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Lego 101: Building a better world

August 20, 2021   ·   0 Comments

ANTHONY CARNOVALE
Operation: BLACK COFFEE

My son recently started playing with Lego— again. When he was four, Spiderman and Batman Lego were his thing. Since then (he’s nine), he’s played with Beyblades, collected Pokemon, hockey and soccer cards. He has an assemblage of Funko Pops and soccer jerseys, and no longer thinks fidget-spinners are cool. 

Despite the fact that our living room floor looks like a field of mass casualties, and that we’ve cursed, more than normally, after stepping on another block, we’re happy he’s rediscovered his love of Lego. My wife recently admitted: “We got good value out of those Lego sets.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we value as a ‘whole’, as a ‘community’. When COVID first knocked us for a loop, people, everywhere, were posting and sharing videos of freshly baked loaves of bread, sharing stories of helping neighbours and loved ones. We couldn’t come together, but we found creative ways to stay connected and grounded. It felt as if we had been humbled as a collective. Simple was better; until it wasn’t.  

Eventually, a convey of Fed-Ex trucks would plod along my street. On walks, I’d spy a pile of goods on porches, and be shocked at seeing blue boxes buried beneath brown boxes on garbage day. My kids looked more forward to seeing the mail carrier than they did Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Our insatiable appetite to consume couldn’t be stopped by a pandemic. Despite the fact that we were in mass quarantine, we still found a way to keep shopping. 

It’s a familiar refrain: After the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. George Bush didn’t encourage people to read more, love more, volunteer more, share more. He told people to shop more; the economy must recover. And it worked, bringing an economy blown up by the attacks, back to top form. 

I am by no means an expert on the economy. I only just passed my high school Economics class, and just about failed my first year Economics course at university. I don’t need to be an expert to see what’s been happening over the past twenty years or so. It seems like money, and the notion of growth, has become an object of obsession, like religious idols. 

The people that designed fiscal policies boasted that their laws were infallible. Experts in economics boasted that they got the job done. Trust the numbers. The fact that they were so sure of the system that they created, should have been the first sign that something had been broken.

And then it broke, again. 

September 15, 2008. Boom. More than twenty percent of global trade wiped out. A depression longer than the Great Depression ensued. No economist predicted the crash because they were the ones enabling it. Not a single person put in jail. All that debt forgiven by governments (re: our tax dollars).  

And as we near the end (fingers crossed) of the pandemic, we’re, once again, being encouraged to spend our way back to normalcy. Governments are handing out cash, business are doing whatever they can to catch our eyes, toy with our emotions and open our wallets. 

Same. Old. Story.  

But the consequences of our obsession with growth and consumption have caught up to us. 

Breaking news:

Toronto Star: Urgent climate change action is needed, or else Canada’s extreme heat and severe weather will worsen.

Globe and Mail: Humans are, beyond any reasonable scientific doubt, the primary cause of climate change, UN report says.

You would think it would be obvious that the economy cannot grow indefinitely; the earth’s resources are finite. As populations increase and economies expand, natural resources will be depleted; prices will rise, and humanity — especially the poor and future generations will suffer. As Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson launch into space, wildfires burn, extreme weather events are increasing, and more people are being displaced because of climate change. Is it any wonder they want to charter their wealthy friends away from here? 

We need to do things differently. We need to consume less. Period. 

Of course, our most basic needs have to be met. But a good life (if I may say so) is not one devoted to amassing material possessions (if that were the case, there would be a lot more happier people). In many ways, theses goods have taken possession of us (just try ditching your smartphone). All this consumption has kept us from the things that give real meaning to life like friends, family and nature. An appreciation of nature helps to enrich our lives. But, as we consume more, there’s less and less of it to appreciate. 

Toronto Star: ‘Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem’.

Consuming less means wasting fewer resources and thinking more seriously about sustainable options for living. 

I know I’m not making a scientific argument. I live in a world of metaphors and allusion. When I see my children playing with old toys, I see the importance of working with the things that we already own. We don’t need to buy more clothes, shoes, books, houses and cars. We just need to find a way to work with what we already have. As my son sits on his knees, hunkering over a massive pile of Lego bricks and blocks, he’s building a new world with old pieces. I hope we can do the same.  

My son recently started playing with Lego— again. When he was four, Spiderman and Batman Lego were his thing. Since then (he’s nine), he’s played with Beyblades, collected Pokemon, hockey and soccer cards. He has an assemblage of Funko Pops and soccer jerseys, and no longer thinks fidget-spinners are cool. 

Despite the fact that our living room floor looks like a field of mass casualties, and that we’ve cursed, more than normally, after stepping on another block, we’re happy he’s rediscovered his love of Lego. My wife recently admitted: “We got good value out of those Lego sets.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we value as a ‘whole’, as a ‘community’. When COVID first knocked us for a loop, people, everywhere, were posting and sharing videos of freshly baked loaves of bread, sharing stories of helping neighbours and loved ones. We couldn’t come together, but we found creative ways to stay connected and grounded. It felt as if we had been humbled as a collective. Simple was better; until it wasn’t.  

Eventually, a convey of Fed-Ex trucks would plod along my street. On walks, I’d spy a pile of goods on porches, and be shocked at seeing blue boxes buried beneath brown boxes on garbage day. My kids looked more forward to seeing the mail carrier than they did Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Our insatiable appetite to consume couldn’t be stopped by a pandemic. Despite the fact that we were in mass quarantine, we still found a way to keep shopping. 

It’s a familiar refrain: After the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. George Bush didn’t encourage people to read more, love more, volunteer more, share more. He told people to shop more; the economy must recover. And it worked, bringing an economy blown up by the attacks, back to top form. 

I am by no means an expert on the economy. I only just passed my high school Economics class, and just about failed my first year Economics course at university. I don’t need to be an expert to see what’s been happening over the past twenty years or so. It seems like money, and the notion of growth, has become an object of obsession, like religious idols. 

The people that designed fiscal policies boasted that their laws were infallible. Experts in economics boasted that they got the job done. Trust the numbers. The fact that they were so sure of the system that they created, should have been the first sign that something had been broken.

And then it broke, again. 

September 15, 2008. Boom. More than twenty percent of global trade wiped out. A depression longer than the Great Depression ensued. No economist predicted the crash because they were the ones enabling it. Not a single person put in jail. All that debt forgiven by governments (re: our tax dollars).  

And as we near the end (fingers crossed) of the pandemic, we’re, once again, being encouraged to spend our way back to normalcy. Governments are handing out cash, business are doing whatever they can to catch our eyes, toy with our emotions and open our wallets. 

Same. Old. Story.  

But the consequences of our obsession with growth and consumption have caught up to us. 

Breaking news:

Toronto Star: Urgent climate change action is needed, or else Canada’s extreme heat and severe weather will worsen.

Globe and Mail: Humans are, beyond any reasonable scientific doubt, the primary cause of climate change, UN report says.

You would think it would be obvious that the economy cannot grow indefinitely; the earth’s resources are finite. As populations increase and economies expand, natural resources will be depleted; prices will rise, and humanity — especially the poor and future generations will suffer. As Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson launch into space, wildfires burn, extreme weather events are increasing, and more people are being displaced because of climate change. Is it any wonder they want to charter their wealthy friends away from here? 

We need to do things differently. We need to consume less. Period. 

Of course, our most basic needs have to be met. But a good life (if I may say so) is not one devoted to amassing material possessions (if that were the case, there would be a lot more happier people). In many ways, theses goods have taken possession of us (just try ditching your smartphone). All this consumption has kept us from the things that give real meaning to life like friends, family and nature. An appreciation of nature helps to enrich our lives. But, as we consume more, there’s less and less of it to appreciate. 

Toronto Star: ‘Canada’s $31-billion food waste problem’.

Consuming less means wasting fewer resources and thinking more seriously about sustainable options for living. 

I know I’m not making a scientific argument. I live in a world of metaphors and allusion. When I see my children playing with old toys, I see the importance of working with the things that we already own. We don’t need to buy more clothes, shoes, books, houses and cars. We just need to find a way to work with what we already have. As my son sits on his knees, hunkering over a massive pile of Lego bricks and blocks, he’s building a new world with old pieces. I hope we can do the same.  


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