Sorry this post is so late. This is my third attempt at posting. The saga started last night, when an attempt to write a post was cleverly foiled by wordpress by letting me type in a title but never actually giving me a window in which to type the post. I.e. the window in which the post could be theoretically typed was less than a line, and therefore you couldn’t type in it.
This morning I woke up afraid to face the same at Mad Genius Club, but in fact it let me post with no problems. When I went back to ATH however, I got the same thing. Another attempt on another computer wielded the same result, to the point I’m astonished it is letting me type here. Let’s hope it continues.
Weirdly, this ties in with the rest of the post, and what I meant to write about.
Sometime ago, Dorothy Grant reminded me of Russian Caravan Tea. I used to get it when there was still a tea shop in downtown Colorado Springs and enjoyed it immensely. (Yes, I do like tea you can chew. Heck, I like tea you have to subdue with a machete before chewing it.) I found it on subscription on Amazon, (Amazon being the main reason that I allowed my husband to drag me to the suburbs after 30 years of attempting to do so.) This acquisition posed another problem: I now needed a tea infuser. I promptly acquired a tea ball, which promptly fell apart. I then bought another one, which is slightly better, but still allows some leaves to escape, which then lead to #1 son, the persnickety one, complaining about “Chunky Tea.”
The percolator I use for my coffee in the morning (I told you I’m a low brow sort of person) died on account of the plastic handle breaking. Since this happened after three years of use, and the percolator cost us around $15 I wasn’t too heartbroken, but I did go browsing on Amazon which is a very dangerous thing to do. I ordered a new form of the percolator, now $4 cheaper. This is similar to the trajectory taken by the teakettle from the same company, which I first bought in 2010 because I was tired of having teakettles rust. I have since bought three more, one for each kid and a replacement for one broken in moving, each one cheaper than the last.
So while I was on the amazon site, being me, I thought I would try to find a teapot with infuser for under $50 (when you want a 12 cup one this is difficult) and I found this one for $25 (the infusers themselves tend to run in the mid tens) which had the added bonus of double walled glass cups.
It came with an effusive message from its makers, apparently a family business in England, which I’m going to save for posterity, because its mix of capitals and exclamation points reminds me it’s not just newby indie writers who come across like over-eager puppies.
The teapot and the cups are just as described, perhaps more so. I can’t yet say anything as to durability, since I’ve used it exactly one morning. However, the thing is so PRETTY that my husband commented on it as I unpacked it last night, and my son this morning. It’s one of those things that are beautiful in their simplicity. (I’m a weird creature and I can appreciate Victorian ornamentation, but mostly what I like is things that are QUALITY. I.e. well made, functional, and needing no ornamentation to make them shine. Oh, I also like glass and sparkly objects. I figure this is on account of being a magpie. So glass teapot makes me very happy.)
Son asked me how expensive it is, because he would love to buy one for himself, his also being a tea consumer and having his own apartment downstairs (even if he visits upstairs a lot.)
When I told him he was surprised at the price.
This started a sort of percolating in my back brain. It’s not the post I meant to write yesterday, but it is the result of the recent events, plus something someone posted in a private FB group about how young “expensively educated” youths think capitalism should be abolished, and the government should just make the things we need as efficiently as possible (I’m ignoring the idiot who thought each person should make the things he/she needs. Because eff you Jean Jacques Rosseau. That’s why.) and distribute them, which would be better for the environment and free many resources from the economy for SCIENCE!
There must be a glitch in the human software that makes otherwise intelligent people think this is an amazing idea. It never seems to occur to them that in that type of economy someone has to decide what you need, and there is no room for what you want. (There is always room for the deciders’ wants, of course.)
If I recall clearly from arguments had in my teen years, and from the pages I read yesterday, this would be met with the counter argument that it’s fairly well documented what humans need, and if you want stuff beyond that you’re a greedy capitalist and an environmental despoiler.
My instinctive response to that is to hold both middle fingers aloft and invite the speaker to gaze upon them.
I was not born to one of the poorest places on Earth, nor raised in extreme privation. That would require being born in Africa. I wasn’t even born or raised to the type of poverty my mom knew: five children plus a niece in a one bedroom cottage with no stove or running water. Four girls sleeping in a double bed, two facing each way. An outhouse in the garden, and food cooked on coal scrounged from along the train line.
I was born in dad’s mom’s house, a two floor place that would be familiar to anyone who’s seen a Tuscan farmhouse (the new owners even added a veranda to the upstairs back.) We raised our own chicken, rabbits, grapes, and grew a substantial portion of our food in what was probably around 3/4 of an acre. (It took me years to realize most of the world doesn’t produce like that. We considered the soil poor in the north, but it’s possible to feed a family from half an acre to an acre of land, provided you can scrounge grass for the rabbits and buy fodder for the chickens. (you don’t grow cereal in that space.)) It took my sons exclaiming at the amazing fertility of people’s backyards for the dime to drop. I GUESS that’s why Portugal was invaded so much when most of the world depended on agriculture.
We had running water of sorts, only because it was hard with the tech of the time to pierce the very thick stone walls, we only had water in the kitchen and in the bathroom built right outside the kitchen door. (It was a full bathroom, with appliances and a shower, not an outhouse. Maternal grandparents outhouse scared me, and I gave my infant self UTIs from refusing to go in it.)
Now, we weren’t precisely rich, and the backyard required a great deal of work (my first job, at 5 was weeding the onions. And the grape harvest was an all-hands-on-deck type of work that excused students from school and men from paid work.) but we were relatively well off. Mom married up. (And when I was six, she and dad built a house that is in all senses “modern” except for wimpy electrical service, and that’s governmental and now EU (Goreball warming prevention, donchaknow) crazy.) Our neighbors next door were a shoemaker’s family that lived in the conditions mom grew up in.
What I’m trying to drive at, though, is this, even mom’s growing up conditions were MORE than is strictly needed. They were — thanks to my erratic but beloved grandfather’s occasional efforts at handiwork, cultivation and building — considerably better off than THEIR neighbors. In fact, they lost none of their 5 children to childhood diseases or to things like typhus, which made them a rarity amid their neighbors.
Somehow, when you get “the enlightened” in charge, deciding what other people “need” to live, the common people always end up reduced to conditions far worse than mom’s childhood. I mean, what do you really need to survive? If you don’t want to live to a ripe old age, you can make do with some flour some oil, some water.
Better for the environment?
These are my middle fingers.
Even when we were very very broke and I thought I’d never climb out of it, I took joy from the idea that other people, elsewhere, were living better — that there existed in the world some joy, some beauty. In fact, at the time in our lives when we were the most profoundly broke, we used to make sandwiches (or buy from burger king on deep special, if we had a coupon) and park in a beautiful neighborhood by a lake to eat them. I wonder what those people made of it, or if they thought we were casing the joint. The truth is it gave us great joy to look at the well tended lawns, the kids playing, the windows with lovely curtains, and the pristine lake beyond.
Because this existed, our very spare existence was more bearable.
But when you put the “best people in charge” of deciding the minimum everyone needs, what you get is hand to mouth existence, and btw, destruction of the environment too. Because the peasants have no say in how they live, who cares if their mountains are strip mined, or their forests clean cut. After all, it’s done in the most efficient way possible, so it must be better for everyone, right? And because the “best people” are still human and have wants, if they can let their cronies despoil some little mountain and get enough money for a trip some place where luxury exists (Switzerland comes to mind, but America is also a destination for such people) it’s no more than they deserve. After all, all this planning is so stressful, right? They need special perks.
And what about science? Well, most of the science that gets funded by the best people is science that reinforces the idea we need the best people in charge. I refer you to all the scientific breakthroughs form North Korea. Or, if you prefer, ask a friend in the sciences what they think of Chinese breakthroughs and “scientific papers.” Then step back and wait till they finish laughing. Might take a while.
Oh, and new things never get created. Because what’s the point of coming up with a beautiful little glass teapot — and four cups — if you can only distribute them to yourself and your friends? after all, it’s not NEEDED.
All of this reminds me of O’Rourke’s description of traveling in the transiberian express. not only were the facilities for bodily functions inadequate, but no one had thought that in the way of humans, some men would piss in between carriages. So, there was a lip that wouldn’t allow the piss to flow out, so it pervaded all the floor of every carriage. And of course it was never cleaned, because people didn’t have a choice of traveling in any other way. So clean, pleasant carriages were wasted effort.
We see the same type of thing here, as a service (often helped/subsidized by the government) becomes the only way to go. I refer you to the airlines.
WordPress itself seems to be going a little silly even for paying customers (which I am) as it becomes dominant in the market.
That’s okay. The freemarket has a remedy for that. Become annoying enough, and a competitor will succeed.
Which is a great advantage we have over the best people planning our whole lives.
Is a planned economy more efficient? What is efficient? What do humans really need?
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need might be doable. If you let each person determine what they can do and what they need (it goes way beyond ability, btw. I’m very good at somethings — translation comes to mind — I just don’t LIKE doing it. Force me to do it every day of my life, and I’ll start finding ways not to do or not to do it well. Not even on purpose, just through being human. Because we, curious monkeys, don’t do well with boredom or forced labor. And sometimes what you need goes well beyond bread and water. As a wise rabbi once said, man doesn’t live of bread alone. At our lowest point both economically and emotionally (remember, we thought we’d never escape an existence that was just the bare minimum) we needed those picnics in the richer neighborhood. Also I needed a book of art with reproductions of DaVinci paintings. They kept me motivated enough to get up out of bed and look after my toddler.
You want from each according to his ability and to each according to his need?
Great. The only way to do it is free market capitalism, and a free exchange of goods and services across the entire world. The closer we get to that, the closer we’ll get to that ideal.
Marx’s promises were never well served by his control-freak social architecture, and anyone trying to implement that here will have to do it over my dead body.
I not only want my lovely, strictly unnecessary glass teapot — with four complementary teacups! — I want my kids and grandkids and great grandkids to be available to find their own amazing discoveries at a price they are willing to pay, world without end.
It is free market capitalism, to the extent governments allow it to exist, that has lifted most of humanity out of poverty.
Planned economies just give us the Trans-Siberian express. And its pervading smell of pee and misery.