wards. In many cases, even if the co-existence exists, there is no bridge of love, affection or belongingness; it survives more as a duty, rather a favour. The victims of use and throw culture start feeling increasingly incompetent.

So, how do we cope with this change? Dr. Richard Carlson, Psychologist and therapist, remarks “The next time you run into incompetence, even if it’s flagrant, see if you can make the best of it, rectify the situation, if possible, and then go on with your day. Let it go. Rather than turning incompetence as the front-page news in your mind, see if you can turn it into just another minor story. If you do, you’ll be free from yet another of life’s sources of frustration.”

Here are a few suggestions for handling the situation:

  • Never let your self-worth and self-esteem be liquidate
  • Take charge of your life as you are its designer and architect.
  • Happiness is your choice. Don’t bargain with others for your happiness.
  • Stay engaged and productive. This mindset ensures the flow of your energy.
  • Stay Positive with the feeling ‘nothing can defeat me in life unless I opt to get defeated.”
  • Feel you are the source of abundant and unconditional love and gift that to everyone.
  • Understand that celebrating sickliness is more dangerous than being sick.
  • Get out of the ‘victim’ syndrome and celebrate small achievements.
  • Understand that wealth is a state of mind and money alone doesn’t measure wealth.
  • Life is a great gift. Go on adding some colour and flavour to it.
  • Next time you feel that you have been used and thrown out, remember it is another opportunity for you to rediscover yourself and the power vested in you. There is nothing to regret. Remember what Richard Bach said, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”! Fly again like a butterfly!