The poisoned chalice with optional dvd player

On long car journeys our two young children would sit in the back and either play with some toys or stare quietly out of the window. They never said, “I’m bored” or “are we there yet?”

But we saw other cars with dvd screens on the back of the front headrests and thought it might be nice for them to have dvd’s to watch on the journey for a change. So we bought a portable dvd player and that was when all the problems started.

There was only one dvd player and they had different tastes in the type of content they wanted to watch so arguments started about who was going to watch what and in what order. If one of the children lost an argument and had to wait for their content to be viewed they would complain about having to listen to the sound coming from the dvd. This meant sourcing some headphones so that the other child was not disturbed but then complaints started about uncomfortable headphones.

On arrival at our destination the children didn’t want to leave the car as they were in the middle of a dvd and they had to find out what happened next. Once inside the holiday venue they just wanted to continue watching the dvd’s they had brought for the journey.

This is how consumerism works and in this instance, I realised I was the unwitting perpetrator of the evil.

Previously, the children were great travellers and found enough interest in the world outside their window or in their imaginations to occupy them on the journey. We saw other travellers with ‘gadgets’ and we, the parents, invented a need from our curiosity. We bought the product and discovered it generated more consumerism while at the same time diminished our quality of life by promoting envy, division and isolation. We would be far better off without the player except that now, the children are used to the player and getting them to go back and make do without it will be a major undertaking. Rationally explaining to them that their quality of life would be improved by this subtraction will not work. The dvd is too seductive. Even if we ‘lost’ it, the children would insist that we simply buy another.

Isn’t this the story of consumerism? And yet, if, by some catastrophe, we were to lose our power and petrol, I’ll bet it wouldn’t take us long to rediscover the forgotten pleasures of improvisation, collaboration, participation.

Leave a Reply