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lighter at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Made in Japan used
to mean the product was junk, until W. Edwards Deming brought his message of
quality to Japanese manufacturers. We need another Deming--this time for
Made in China has
become code for cheap--in the most
negative connotation of the word:
Appliances with a useful life of
three to five years
Napkins and tissues that shred in
Plastic bottles too thin to grip
We live in a disposable culture, where dumping something
when it breaks is cheaper than fixing it.
I call it the Bic Generation, derived from the pens and
lighters that started us on the road away from a fix culture to a dump culture.
Zack Whittaker writing in ZDNet, called it the iGeneration, with the "i" representing both
the types of mobile technologies being heralded by children and adolescents
(iPhone, iPod, Wii, iTunes) plus the fact that these technologies are mostly "individualized" in the way they are used.
“The iGeneration don't care about products lasting,”
Whittaker noted. “They just want something here and now, that will do the job
and something they can dispose of without it hurting their wallets when that
The worry, though, is not just that every thing is disposable in today’s Bic Generation. This mentality sometimes extends
to every one.
The University of Minnesota, for example, found that the
divorce rate hasn't declined since 1980, as was thought. When the university’s
researchers controlled for changes in the age composition of the married
population, they discovered that the divorce rate actually rose by 40 percent.
In reporting the story, The
Washington Post wrote: “The flipside of this finding is the relative rarity
of divorce among younger Americans today. In the 1970s, a couple might get
married at 25 and be divorced by 30. But today, that same couple would be more
likely to simply live together for a few years and then head their separate
ways when things go south.”
“When things go south.” It can apply to our children, too.
Last week the National Center on Family Homelessness found
that the number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged to an all-time high--nearly 2.5 million children homeless at some point in 2013. That’s one child
in every 30.
The blame? The center pointed to our high poverty rate, the
lack of affordable housing and the impacts of pervasive domestic violence.
But I wonder how many of these young people were thrown out
of the house because they were considered “broken”--gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender or pregnant?
An independent film shot last year, titled The Disposable Generation, sought to
capture the writer/director’s view that today “numbness is a virtue … an apathetic
youth favors the modern American dream, which doesn’t necessarily involve being
awake any more.”
There might be hope. A recent Twitter exchange that I saw
went like this:
the “everything is disposable” generation. We dont like it we replace it. If
its broke we throw it out. If its too hard we quit on it
quite. Dnt like it? We make it better. Broke? Make it so it doesnt break again.
Too hard? Make it easier
am a counterfeit cancer patient. Not by choice, but by chance. And it's illuminated my idea of Thanksgiving.
I’ve mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, my wife is a breast cancer
survivor of 15 years. Each month, she and I visit Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center in Manhattan for a few days of appointments, during which time we are accommodated
at Hope Lodge.
Lodge is a truly wonderful endeavor of the American Cancer Society–and largely
run by volunteers. The ACS maintains 31 of these free, hotel-like
accommodations in cities across the nation for patients and their caregivers who
must travel long distances from home when their best hope for effective
treatment is in another city. Not having to worry about where to stay or how to
pay for lodging enables patients to focus on getting well.
New York City’s Hope Lodge, a significant portion of the patients are recovering
from bone marrow transplants–a regimen typically lasting some 100 days, when extreme precautions must be taken to protect severely compromised
course, these patients--both men and women--have lost all their hair. In
addition, almost all the other patients at Hope Lodge are undergoing some
measure of chemotherapy, which has stolen their hair as well.
wife’s medication is hormonal. So she still has her thick crop of blonde hair.
I, on the other hand, have a shaved head. When we meet people in the corridors
or the lobby or the dining room, they invariably acknowledge us with the
unvarying greeting of cancer survivors who have learned to take life one day at
a time: “How is it going today?”
Except–when they ask this--they are looking at me, not my wife.
first I thought this was funny, that they think I’m the one with cancer.
anymore. Especially not with Thanksgiving upon us next week. In fact, I cringe
when I think of how little gratitude I offer heavenward that I am not the one
bound up in the struggle against the scourge of cancer.
bald men and women at Hope Lodge who are our new friends are thankful every day.
In the dining room or the lounge, it’s not uncommon for them to join in applause
for a fellow patient who is having a “good day,” or has announced some fragment
of positive news about their progress.
is most shocking to me is that so many of these are young people:
Tom, a bone marrow transplant patient, with four small children at home near
from upstate New York, anxious about properly caring for her thirty-something
husband, just out of three days in ICU following his transplant
a Long Island metastatic breast cancer survivor herself, serving as caregiver for her
husband, Michael, who is frightened about undergoing yet another facial surgery
valiant people, and millions more who deal with
cancer, are thankful for each day they prevail. For them, as it now is for me, every day is Thanksgiving Day.