How to defeat the lawn mower army


Walk outside your house and look around on your street. Chances are that you can see maybe a dozen houses. Now I want to let you in on a secret:

Everyone of those houses probably has a lawn mower.

(If you live in a high-rise or other heavily-urbanized area, substitute “vacuum cleaner” for “lawn mower” and “apartment” for “house”,  but otherwise, read on.)

Don’t feed the tools

If you extrapolate to all of the houses on all of the streets in all of the neighborhoods in your town, that’s a lot of lawn mowers. I imagine an army of sentient lawn mowers, standing at attention and awaiting further orders from the Supreme Cutting Implement. Does the Third Amendment apply to lawn mowers? Would they have different ranks? Or would everyone have the rank of First Grass?*

But I digress. Does the idea of a sea of lawn mowers, all quartered in different houses, weird you out at all? It did to me, but the even bigger insight was the kicker for me:

At any time, almost none of them are being used.

Sure, you might have walked outside on a Saturday morning, when people are constitutionally obligated to cut grass. But most often, at any given time, no lawn mowers are being used. Now doesn’t that seem wasteful to you?

Do we all need to own the same item when that item is going to be used so infrequently? No, of course not. Few people attach sentimental value to their lawn mower, and they certainly aren’t heirlooms, so there’s nothing personal attached to them. So why do we all own a lawn mower?

Not an heirloom
Not an heirloom

It wasn’t always like this. You have probably heard of stories where the neighbor would come over and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or two eggs. That probably doesn’t happen to you though. It’s for the same reason: We have been taught to believe that we need to be totally self-sufficient.

This is intentional. A company that sells lawn mowers wants to convince you that every one needs their own lawn mower, so they will sell more of them. Most of our consumer advertising is at great pains to make sure that everyone should get their own thing. They sell more, you spend more. Everyone wins, except for you.

I hear the objection: but if we stopped buying so much stuff, wouldn’t companies go out of business and jobs be lost? To which I ask this: so are we to prop up the system by making and buying things we don’t need? If we didn’t buy as much stuff, we wouldn’t need as much money. If we lived more simply, we wouldn’t need to kill ourselves in the pursuit of making more money, and we would be able to enjoy life more. Don’t we want to eliminate all the jobs that aren’t meaningful and worthwhile, and replace them with those that are? Isn’t that the goal?

The tools you need

Because my home town is awesome, we have local tool libraries. You go in and borrow tools of all sorts for seven days, and then return them all at no charge. And yes, they have lawn mowers.

But even if your hometown isn’t as forward-thinking as mine (which, to be fair, is pretty likely), what would happen if you and everyone on your block got together and went in on two or three lawn mowers?

  • For a start it would force you to meet and interact with your neighbors. That’s far overdue anyway, and would strengthen your community and make you feel less lonely.
  • Every one of you would save hundreds of dollars, and therefore have money to spend on non-lawn mower purchases.
  • And there’s that whole eliminating waste and rejecting over-consumption thing again. Humans 1, lawn mowers 0.

It’s time to reject the notion that we are (or should be) self-sufficient. Every one of us needs others to thrive, whether it’s in social interaction, community building, financial help, or spiritual guidance. And yes, shared resources. The idea that you are an island, helped by no one, is a fallacy. Even if you’re one of those people who live way out in the middle of nowhere and exist on hunting bison and drinking ground water, you still are helped by the roads that enabled you to go there, the method of transport that enabled you to get there, and the zoning laws that prevent that land from being developed into a new town or highway overpass. To say nothing of the love you received throughout your life to enable you to continue to exist.

We need each other, for lots of reasons. Defeating the lawn mower army is just one of them.

But enough about lawn mowers. What do you feel we should be collaborating on?

* Sorry.

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