Dec 15 2016
Ours is a consumer economy. If I ever had any doubts on that score, they were put to rest by then New York City Mayor Rudolf (Rudy) Giuliani, in the days immediately following the September 11th attacks, back in 2001. With nearly 3,000 lying dead under the rubble, and a still‑smoldering gap in his city’s skyline, what did Rudy urge his fellow Americans to do? To unsheathe their credit cards and hit the shops, that’s what. His message was clear: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. And though this rallying cry falls a little short of Thomas Paine‘s soaring cadences, if you view it as a prescription for national economic survival in the 21st century, Rudy’s message was probably right on the mark.
But I came of age in another time. In the small farm town where I grew up, people thought that “making do” was part and parcel of what it meant to be a patriot. My grandparents and many of their neighbors had lived through the privations of the Great Depression and the ration‑book stringencies of the Second World War. They didn’t see much point in shopping till they dropped. Their watchwords were “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This was a very different world than the one we live in today, obviously. Back then, Americans were producers, first and foremost, not consumers. American factories still made most of the things that were for sale in the stores, many families got by with only one car, and traveling to some far‑distant destination by air was a once‑in‑a‑lifetime treat. On school trips, my classmates and I didn’t jet off to Paris. We spent the morning at a local farm.
The country has moved on since those days, of course, and wearing things out is passé. It’s, like, so yesterday. I don’t have to look far to find the evidence. Every spring, the thrift shop racks in the nearby college town fill up with nearly new student castoffs. The faculty contribute their share to this seasonal largesse, too. No one wears the same clothes for two years running, it seems. Well, no. That’s not quite true. Not all of us have moved on to the broad, sunlit uplands of perpetual consumption. Not quite. A few hard cases still place function ahead of fashion and think that frugality is a virtue.
Like me. And there are some items of clothing that I’ll keep wearing till they fall in tatters around my feet. Take my old Orvis waxed‑cotton wading jacket.… Read more…
Published in incomplete and inaccurately portrayed form at Paddling.com on 13 December 2016
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