“They don’t make them like they used to anymore” is an ancient lament that has resonated through the ages in various forms. It applies both to humans and their material outputs. The Greek philosopher Socrates had this to say of the youths of his day (circa 470 BC): “Children; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannise their teachers. Children are now tyrants.”
Juvenile absolutists can indeed become thorns in the societal flesh. Think of the routine theatrics of a young Scandinavian “environmentalist” who is on a mission to save humanity? Hobnobbing with leaders who wage “eco-friendly” wars seems to be part of that salvation process.
The prophet Isaiah, who preceded Socrates by three centuries, summed up this absurdity very well (Isaiah 3:12): My people — children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.” (Note: Only in a mad juvenile world can women and girls be violated by males claiming to be otherwise in designated bathrooms!)
So, are we living in an era where humanity is being led along a tragic “course in their paths”? How are our median economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological conditions faring? An argument can be made that the malaise is systemic and global. Technology, in particular, is universally gauged by the quality of products but these now generate a daily tsunami of scathing reviews and complaints. Household products and popular gadgets are becoming more fragile and less durable by the day in spite of their “energy efficiency” and “eco-friendly” stamps.
Much like the manufactured stalwarts of Gens X, Y and Z, more money seems to be spent on PR blitzes than on quality control. In fact, product regression was part of a plan first articulated in 1932 by American real estate broker Bernard London. In a paper titled Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence, London began his pro-corporate spiel by paraphrasing the notorious Thomas Malthus, who, in 1798 foresaw a future Hobson’s Choice between population growth and food production.
London’s paper was published at the height of the Great Depression, when the vast majority of consumers had lost their spending power. As a result, the shelf-lives of consumer items were being extended via ingenious means. London however viewed that as a cardinal obstacle to progress.