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Here are some thoughts that swirl in my brains everyday, they are more of incomplete thoughts, but they are there, swirling…
I spent 2016 disassembling products that were about to be thrown away and making stop motion stories. I didn’t know squat about stop motion, I was only interested in how we consume stuff. And over the past year I couldn’t put it in any other way, I question how we consume things, be it anything!
Tinker Friday was a very personal project. I studied product design in Malaysia, I made it to the dean’s list and all that, came back to Egypt worked for a couple of years then I realized that I hate a big part in product design, I hated that many of the things we produce end up being thrown away. And I had this conflict because I wanted to create things, but I didn’t want to create unnecessary things that will end up in your trash!
At that time I became very conscious about what I want and what I need. I think that most of the problems I am going through are because those two things got mixed up, things I felt I really needed are actually things that are nice extras to have, and things that I felt I wanted, but didn’t 100% need, were actually those that should have been a priority. And my tinker stories were a way to explore this and find out what really matters. I just picked a day and posted photos of my explorations for my own amusement on Instagram, but week after week it developed into what it is today.
I lived in Malaysia for four years. I lived with and got to know so many different people, people with totally different childhoods, languages, cultures, religions (or no religion at all) than mine, and it really made me see things differently. I stopped seeing end products, end behaviors and started seeing systems.
When I look at a product I don’t just see its function or aesthetics, but I see the whole system that brought that product to life; how the raw materials were sourced, how it was made and assembled, how a need for it was created, how it reached the market, how it was used, how it was thrown away and where did it end. I see how our man made systems have ruined the natural systems that exist.
And take in mind, when I mean products I don’t just mean your phone or laptop or jeans, no I also mean the thousands of ‘not so significant’ products that we use on daily basis, products that became part of our lives without consciously noticing. Products that we absolutely don’t need!
When I started making stop motion videos I began to see different systems in regards to content. And content shares the same flawed systems any product goes through. Problems with how it’s made and how it reaches the consumer, all these click-bait titles are a result. It’s the same thing, after consuming it instead of throwing it away like products, we “forget” it. But as with physical products, there is no “away”, it is not forgotten, it is still there somewhere.
And the problem is not that we are producing too many things. Humans are makers, no matter what age we live in, humans will make things. We’ll always come up with ideas in our brains and use our hands to bring them to life. And we’ll always want to trade the things we make. But the problem I see is that now it became more about selling and less about making, because selling is what gets us ‘profit’ this is what makes us sustain a life, this is what makes us successful, both as individuals, as companies and as countries! The global system that our whole economic system moves on, and when it became about profit, we shifted our focus from making to selling, so we want to sell more than what we produce. How is that even possible? You may ask.
We started selling words with no meaning, like words with tunes that don’t mean shit packaged as music, or words on slides told on stages that don’t mean shit packaged as motivational courses. We started selling products and services with no value, we started selling made up beliefs and fake lifestyles.
And it’s working, we are selling more than we make. And I think it’s because we are convinced that we need all this and we don’t just need it once, we continue to need more of it. And it’s really sad because we think that’s how we become rich and happy, oh how it is fulfilling when we can satisfy all our -or our loved ones’- needs. But in reality it’s only making rich people poorer and making poor people feel bad about how poor they are.
Money is the trickiest need. I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet. But I know this: I can make a lot more money doing ads, waaay more than what I would make on Patreon. I can go buy an ad on a big blog, get me 100k followers and companies will pay me shit loads of money to post about their products. I can be rich and famous. Money is kinda important, but it’s not that important. It’s something I’d want, but I wont be part of that system to have it. I don’t need money.
Malaysia had very little social differences; they didn’t have all these layers of different social classes like we have here in Egypt. People didn’t take public transport because they are poor and can’t afford a car, but because it was a more convenient way of transporting, they didn’t need a car! It pains me to see all this inequality in Egypt, inequality that we caused because of our never-ending absurd needs.
I started seeing so many flawed systems; even solutions that were proposed to fix those flawed systems sometimes become flawed themselves, it starts becoming more about selling those solutions and not about making those solutions. I look at some CSR campaigns and think what the hell! Is this a solution for the society? What good can this bring to anyone, except you, the company! And I started to feel like I am starting to see only problems, maybe the world isn’t that bad, maybe the way I see things is the problem.
But I constantly find other people who see the same flawed systems, people who believed that they are better off not needing the current system. It’s a very hard thing to do, I struggle daily with this, sometimes I lose track. It’s rooted in us; it’s what we see everyone doing, that’s how our world works. But it’s not the only way.
I don’t want to be part of any flawed system, it’s not easy and I wont be able to do it in one day, or one year. I’ve known all about these systems for years now, and I finally decided to do more than just know about it and shake my head in sorrow. I know that currently my tinker stories might not be offering a real solution, but it's where I started. I know that the problem is way bigger than me and the few people who see this too. But many of those people have created systems that are not based on “profit”. And they are trying to find ways to do things differently. And I decided to join them.