Minimalism is Made in China

You'd think that going minimalist in terms of interior design would be easy. Just decide which three items you want to keep in each room, and throw the rest away. In fact, if you are unfortunate enough to subject yourself to my weekly ramblings, you'll probably recall that we are in the process of going minimalist in our lounge at the moment. We've tossed out the old gas fire and surround and ordered a modern remote controlled "rectangular sheet of black glass" fire that pretends to be a real one using some surreal combination of video, audio, computing power, and pulsating LEDs.

Of course, the multitude of wires for the TV that were hidden behind the fire surround were then nakedly on view, and also emerged just above the skirting board exactly where there used to be a cupboard, but now there wouldn't be. So I had to pull them all out, dig some fresh holes, and put them back in. But there was no point putting the same ones back because most were incompatible with an even remotely modern TV, and ours was well past its expected lifespan. So the old TV went off to our son's house to radically upgrade his Xbox gaming experience and we got a new TV. Now we have nineteen wires buried in the wall, one for each of the sockets on the back of the new TV.

And while we were looking at TVs, my wife espied a very reasonably priced modern black glass table to replace the very decrepit one we have now. So that's the three things for the lounge and the whole minimalist thing is well under way. All I needed was a week to slap some paint on the walls, and a series of delivery vans to arrive. And that's when I discovered that, as we are so often told, we don't actually make anything here in Britain any more.

Mind you, we're not alone in that respect. I remember watching a Simpsons episode where Homer and Marg were wandering around the kitchen department of a large store and Marg remarked that everything she looked at was made in some distant country. "Don't we actually make anything in America these days?" she asked; to which Homer replied - waving a wooden meat tenderizing mallet - "This says 'Made in the USA'". At which point the head fell off it.

So when the new table arrived, I wasn't surprised to see it has a label underneath saying "Made in China". As have the new black chrome curtain poles my wife selected to match the new minimalist decor. And as I was connecting up the TV, finding a "Made in China" label on the back did not seem unusual. Though it was somewhat perturbing to discover that, on that back of the fire we ordered from "British Fire Manufacturers" (who advertise that they are "so confident of the quality of the components and our closely controlled manufacturing process that we offer a full one year guarantee") is a label saying - you guessed it - "Made in China".

But I suppose we expect most electrical consumer goods to be made in China now anyway. The laptop I'm typing this on has a "Made in China" label underneath. The mouse I'm using says "Designed in Redmond USA" on it, but in smaller letters underneath admits that it, too, was made in China. When I opened the broken Media Center box last week, everything inside had a "Made in China" label. Except for the case itself, which it says it was made in Indonesia.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, especially if you keep up with the news and heard about the factory in Shenzhen in southern China that covers 200 square miles and employs 8 million people (or something like that). And it's not like everything that comes from China is poor quality. They make all the iPads and iPhones there, and they are quite respectable devices. Or so I'm told - being a 'Softie I wouldn't actually know, of course.

But what must be galling for them is that they feel they need to hide the fact by putting very small "Made in China" labels on the back of stuff. The hi-fi system I bought 30+ years ago (and which is still the main audio system we use for the Media Center, the DVD player, the CD player, and the TV) proudly displays large "Made in Japan" signs right there on the front panel. Like they are proud to say so. And, at least in this case, they probably are. I suspect that my computers, TV, mobile phone, and all the other more recent hi-tech stuff in our house will struggle to survive even a fraction of that time - as I discovered last week...

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