An Essay on the Act Against Consumerism: Mending is Better Than Ending
I was about to throw out a pair of jeans. The fabric that attached the zipper to the denim had come apart, leaving a gaping hole in a place I couldn’t wear in public. I was frustrated. It was my only pair of somewhat “professional” jeans. Like many other community college students, I didn’t have the cash to go out and buy another pair of jeans before heading to work that day. As I bundled up the flawed pants and fumbled over to my kitchen garbage can, a line from a novel I was reading in my science fiction class flashed through my thoughts, “Ending is better than mending” (Huxley 49). I stopped in my tracks, feet glued to the floor and jeans dangling above the open trash bin.
In that momentary pause, I had realized how closely my actions reflected those of the characters in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. For those who haven’t read the book, it takes place in a utopian society where citizens are taught certain lessons from birth. One of the first is to keep money flowing through the system by throwing away broken or old items in order to buy shiny new ones. By implanting these ideas into their heads, the government pushed consumerism to be a national priority, “But old clothes are beastly,’ continued the untiring whisper. ‘We always throw away old clothes. Ending is better than mending . . . The more stitches, the less riches” (Huxley, page 49).
I work at a retail store. I receive a discount on the clothes I buy. So, I purchase all of my clothing there since I need to save money wherever I can. What I’ve noticed as an employee is that companies do, too. I am at the kind of retail store that gets shipments in from bigger department stores, the kind of clothing that doesn’t get bought in-season, so it comes to us. After buying what built up to be a complete wardrobe from this store, I saw how often my clothes were tearing or wearing out, requiring me to spend more money on more cheap clothes every few months. This pair of jeans I only had for a few weeks before the zipper mishap, and I had splurged a bit over my budget to try and find a nicer quality pair that would last this time around.
As I stood staring between the denim and open trash can lid, this line spurred me to reconsider the fate of these pants. Is ending better than mending? Am I going to throw these away just to buy another pair of jeans that will find its way to my apartment’s dumpster in another three month interval? No, I thought. I don’t have the money to keep doing this, and I certainly don’t want to continue to fall deeper into the pit of consumerism I feel, especially around the holidays.
I found an old sewing kit, pulled up an instructional stitching video on youtube, and sat down to learn a new skill. The result wasn’t pretty. This was about a month ago now. I see the thread threatening to come undone once again, but this time I will be more prepared to fix it when the hole revisits me. I’m no seamstress, but I can restitch some fabric. This pair of jeans and a novel made me realize one of the many impacts of consumerism I would normally pay no mind to, and that I can actively do something against it.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Turtleback Books, 2012.