Have you noticed what a huge virtue ‘being able to choose’ has become?
Every time I go to the supermarket, wanting to buy even the most common kind of food staple, cleaning agent, or beverage, I am faced with a bewildering choice. What brand, kind, country of origin do I want my coffee or tea to be, which kind of biscuit, tinned beans or rice do I want today, which floor cleaner or sink scourer will be the only one suitable for my specialized flooring, or the material my kitchen sink is made of. The purchase of the most mundane, boring, commonplace household item requires a conscious decision.
It’s enough to make my head ache.
Shopping is a bore at the best of times, having to use valuable thinking capacity doing it is a waste of human resources. Sell me the stuff I need, make it a decent quality at a reasonable price and I’ll be yours forever.
Consumer goods, whether white, electrical, digital, leisure, whatever, come in dozens of varieties nowadays. Just invent the best washing machine you can, do away with inbuilt obsolescence, show me how it works and I’m away. And, for heaven’s sake, why do I need a dozen or more different washing powders, gels, liquids, concentrated, not concentrated, long-life, flavoured, spring-scented for whites, for coloureds, for delicates, for woollens, his ‘n’ her’s, the kid’s and old uncle Tom Cobley ‘n’ all ?
Choice is everything. Women were told that having the choice between household drudgery and an exciting working life was like finding the holy grail. In the end we chose to have it all, juggling paid work, household drudgery, husbands, and childrearing. What a con that turned out to be.
I am all in favour of weighing up the pros and cons of any specific issue, moral, political, cultural, commercial and financial. We can choose how to have our children, even what sex they should be. We chose our children’s school. We chose our environmental footprint by choosing our car, our holidays, our home. Not every choice we make is wise, there is room for disagreement. Ethics come into it.
I wish we didn’t have to make some choices: all schools should guarantee a decent education for our children, we shouldn’t have to elbow other parents aside to get our kids into the best schools. I wish we didn’t have to park our old people in dreadful care homes, which are anything but caring. I wish we hadn’t attacked our planet with such gusto in the past and were now free to choose to live a life that shares the earth’s resources generously and justly.
I wish choosing one politician over another, one political party rather than another, made a real difference. I wish that believing one set of promises over another makes my choice a genuine one; instead, so very often, they are cynically discarded for the sake of expediency, making my choice a fool’s errand.
If I might have a choice in the matter, could I please have quality rather than quantity, the best the wisest can come up with, choose with the benefit of all in mind.
Then, and only then, you can keep your 57 varieties, one of everything will do me fine.