So I have been thinking (I know; a dangerous pastime, indeed) for quite a while about the difference between want and need. For years now humans in first-world countries have been able to convince themselves that although they want the shiny new pair of peeptoe heels, they need the new fridge with the improved climate control more.
And I agree, we do need the new fridge much more than those shoes (though having those as well would be a pretty good deal). But what I have been wondering is this: who was it who decided that the fridge was what we needed more?
But before you begin to worry, before you leap from the chair and close the page, this is not going to be an anti-fascism rant. Though I in no way support fascism or similar, today's post will not address the subject. Rather, this is a thoughtful ramble-on about need and whether our modern perception of the word is an accurate portrayal.
For example, consider the Cavemen; the Neanderthals, the 'Hobbits' and 'Pygmies' of the pre-Homo-Sapien world. I wonder if the parents of these beings educated their young ones about the difference between want and need. I wonder if they were even able to make that distinction?
Because when it comes down to it the majority of the things in life life that we consider to be what we need to survive are simply creature comforts. The refrigerator, while an undoubtedly wonderful invention, could be done without if we reverted to the days when you obtained and consumed goods on the same day, unless they were the types of ingredients that could be preserved in a simple wooden box.
The oven and stovetop, other helpful household inventions, were created to replace the ancient art of cooking on a woodfire.
Just like a housewife in a 1950s advertisement, we stand in the kitchen and sigh, wondering how we could ever have got by without these inventions.
And there is the key point. Although we may not realise it, humanity was getting along just fine before the age of luxury living. Before televison-cars-radios-flatscreen-silverscreen-also-have-one-in-the-kitchen-seperate-fridge-ice-dispenser-oven-that-also-tells-the-time-playstation-really-awesome-computer human beings, or those that came before them, found other ways to live.
They hunted and gathered their food, cooked it on spits over the open flames of the fire they had learnt to create, made toys out of wood and at night they slept under the stars.
For many this doesn't sound like a paradise. I admit that the lack of access to a shower and the Sims 2 would certainly put a dampener on my ability to see that way of life as comfortable.
Yet the only reason I percieve the way we live today as 'comfortable' is because I have been told that that is so! Since birth it is put into our heads that we are lucky to have what we do, that we need it to survive. Well perhaps we do and perhaps we don't. I believe that the only reason we need these creature comforts so badly is that we have never known another way of life.
Do you think that the first Neanderthal woke up every morning thinking that someone needed to invent a large box to cook things in, or an even larger one to keep game cool? No I don't think he did. And why? Because he had no reason to. He had food to eat, water to drink and bark to sleep on at night.
To him, those were creature comforts. Now I'm not going to go out on the street and pitch my ideas to the rest of society. But I will air my thoughts to the few readers through my blog, as you can see. I just think that we should think about the difference between want and need. Because it may be a smaller gap than we thought.