Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Panda Bear on the Tyranny of Things, Housing and Economists

As readers of the Panda Blog know, the Panda Bear HATES housework and house projects.   In one previous post, the Panda Bear described her hatred of housework.   In another post, she has asserted that while home ownership has been good for the Panda Bear economically,  it is not a source of "happiness"  to her.  She also has asserted that she feels that economists and the US government push home ownership as a way of dealing with stagnate wages and a way of stimulating the economy.

If the Panda Bear were extremely rich, she would live in a furnished hotel suite with a kitchen(the Panda Bear likes to cook).   No matter how wealthy she was she would devote as little energy as possible to maintaining housing, buying furniture etc.   Martha Stewart would not become rich in a world full of Panda Bears and much of the economy would suffer.   She finds it strange when the very rich want to design their own houses when the Panda Bear would want to use her money to out of as many of the burdens of the housing.

The Panda Bear likes to having her feelings validated.   She found online an essay called The Tyranny of Things  written by an American name Edward Sanford Martin in 1893.  Edward Sanford Martin describes the avoidable stresses people at the time put themselves through for housing. The essay is a for runner of  of the modern voluntary simplicity movement which the Panda Bear has found helpful in dealing with these stressful times.  Why suffer unnecessary stress when just trying to survive can be stressful?  The full text of the essay can be found by clicking on the above link.   However, the Panda Bear wanted to quote from the essay on the overspending people were doing on housing which sounds very modern and the headaches involved in owing property.  She will discuss other aspects of  the essay in a later post.   Below is what Martin said about housing:

A big house is one of the greediest cormorants which can light upon a little income. Backs may go threadbare and stomachs may worry along on indifferent filling, but a house will have things, though its occupants go without. It is rarely complete, and constantly tempts the imagination to flights in brick and dreams in lath and plaster. It develops annual thirsts for paint and wall-paper, at least, if not for marble and wood-carving. The plumbing in it must be kept in order on pain of death. Whatever price is put on coal, it has to be heated in winter; and if it is rural or suburban, the grass about it must be cut even though funerals in the family have to be put off for the mowing. If the tenants are not rich enough to hire people to keep their house clean, they must do it themselves, for there is no excuse that will pass among housekeepers for a dirty house. The master of a house too big for him may expect to spend the leisure which might be made intellectually or spiritually profitable, in acquiring and putting into practice fag ends of the arts of the plumber, the bell-hanger, the locksmith, the gas-fitter, and the carpenter. Presently he will know how to do everything that can be done in the house, except enjoy himself. He will learn about taxes, too, and water-rates, and how such abominations as sewers or new pavements are always liable to accrue at his expense. As for the mistress, she will be a slave to carpets and curtains, wall-paper, painters, and women who come in by the day to clean. She will be lucky if she gets a chance to say her prayers, and thrice and four times happy when she can read a book or visit with her friends. To live in a big house may be a luxury, provided that one has a full set of money and an enthusiastic housekeeper in one’s family; but to scrimp in a big house is a miserable business. Yet such is human folly, that for a man to refuse to live in a house because it is too big for him, is such an exceptional exhibition of sense that it becomes the favorite paragraph of a day in the newspapers.

An ideal of earthly comfort, so common that every reader must have seen it, is to get a house so big that it is burdensome to maintain, and fill it up so full of jimcracks that it is a constant occupation to keep it in order. Then, when the expense of living in it is so great that you can’t afford to go away and rest from the burden of it, the situation is complete and boarding-houses and cemeteries begin to yawn for you. How many Americans, do you suppose, out of the droves that flock annually to Europe, are running away from oppressive houses?

When nature undertakes to provide a house, it fits the occupant. Animals which build by instinct build only what they need, but man’s building instinct, if it gets a chance to spread itself at all, is boundless, just as all his instincts are. For it is man’s peculiarity that nature has filled him with impulses to do things, and left it to his discretion when to stop. She never tells him when he has finished. And perhaps we ought not to be surprised that in so many cases it happens that he doesn’t know, but just goes ahead as long as the materials last.

If another man tries to oppress him, he understands that and is ready to fight to death and sacrifice all he has, rather than submit; but the tyranny of things is so subtle, so gradual in its approach, and comes so masked with seeming benefits, that it has him hopelessly bound before he suspects his fetters. He says from day to day, "I will add thus to my house"; "I will have one or two more horses"; "I will make a little greenhouse in my garden"; "I will allow myself the luxury of another hired man"; and so he goes on having things and imagining that he is richer for them. Presently he begins to realize that it is the things that own him. He has piled them up on his shoulders, and there they sit like Sindbad’s Old Man and drive him; and it becomes a daily question whether he can keep his trembling legs or not.

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