Back to the future…

CALL this progress!

This isn’t progress… this is the collapse of civilisation!

Our washing machine is broken. We’ve had it a mere two years.

In the past 22 years we’ve had two washing machines. We got 20 years valuable service out of the first one. When it died we barely had the fortitude to take it to the tip. We wanted to give it a decent burial in the garden.

Now they tell us this latest… contraption!… will cost too much to repair. After two years! We have to buy a new one.

“Tell me,” I asked, “which brand will last longest? I don’t mind paying top prices for a machine that will last. I just don’t know which it is.”

“It doesn’t work like that any more,” said the man. “The best thing you can do is to pay the extra $150 to extend the two year warranty to five years, and throw the machine away after that.”

So we can be certain our washing machine will survive for two years. Three more if we pay an extra 15 percent for it. After that it’s anybody’s guess.

So since 1984 we’ve reduced the durability of a basic piece of household machinery from 20 years to two years.

By the year 2015 we should have worked our way back to the mangle.

I say ‘worked our way back’ but I should have said ‘worked our way forward’, because this, we are assured, is progress.

Do they take me for a complete cretin!

Companies with bigger profits, a share market that is breaking records, washing machines that dissolve in water… these things are not progress.

I looked it up. Progress means: steady improvement as a society or civilisation.

Progress is not quantity. It is quality. We’re confusing ‘more’ with ‘better’.

In western society people are growing fatter because they have more food with more sugar. Obesity is worrying governments. If we continue to get fatter at our current rate we could end up with the average life expectancy dropping for the first time in 200 years.

In the past 20 years we’ve got more and more communication. We’ve progressed our telephone system from a handy tool for talking to friends and relatives, to a device for leaving messages and talking to robots.

I know, I know… I sound like an old person. But I’m not making this up. Our old washing machine was made by people who thought quality was a good idea. It had one button. If it was pressed in it was on; if it was out, it was off.

The new one had several dials that provided so many permutations of washing programs that you couldn’t use them all if the machine lived to be 90 (how many of the programs available on your washing machine do you use?).

And it came with a Bachelor of Engineering degree course that you had to pass before you could turn it on.

When it finally chewed up and spat out a small plastic part, the repair man sucked in air through his teeth and said you couldn’t buy the little piece on its own. It came connected to half the insides of the machine, which would cost almost as much as the whole thing and then there was the cost of fitting etc etc.

I remember the only time our previous machine broke. It was a little metal plate and it rusted out. It cost 10p to replace it and I fitted it myself with a screwdriver; not with a degree course in electrical science.

And do you know who’s to blame for this state of affairs?


We roll over and take it without so much as a whimper.

“There’s 600 words here,” said my wife. “That’s more than a whimper.”

“I believe in giving in value for money.”

“Quantity maybe,” she said. “What about quality?”