A few days ago, our flat-screen Panasonic 42-inch television started giving problems. The remote control didn’t succeed in turning the tv on, even after I replaced the batteries. I discovered – after my wife had consulted the internet on her I-pad – that the device also has a (rather hidden) on/off button. That temporarily solved the problem. That evening we were, after all, able to watch the news and the penultimate episode of a Swedish police series on Nextflix. But the day before yesterday we could no longer get our Panasonic to “work”. Even the attempt at a total “reset” was fruitless.
Yesterday morning I decided to stop by the local electronics store, to inquire how the problem might be solved. I could mentally prepare myself for the visit, because the Expert branch (a major Dutch electronics chain) in our town is right across the street from the “Old Library”-one of the few available stops for a cup of coffee during my morning walks.
When I entered the store, one of the staff members asked what he could do for me. So far, so good.
I outlined the problem, which was quickly diagnosed: “That will be a faulty power supply, sir. Happens quite often.” The Expert man consulted the computer. “I see that your tv is already seven years old.” He said it in a way that gave me the impression that our device was hopelessly antique.
Yes, perhaps the tv could be repaired, he said. But that was not certain. It could be sent to the place that handles repairs for Panasonic. That would cost 60 euros. And then they could see if it was indeed the power supply that had failed. (“But that surely looks like it!”). All in all, it would be most likely be an expensive repair, probably 150-200 euros. That is: if they still had the necessary new part. And that was far from certain (“After all, your device is already seven years old!”).
In short, the conversation ended with clear advice: “You’d better buy a new one. That’s what I would do, if I were you.”
A few hours later, I was back at the store with my wife, to choose a new tv. I was glad that the man assisting us with our purchase made no attempt to talk us into a larger and much more expensive device. The tv of our choice was in stock-but yes, they were very busy. (“You know, because of the European Soccer Championship”). They could deliver it next week and install it for us (“That will be an extra 49.50 of course!”).
So we unexpectedly bought a new television, without knowing exactly what the problem was with the “old” one, and ignorant about whether it could possibly be repaired. But we were reminded that the old set was already seven years old! This, apparently, is the way the system works, and it seemed the wisest option to follow the advice that we were given. When one thinks about it, however, one realizes that we live in a society that still cares very little about sustainability. Regular replacement, a new model, maximum turnover and maximum profit—these are the key words. And yes, “recycling” of course, as if that makes up for everything.
As thus, as a consumer I simply followed the pattern, with the powerless feeling that I simply cannot change the system. And this is indeed a fact: the way our society is structured has deviated so far from the original plan of the Creator that it will take more than a Covid-19 disaster to fix it. However, this does not absolve me as a Christian from continuing to protest and, where I can, to oppose the kind of consumer society of which I also have become a part.
In the meantime, we will manage without television for a week. There’s actually nothing wrong with that. We watched the latest episode of the Nextflix series last night on the screen of my laptop and the internet will provide us with the news. (So, I know that the Netherlands won against Austria 2-0).
And then there is still the radio and lots of CDs we haven’t listened to for a long time! And, starting next week, if all goes well, we’ll have a television set that will last us probably another seven years!