If we’re going to take seriously this new sharing economy and the benefits of a more sustainable society that maximizes recycling and re-purposing, we need to push things a bit harder and quite a bit farther. Yeah, it’s great that some of us take turns at weekend getaways or re-use tea-bags for more than a single cup (or a single person), but surely we could do more. I mean, I recently heard of dental floss re-use too, but that’s such a slim thread of efficient, sustainable resourcing — there’s got to be additional steps we can take to build a better society, right?
A friend of mine recently told me what her sports-uncomprehending mother had to say in reaction to the agonies of defeat for any football or baseball team vs. the thrills of victory for another: “Why can’t they just give both sides their own ball?” Part of the amusing aspect of this, of course, is that she doesn’t get it — what the point, or some points, of athletic contests are about.
But… what if? I mean, what if everybody got a ball? Or if we just could just take turns ad infinitum, so everyone got a chance to get their hands (or feet) on that fetish object of athletic desire — not just the singular figure of the goalie, or the best back-fielders or front linesmen?
Uri Tzaig’s fun and provocative project Universal Square offered an interesting intervention into usual social practices where Tzaig de-centered the singular, zero-sum-game of acquisitive focus in competitive sports by introducing into an otherwise standard soccer contest a second ball. This of course puts a greater challenge on defenders of goals, but also often distributes action to more than one locale at the same time. (Tzaig reprised this for basketball games as well.) And while the underlying conceptual “goal” of the game stays the same, an incipient chaos threatens to undermine the focus of players, as they might be pulled in conflicting directions of defender and attacker at any single moment. This also applies to the spectators, for whom multiple centers of action might overwhelm cognitive presumptions and suggest other possible social relations to be played out through that once-familiar, “Beautiful” game.
Maybe some of the inhibition over really sharing comes from that old superstition about “three on a match,” purportedly dating back to World War I if not the Crimean War (or to a surreptitious marketing plan by a commercial match manufacturer), where the attempt to light multiple cigarettes with the same flame would allow time for an enemy sniper to spot, take aim at, and end the life of at least the last soldier-smoker. But maybe that’s just a convenient excuse for some to justify an even longer-standing impulse to not share.
But it seems that in recent years even those few little things one might safely share with a stranger, such as asking for a light, a smoke, or the time of day, have all further dwindled in likelihood — from asking to grasping, as it were — since it’s now too “bummy” not to have your own lighter, cigarette, or timepiece. The formerly civil interaction of asking for a cigarette has devolved to freelancing scavengers making sure discarded butts don’t go to total waste (and what happens to the filters – which are non-biodegradable —I won’t even ask).
To one-up (or one-down?) a certain celebrity’s apparently less-than heartfelt proposal to limit toilet paper use to a single square per session in order to prevent depredations on the environment, why does nobody follow the prescription of the well-disciplined nun in Heinrich Böll’s work? She preached a regimented diet and streamlined digestion to the point where one’s bowel movements wouldn’t need to be followed up with even a single sheet of toilet paper.
Of course, if human bodies were more efficient processing systems, they wouldn’t shit or pee at all. At least rabbits get more out of their poop by re-consuming their own feed, aka “night feces”.
From lending libraries to co-working spaces and tool-sharing to car-sharing, is it such a big leap to establishing a lending service for sex toys (after all, they already are often shared between consenting adults)? Or, think about how some people wash their bath towels after every use, while others wait a week or more. If you’re of the first type, think of the money you could save on washing by lending your once-used towel to a several-uses user for a week, letting him or her wash it (using grey water), and send it back to you for your next one-time use. Imagine the friendships that could grow from such second-hand intimacies, the friendly handoffs! Perhaps the co-towelers could coordinate the handoff in Lyft Line on the way to their co-working spaces. Of course, the question arises: why even wash a towel used to dry off when you’re only using it on an already clean body?
Do organ donations count as sharing only if you live to tell the tale, or only if you don’t? And what if it’s sharing body parts in exchange for money? Is that sorta sharing?
Might pre-digestion be the ultimate in collaborative consumption? Mother wolves and mother birds regurgitate; what could YOU share this way?
I really don’t like onions on my burger — well, I barely like onions at all. But I still feel bad about picking them off and pushing them to the side of my plate at restaurants, knowing that they will only be thrown into compost at best (and very unlikely even that). Why has no one invented an app for onion-sharing? Location-enabled, of course, so we onion-wasters can share with nearby, tech-with-it, onion-lovers and keep those onions forward-paying.
To move beyond the merely material to the social/spiritual/psychological, what about blame-sharing? Community members could log on when they are feeling either guiltless or extra-guilty, and once properly registered, exchange tales of virtue and woe for the betterment of individuals and the social good. And for those a bit more picky or precious, salacious details of fuck-ups and peccadillos could be broadcast to entice those who might be on the fence about signing up.
Finally, back to the realm of the corporeal: thinking through the cycle of recycling from metal cans to grey water — why not recycle what grey water cycled out? Oh, wait — fecal implants, that idea’s already being done. I hope we can at least agree, however: time-sharing isn’t really sharing, is it?