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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

2 April 2010: Michael Blakstad, Parishioner, St Laurence Church

Slave of the new...

Coming to the end of Lent, a thought about the kind of conspicuous consumption of which most of us are, I suggest, guilty.

Why are we impatient to see the latest film, buy the newest digital gizmo, read the most recent Booker Prize winner? When I finished Wolf Hall it took valuable shelf space alongside older, under-valued books, many of them classics, which somehow I have never got round to reading.

It is exactly 50 years since Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders introduced us to ‘built-in obsolescence’. Advertising creates an appetite for the latest in everything, leading us to throw out last year’s car model or style in shoes or handbags. Economists have reinforced the tendency, telling us how important it is that nations produce more wealth every year, that companies continually increase their profits. Staying in the same place is no longer an option – economies are said to be in recession, share prices tumble when corporations ‘under-perform’.

Meanwhile, we pile yesterday’s goods into land-fill sites and manufacturers pump CO2 into the atmosphere creating their replacements. Consumers plunge further into debt and, hey presto, the banks which extended their credit limits themselves need to be baled out by taxpayers.

Christians should teach and preach restraint. They would find themselves in good company; those who care about the environment are begging us to reduce our consumption.

The great thing about growing older is that most urges diminish, including the desire to be fashionable. I was asked recently to list a dozen music tracks to be played in a radio retrospective. To my grandchildren’s horror, there wasn’t a single piece composed later than 1970. Alas, I can’t claim to be so resistant to the latest computer gadget or movie release...


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