Instant Gratification Suicide

Posted May 11, 2011
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I took a stroll down my most dreaded of store aisles: the dental aisle. Of all the things I buy, toothbrushes might be the most frustrating. I'm paralyzed by choice. Soft or medium? Tongue brusher thingy or rubber grip handle? Angled bristles or a brush-life indicator strip? There's so many features presented in that aisle that despite beginning my brush shopping experience frustrated by how much choice there was, I leave even more frustrated that I still couldn't get my exact dream toothbrush (not that I dream about these sorts of things). The floss section has no such excess of choice. Infact there used to be a choice in that section that is now strangely absent: Reusable flossers. I used one as a kid as it made flossing really easy for this little tyke, and it didn't need to be thrown away each day (well, except the floss you tie to it each night of course!). It was a great product, yet I can't find it in stores anywhere today. Apparently I'm not the only one who can't find them, as flossing die hards the world over are resorting to ordering them online. So what's pushed the reusable flosser out of the market? Non-reusable flossers! They come in giant packs of a hundred or so, cost next to nothing, and save you that arduous 3.7 seconds you'd otherwise waste wrapping your floss around a reusable flosser or your fingers each night. You use it and toss it in the garbage immediately after. No fuss, no muss.

Except there is a ton of muss. Flashback to 1942. Midway Atoll - a tiny set of reefs and islets - serves as the site of the decisive turning point for the Allies in the Pacific theatre during World War II. In 2011, Midway once again plays host to a turning point in the pivotal conflict of our generation. Except this time, we're losing. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an almost indeterminably large water column saturated with plastic debris, occupies a swath of ocean encapsulating Midway Atoll. It's not as graphic as you might imagine, but that's what makes it worse. Although there is large debris like plastic bottles, or say, dental flossers, you don't need an icebreaker to get through it. The real danger lies with what's unseen, plastics breaking down into the tiniest bits of polymers, nearly impossible to clean up and perfect for consumption by the smallest marine life to rise up the food chain to us. This has widespread negative biological consequences that we are just starting to understand (perhaps this article should be titled 'instant gratification castration'). This is but one example of the real, undeniable and unpoliticizable damage our need for instant gratification causes us - the muss of our disposable flossers.

We hate waiting. We hate it so much, it's become the enemy of our generation, and we will stop at absolutely nothing to destroy it. Economic certainty? It often takes a backseat to our desire to not wait. Gas prices are at all time highs, causing the cost of food and essentials to rise around the world, and yet I've seen people idling their cars with the same frequency as ever. Whether these idlers agree with the sentiment or not, they want our gas prices even higher if only to save themselves the inconvenience of the 0.4 seconds to start the engine. Environmental catastrophe? We no longer have to save up the money to make purchases, or wait for things to be delivered and consequently everything has become disposable. We chuck out things we buy in favour of newer models as fast as we buy them. Very little has longevity any more, and it's not just limited to our purchases. The well being of our society takes a pounding from our refusal to wait. We maintain our personal relationships often in the fastest ways possible inviting friends out via a mouse click or a text message. How often do we find ourselves not even responding? Bands rise and fall in popularity with the click of a mouse on iTunes, and while many probably should fade away, there is a ton of great music today, probably more now than ever. But will we ever look back at today's music the way we look back at the music of the past if we jump from album to album within days? While it's debatable any of these societal examples are a bad thing (and I could certainly argue for the opposite), one thing is clear: this is a new cultural shift. Instant gratification is turning us into the disposable generation.

Our society is changing, and with it we are bringing about unnecessary and avoidable economic and environmental problems. Remember waiting for stuff? The Arcade Fire touches on this sentiment quite well (wait, who are they?). Waiting for things was tough, but it brought about the sense that things were worth it. And when they weren't? Our memories of waiting would often be the best part. Patience is a virtue for many reasons, not least of which is that we might just make our actions that much more reponsible if we give ourselves time to. So stop and smell the roses - it just might be one of the best things you do to ensure they'll be around for others to smell too.