(Nobody needs a stretch Hummer. Photo from here.)
I’ve been very introspective of late, if you didn’t notice already.
So here’s the latest thing to occupy my brain:
I wonder what would happen if the market for “wants” suddenly vanished.
As a designer, I often find myself in ambiguous territory, attempting to qualify the necessity of what I do. I think most artists are in this place from time to time. It’s easy to see the value in an apple, or in basic articles of clothing, or a glass of water, but how do you determine the immediate value of a painting or a really well-crafted logo? Is the logo even an essential thing? (Knitting does not present me with the same sort of quandary, in that I’m actually making an item that I would have bought, although the question of whether or not I need fancy yarn is still up for debate.)
I started in on this thinking after reading an article on “fighting chairs,” which are expensive, high-end chairs mounted to yachts, that aid in deep-sea fishing by giving the fisherman a place to brace himself and fight against the marlin or sailfish, or whatever is on the end of the line. I’m pretty sure no commercial fisherman sees a need for this.
People do not need the fighting chair for survival.
Or do they?
Have we progressed to such a point, as a society, that the creation of something non-necessary for one person is, in itself, necessary? The angler may not need the chair, but the production and sale of the chair has provided a livelihood for many other people. Computers are not actually necessary for survival (in the traditional sense), but without them many, including myself, might be without shelter, food and other basic human needs.
And if society limited itself to the production of essentials only, does that impede innovation? Where do you draw the line between the necessary and the excessive? Is inspiration a necessity (I think it is)?
I spent an entire weekend without internet access. I had not realized how dependent on it I was for information (school assignments are posted online) and entertainment. I was rather upsetting on both counts, especially as I am of an age who can remember when this stuff did not exist.
This reminds me of a verse I recently taught my kids (it’s by Robert Louis Stevenson): “The world is so full/Of a number of things/I am sure we should all/Be as happy as kings.” Of course this was written in the later half of the 19th century, before all our must have “luxuries.” I think it’s human nature keep striving, achieving, and acquiring. In a sense we also close the door behind us. Imagine our society knocked back into Stevenson’s time: how many of us could survive and how many would be contributing members of society. (Knitters of course would always be in demand; computer programmers not so much).
Your navel gazing sure is interesting! lol.
It’s good to hear you say that! I was worried I was boring people. Whew! That’s a relief.
Hmm, I can see your point about a “fighting chair” being a luxury, and on a yacht I would agree. The chance of it actually being used is not real high and it is there as a status symbol. But fighting chairs originated for real fishermen and they are a necessity for catching large game fish – otherwise you would be pulled overboard.
Commercial fishermen use large nets that cause a great deal of collateral damage. Killing a wide variety of sea life other than what they are fishing for including turtles, dolphins etc …
A fisherman in a fighting chair is testing his ability and skill against a single fish. Other than whatever was used for bait – there isn’t a great deal of collateral damage.
Now, I know that this isn’t exactly the direction you expected comments to go – but it is the way my mind went. I am afraid that I am very literal. ;).
And I totally appreciate that the chair is a necessity; I’m questioning the necessity of an Italian-leather, ridiculously expensive version.
I also wonder how necessary it is for us to eat deep-sea fish, except that if we didn’t those fishermen would be out of a job. How many fishermen would be better able to provide for themselves and their families if nobody used large nets? Where do we draw the line?