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A strange conversation

April 22, 2012

I met with two acquaintances a couple of days ago. Let’s call them D and T. D had just come back from a three weeks vacation on Cuba, and was bubbling over with enthusiasm as she told us about it. About the family she had stayed with. The old lady who had given her Spanish lessons and told her much of the history of the island. The wonderful atmosphere despite all the poverty and despite the fact that many people often didn’t know how to bring food home to their children.

That’s when T stopped making affirmative noises and stepped into the conversation.
– But we mustn’t forget that the Cubanes don’t have all the drawbacks of capitalism, like we do, she said.
– What drawbacks of capitalism do you mean, concretely? asked D.
– Oh, all these artificial needs, all these people wasting their money on stuff they don’t need. Take for instance the one-Euro-stores.
– What’s wrong about them? I said. Of course I realize that the people making the stuff sold in one-Euro-stores don’t really get a proper salary for their work, and that is bad. But if I buy a pot and pay one Euro instead of ten, how is that bad for me?
– It isn’t, if you needed that pot, said T. But have you seen that horrible one-Euro-store on our own shopping street, it’s only selling things that nobody needs!
– You mean that T€Di store, right? Because I’ve been buying quite a few things there. They have office supplies and kitchen sponges and socks and underwear and waste bags… they have lots of useful stuff!
– Oh, well, if they really sell those things, that’s good I guess… but anyway it’s nearly only stuff you don’t need.

At which point I gave up. I don’t know T that well, so I have no idea how well off she is financially, but I am now very sure that she has never set foot in our T€Di store. She must have read somewhere that cheap stores are bad for you. Personally, I find that very unfair. If she wants to complain about stores selling things that people don’t really need, why not attack that cool, expensive hobby store? Or the one selling knick-knacks and decorative teapots? Or the travel agency?

But of course, the well-off woman getting herself fifteen beads for five Euro needed them. Me, on a tight household budget, using the same money to get some flowerpots* at T€Di, I should be ashamed of my materialism. And the Cubanes should be happy to go to bed hungry, because at least they are spared the horrors of capitalism.

I really don’t understand some people.

* We grow vegetables on our balcony. Partly because I like gardening, partly because it’s a cheap way to get nice food.

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