Appearance and Utility

I know I have a lot of views that are out of step with the majority of society.  And a major item is what motivates me to do things, value things, mend things, appreciate things and buy things.  I am heavily biased to assess situations, procedures, and objects by how well they are fulfilling their functions.  In other words by their utility.  It seems to me the society I love and live in, is obsessed with the appearance of things.  This is made most obvious to me by the searing in-your-face light of the advertising industry following its imperative to promote consumption with new sales long before the old item had ceased to function.

The most egregious example is the recent TV ads by Toyota I think, where the parents take the kids to a ball game and the ball hits the car.  “Yep, it’s a right-off” declares the father after seeing the small dent caused.  Another ad in the series a guy drives the car to what appears to be an urban dumping/exchange area, tosses the keys in through a window and furtively sneaks away.  Another is of a lady comes to her car and sees a spider on the front dash, yep it’s another right-off.  I think you have probably seen them.  The message is that just a little thing wrong with the appearance, and you need to chuck it away (there is no ‘away’ left on the planet anymore).  It reminds me of a very old and slightly racist joke about the oil sheikhs who bought a limo, then just left it and bought another when the ashtrays were full.  Consumerism gone mad.  The philosophy behind the ads of wasteful spending really, really annoys me.  And don’t even start me about the assault on the appearance of women to make them feel insecure if they don’t have perfect, eyelashes, hair, armpits, toenails, teeth, etc etc.  I hate this psychological assault on women, and it particularly affects young girls.  Hey, ladies, I like you for who you are and how you treat other people.  Actually we were designed with hair in the armpits, and probably for a good reason, but I don’t know what it is.  Relax, deep breaths, it’s OK.

And if I see another guilt-ridden ad for a product that kills 99.9% of germs, I might scream in frustration.  Actually, it has been known for a long time that if you manage to do that, and it is harder than the ads would suggest, it makes the family prone to allergies and auto-immune diseases.  Google “hygiene hypothesis”.   We actually have to get friendly with the right germs and try and get along with them for our health.  A healthy gut will have about 1100 species of germs in permanent residence, and a deficient system only perhaps 300.  Yes, wash your hands to prevent gate-crushers, but the old adage of “clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy” applies.  Your first defence against germs is the germs in residence.  They have a lot of practice in turf wars.

So it is possible that up to 50% of human effort in Australia goes to waste, and harmful waste at that.  For things we don’t need and many things where we would be better off if they had never been devised.  Hey, how would you like to work only 3 days a week for the same pay?  It is possible if you identify expenditures for reasons of utility, and expenditures for reasons of appearance.  Attitudes to appearance can be adjusted in your own mind.  Expenditures to satisfy advertisers demands, leave you in their debt.  Imagine if the whole massive advertising industry did not even exist!  I bet we could afford 10 more bank holidays.  And with the coming of the internet, the excuse that they are informing us of products of interest is a transparent fig leaf.  We can easily find what suits us best.

I leave you to contemplate if any of this applies to you, and how you could make a reassessment of your expenditures to align with utility rather than appearance.  You do not have to live your life to satisfy other people.


  1. I am on the same page with you on this complete blog Paul – it speaks to me very loudly and sums up my way of life! I guess it’s because we are of the same vintage, brought up after WW11 when budgets & economy were the norm (only bought what could be afforded, or lay-by if not), as was leading a simple plain life in everything, including personal/way of life/ goods/house/actions/speech appearances. And no need to keep up with the Jones’s, there weren’t any in our neighbourhood! – and forget about a car! It was either Shanks’s Pony or if you were extremely lucky to have a Dad who worked 3 shifts plus Overtime at a sheet metal factory – a PushBike! Living 3/4 Klm. from Town we always walked there for everything – One of my worst memories is of my poor Mother carrying oversized heavy string bags in both hands home from Town after shopping. The strings cut into her poor hands, and as she walked she often shifted the strings slightly to a new spot so they wouldn’t dig in too much – I was too small, she wouldn’t ever let me carry them then, ever. Overworked/exhausted, as most Mothers were at that time, she had a fatal heart attack at only 60 years of age, something which I have yet to get over….. Once I was old enough to ride my bike up Town, I did all the shopping for my Mum, having a big basket on the front and a bigger carry rack on the back and able to carry two string bags, one on each handle of the bike – a bit wobbly when taking off and landing! But worked well until my teens, by which time I took the local bus back and forth for shopping trips, and only rode the bike for exercise! I’ve spent too long to cover everything you said, but wholehearted agree with it all – I must say too, your last sentence is how I live my life (thanks to my wonderful Mother and beautiful Father). Do you attribute it to that too when you say “You do not have to live your life to satisfy other people”??? Or are you made that way (i.e. Genes)?

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