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Front Page » June 25, 2002 » Opinion » has a throw away society gone to far?
Published 4,536 days ago

has a throw away society gone to far?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

The other day my son called me and wanted to know if there was anybody in town that repaired televisions. Apparently he had come into possession of a TV only two years old that was having some kind of power problems.

I sat there for a minute trying to think. Of course at my age that is more difficult than it used to be, but I strained the gray matter between my ears as much as I could thinking about the question. From the inner recesses of my mind came an answer, but it was in the form of a question.

"Does anybody even do that anymore?"

My age must be showing for sure; I can remember the day when there were television repair places on almost every block in Salt Lake when I was growing up there. That was in the days when a television was an investment; I mean that a good color television could easily cost a thousand bucks or more; and you could resell them after you used them for a few years and actually get some meaningful cash out of them. Today when a television quits working, unless it is under warranty, most people just toss it out. I am not sure when that throw away type of mentality came into being; but my guess is that it happened about the time the word convenience took on a new meaning too.

I think those two words go hand in hand when it comes to the way we look at things these days. The term throw away means convenience. But have we gone too far.

I remember reading back in the 70's about the new "throw away" cars that were coming in the future. I'm not sure that was a new thing, many cars were thrown away long before that and a large number of cars that were being made during that time should have been thrown away not long after they left the dealers floors. Since then the throw away car has become a reality. There are many models, built by every manufacturer that are designed so that they will carry on only a few years and 100,000 miles or so before they become cost prohibitive to fix.

Our society has moved that way in almost everything. Despite the fact that we have a more crowded planet than ever, we produce more and more throw away items every day. Remember when a glass pop bottle brought a nickel or a dime upon their return?

Seldom did one find any of them laying along the roadway, but the plastic bottles of today can be found everywhere in gutters and along highways.

I could go on giving examples, but the trend concerns me more than the specifics.

Remember the famous quote about Nazi Germany in the 1930's. Paraphrasing it said "Where they burn books they will burn people." Unfortunately it came to pass only a few years later as the Holocaust demonstrated.

Could a knock off of that in our society be "Where they throw most everything away, they will throw away people too."

Our tendency is to throw out the old and bring in the new.

We do it with televisions, computers, cars and just about everything else.

More and more, we are also doing it with our elderly citizens.

Many societies value older citizens. In fact in some places, the oldest people are the most highly regarded persons in almost all aspects of life.

It wasn't long ago, that even the oldest person in a community was considered the most wise.

Today, that has changed.

It is hard to tell when that happened. It seems it was a gradual process occuring over the years.

The golden year are only olden years" for many senior citizens today.

In some ways, we have a gentler, more caring society than we did in the past. But riot when it comes to seniors who loose their independence, either because of illness or diminished mental capacity.

Nursing homes have sprung up everywhere.

Is the trend to put people in these establishments a function of the fact that people live longer, sometimes in such a diminished way that they need professional care 24 hours a day?

Or is the real reason that our society in general, and relatives in particular, just don't want to be bothered?

Some who work in such homes see people placed there by relatives, and then over a period of time, visits to th e residents from family decrease to the point of being non-existent.

The check to pay for the care shows up every month, but the family doesn't.

Many residents at the nursing homes belong there for various reasons.

However, there is no excuse to treat someone who has been relegated to that existence like a pop bottle we tossed in the trash last year or an old television set we took to the dump last month.

Certainly, no one group of people are to blame for the situation. It's not the people or companies that own the homes.

The centers are providing a legitimate and valuable service.

Some people blame the government for the situation because of various Medicare policies.

Some people even blame their loved ones who are the residents at the nursing homes.

"There's just nothing to talk about," they tell people.

"I don't have the time to go down there," they lament.

"My life is so busy with work, the kids and life," they complain.

And the number one excuse I have heard from families who have admitted members into a nursing home: "It's such a depressing place."

My only reply is that if it's so depressing for them to be there an hour a week while visiting, think how it must feel to the permanent residents.

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June 25, 2002
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