Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disposable Goods, Disposable People

In 1901, King Gillette, building an idea of the latter half of the nineteenth century, invented a safety razor with disposable blades (1). A host of disposable products followed including, cameras, tissues, paper cups, and diapers, until today, the disposable good is a common, and almost indispensable feature of society (2). Disposable goods offer a certain convenience, but have three aspects that, when considered, say something about the society that uses them with such abandon.

First, one has no obligation or responsibility to a disposable good; second, disposable goods are replaceable. One disposable razor or cup is as good as another. Finally, disposable goods are cheap, both in cost to obtain them and in the value people place on them. Even non disposable goods can become disposable. One recent writer, for instance, has remarked that people do not typically dispose of their computer because it has failed, but because a new one that seemed more desirable appeared on the market (3).

Today, however, it is not only goods that are disposable; rather, over the course of the 20th century, people too have become disposable. A divorce rate of approximately 50%, the commonness of extramarital sex and multiple partners, the high rate of abortion, and the various genocides over the course of the century make it impossible to deny that people today have become disposable. Why? Among several reasons, two stand out. One that I do not have space to fully discuss is the divorce between what Fulton Sheen calls, “freedom from” and “freedom for.” The former concerns freedom from external constraint, the latter concerns the purpose of that freedom (4). The other is the “God is dead” materialism that pervades modern society. Man is only random collections of particles in a random universe. He is only matter, and because he is only matter, he does not matter. One cannot believe in a purpose for freedom, because there is no purpose to anything, and so liberty becomes license. Neither can one believe in a person’s objective moral value; on materialism, persons have none. And so in a materialist society (whether ancient Roman or modern Western), people become disposable.

One area in which Man’s disposability is clear is sex. Here, one disposable good, the condom, helps to make people disposable. The connection between the increasing use of birth control, materialism, and Man’s disposability over the twentieth century is no coincidence.

The condom allows rejection of responsibility associated with sex and hence causes a divorce between the persons involved. Fertile sex entails significant responsibility. If a woman becomes pregnant, her ability to work may be limited, she will need to be supported, and so will the child. The condom allows “safe sex,” the rejection of this responsibility, and when responsibility is rejected, love is rejected. The two always go together, when one goes, so goes the other. “Safe sex” is absurd, but “safe love” does not even exist. Real love always burns bridges behind it. When love and responsibility are rejected, then the woman (or man), becomes replaceable. One woman (or man), is just as good as another, and when one is just as good as another, then one is just as worthless as another. So people become cheap. Sex now is simply a matter of scratching an itch and one’s partner becomes a mere scratching post. The commonness of premarital and promiscuous sex today testify to the truth of this. With responsibility rejected, people become replaceable, and they become cheap.

Children too have been disposable. Once a necessary part of a marital relationship, they are now a part of the responsibility that modernity rejects. Now they are only an optional (and often undesirable) side effect, a side effect that if not avoided, can be destroyed.

Historians once thought that people in the Middle Ages loved their children less because of high child mortality rates. There is no evidence for this. There is, however, substantial evidence that parents and people today do love children less. They are less willing to have them, and more willing to destroy them. Children are cheap. In a material cosmos a person’s value is purely subjective, that is to say, dependant on what people think. Thus, in Pagan Antiquity, a child was not a person until the father picked him up. Similarly, in Pagan Modernity, a child is not a person until the mother decides to keep him. 4,000 abortions every day testify to how cheap human life has become.

Other examples might be given, but these suffice to show the trend. To a society fond of disposable goods, one more disposable good has been added, the person. Rejecting responsibility in the name of liberty, human life has become replaceable, and it has become cheap. This it ought never to have been, and it must not be if humanity is to remain human. Otherwise, we will find that we are increasingly living in a world of disposable goods, and disposable people.


(2) While writing this, I came across this book Made to Break, studying the growing use of and practical problems associated with use of disposable items.

(3) Giles Slade, Made to Break, 2007.

(4) From his talk “On Freedom” Available on You tube. I would like to write a future blog post on this talk. “Freedom from” would describe how a person must not be externally contrained, while “freedom for” would describe the purpose, such as being free to choose a spouse. Today, however, the two are divided and people insist on “freedom from” while denying the purpose of that freedom. Hence the commonness of pre-marital and promiscuous sex.


  1. I think I'm a little lost on the argument here. While there are in fact many evils in the world due to the culture of death that permeates the world, I don't believe it is a valid and fair argument to take a noticed rise in disposable products and extrapolate from it the feelings and motivations of the Western world. Remember, people are good by nature. People need to be presented with the opportunity to develop a well-formed conscience, which most have not had.

  2. I think the article hits the nail on the head. Society becomes more and more morally lost everyday. You can see it everywhere you look. If you cannot see it, you really need to put your i-phone down and stop listening to the music and take a step back to observe the crazyness. We are decending into the abyss faster than I could say Jiddu Krishnamurti. Without God people have no moral foundation. The lines become blurred, the picture obscured because there is nothing to orientate ones with, no compass, nothing to model the heart on. Hence, there us no ultimate rule making. But there is, and that is God. Murphys law states that whoever has the gold makes the rules. Well it all depends on what the gold is. Who decided what the gold was?-Man did, thats the problem. What happens if gold is not the highest value commodity?-This has been proven. However, what do the men of God say? You trust the material men over the men of God? Why would those men of God lie? They esteem truth. Do you think the material men esteem truth? So why are they believed? The truth of truths is: God has and owns all the gold (whatever that may be), so He makes the rules. Now stop being lawless, thinking your smart and follow them. Dont make excuses why you dont want to or should not be following them and follow them. Now listen to this proverb because it will save your soul: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction". God bless you reader.

  3. “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” - Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

    "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

    “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” - Gandhi

    "Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." - Friederich Nietzsche

    "Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world." - R. D. Lang

    "Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools, and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion." - Thornton Wilder

    “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” - Mark Twain

    "In a mad world, only the mad are sane." - Akiro Kurosawa

    "Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Christ must be the light that shines through you, and the people looking at you must see only Jesus. You have a challenge from Jesus to meet: He has shed the light, and you will take His light and lighten every heart you meet".
    ― Mother Teresa