I think about abundance. Abundance of choice.
It was meant to be a solution but causes problems. Because making a choice requires rejecting all others – and that makes us feel a little powerless. It’s a kind of 21st Century disease. No wonder we’re so uptight.
Such ailments make me ponder memories my parents shared about their early childhood during the second world war, their modest choices shrunk by rationing to keep those fighting fed and clothed.
First sugar and then tea were rationed. Then from 1943 families were allowed just eight ounces of butter (half a pound) a week. Shopping at the butcher’s was regulated by the government from early 1944. Farmland was taken over to grow potatoes and greens. In the last four years of the war, 137,000 tonnes of vegetables were sent from New Zealand to American soldiers fighting in the Pacific.
I imagine sharing war memories is a bit like digging up a favourite long dead pet. When prodded my parents recounted bomb shelters in school yards and the scarcity of toys – a big deal for kids. They made do with what washed up on the beach or mysterious household items snatched from the bottom of broom cupboards and woodsheds. They played war and their guns were sticks.
One day my father and his friends took aim at a plane flying over Takapuna, and when it tumbled from the sky they reported their misdeeds to parents who laughed them away. When national radio later that day reported a plane had crashed into Lake Pupuke, parents stopped laughing and came asking.
Declarations of war (New Zealand declared war on Germany 3 September 1939) create a special kind of anxiety in a population – and in its absence, we’re good at creating our own.
Now the children of WW2 watch consumables rain down on their grandchildren and lines of cars snake from The Warehouse carparks to homes heaving with stuff and stony faces with eyeballs stuck to screens and minds bent to pixels.
They stare and wonder how a world with so much has so little.