alexis nexus

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The problem of "waste"

(this follows on steve's comment in the 20th comment in the Guilty Pleasures discussion)

steve,

i think you're misrepresenting my unpacking of how "waste" is deployed. in fact, instead of "devaluing everything" my notion that waste is merely a placeholder for "i no longer have any use for/am constrained from using something" directs attention to the downstream values of the "wasted" thing. your pointing to bread mold is telling: mold has different values and meaning in different contexts. without it we'd be up to our asses in undecomposed organic matter. we'd be absent penecillin. we'd be absent a noxious mess in our living space. complex valuations depending on the situation of the actor relative to the bread mold.

my critique of "waste" as a concept is that it's usefulness is in directing attention away from the values of the transformed object, experience, etc. with respect to "wasted" lives one might think, for example, of the disaprobation extended to offspring by parents and other family members to the choices of the prodigal (just to draw upon my own experiences). consider this critique of "waste" also in light of environmental concerns, wherein the "waste" is something which is devalued (by the producer of it). in the first example, the experiences of the life that is "wasted" (being atheist and queer most notable of the far ranges from the family's value systems) are devalued and acted on by non-consideration and non-participation (except for the disaprobation). in the second example, the object of identifying something as waste is to put it out of sight and mind (and responsibility) of the actor. both fit the "i no longer have any use for/am constrained from using something" definition: both familial and environmental relationships are transformed into passive and remote distance by the concept "waste."

in fact the davaluation employed by waste is a simple collapsing of the object's value into an monlithic undesireable, a negation of the very complexities that mark both it's production, and its actual fate downstream.

"waste" itself is a devaluing statement, with consequences that tend to bite people (writ large and small) in the ass when applied: CO2 is a "waste", a life is "wasted" by those who value the choices made in it in a particular way. i am as yet unpersuaded that you (or anyone else) has a concept of "waste" that is other than the definition i give above.

my suggestion of "efficiency" and similar terms was meant as a point of departure for giving a more meaninfgul explanation of transformation than "waste," not as an endorsement of particular concepts. articulating and exploring preference for different kinds of relationships between yourself and an object would appear to me to be more meaningfully addressed by rejecting the idea of "waste," since the concept disallows further complexity.

lex