Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Serving as a Redistributor of Scrap Metal
I never go looking, but often encounter metal placed out for the trash along town streets--slightly rusted lawn furniture, file cabinets, folding bed frames. During World War II, citizens would gather scrap metal and contribute it to the war effort. People back then felt like their small efforts could add up to a big success, and they proved right. We're cheated of that sense of empowerment today, as the ideology-based attacks on collective effort have left people feeling isolated and powerless.
Growing up in the post-WWII years, I absorbed enough of that can-do collective ethic that I can't let good metal languishing on back streets end up buried in the landfill. So I pick it up, put it on the curb of my busy street after trash day, and it quickly disappears into the truck of this or that scrap guy passing by.
A very nice wooden table ended up on the restored patio of Veblen House.
A lot of this is driven by imagination. The way my mind works, I instantly imagine the lost potential of the metal, the needless space taken up in the garbage truck as it drives to the landfill an hour away, the potential utility an object still has. All of these are real things--the long drive to the landfill, the lost potential--but can only be accessed through our imaginations. All too often, as political sabotage increasingly allows us only to use collective power to unintentionally create problems (climate change, water pollution) rather than intentionally solve them, people spend their mental energy not on thoughts that spur action, but instead on rationalizations for inaction.
Meanwhile, the pleasures of serendipity and steering stuff towards a better end await.
Posted by Stephen Hiltner