Home COLUMNS AND OPINIONS Older, crankier, but it’s certainly good for the environment

Older, crankier, but it’s certainly good for the environment

by biasharadigest

By ELSIE EYAKUZE

I bought a new mobile phone about a month ago, and it makes me absolutely furious. Only out after the purchase did it become clear that the “better” technology guarantees this phone’s obsolescence in the space of 24 months or so. Two years from now, I will be forced to buy another phone, contributing to the eternal damnation of the Congo and its blood-soaked supply of Coltan.

It’s time to just embrace my lack of love for this modernity we’re being shoveled into. I’m old-school. This new world confuses and worries me, mostly because the environmentalism and respect for Mother Earth that I was raised with has no place in 2020.

Once upon a time, a young woman who hates crowd went to Tanzania’s annual trade fair, held on the seventh day of the seventh month of every year. The attraction was quite specifically a very good offer on a stubby Nokia mobile that came complete with a simcard registered to the long-defunct Tritel company.

Through the years, with the coming and going of phone companies and the rise of the smartphone and the advent of one, two, three, multiple Gs, one thing has remained constant: that one phoneline, registered decades ago. It is a relic, but it works.

This valuing of old things is not driven only by nostalgia. Like so many fellow Tanzanians, I grew up on hand-me-downs and shared precious cloth bought at an expense that resulted in my siblings and I owning disgusting matching outfits.

When people got items that seem trivial to today’s middle class, they kept them in tip-top condition in the hopes of passing them on to their progeny. Bicycles, kerosene lamps, furniture- all carefully maintained. Made in Tanzania, Made in East Africa, Made in Africa: these terms meant something more than national pride. Often they meant value for money, longevity.

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Food was never wasted as this was truly criminal; we didn’t have to think of “the starving children in Africa” as an abstract. We were African — your brother’s starvation was your starvation too.

Wastage is disrespect

This wordlessly instilled an understanding that as children who must walk lightly in the hands of this our Mother Earth, wastage of any kind was disrespect. Rather than buy multiple shoes, it was best to buy a good pair of leather ones that could be endlessly returned to cobblers for repair, gaining the patina of love and classic style over time. To this day I find myself checking the soles of adult’s shoes if they ever put their feet where I can see them, and judge them on the amount of scuff.

But now we are allegedly a middle-income country, with all the “fashionable” child-labour textiles and 24-month telephones and disposable old people that this entails.

This makes me mad because there is very little I can do about it. Nokia threw in the towel years ago, abandoning us to these lesser companies and their high turnover. Tanzania is trying to ban second-hand clothing. We’re being pushed to become consumers, no longer people with valuable items. There is nothing I can do about it, but every so often I can look at that 10-year old phoneline and say: yeah. Principles matter.

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