James Steidle: Prince George’s shoe repair shop symbol of a better world

It is a window into a rapidly disappearing world of self-reliance, resourcefulness, and a philosophy of understanding value.

Just think of how hopeless we’d be if the ships didn’t come in and our nation lost its supply of cheap footwear. 

Lucky for us, we’ve still got Jerry down at Steve and Son’s Shoe Repair on George Street, the only place in Northern B.C. where you can get your shoes fixed.

To me, that little shop is a symbol of something very important.  It is a window into a rapidly disappearing world of self-reliance, resourcefulness, and a philosophy of understanding value.

In a throw-away world of easy-come easy-go, Jerry’s shoe repair shop invites us to consider otherwise.

Your items, like your shoes and your clothes, are things to keep alive. They are things that should live for decades, not months. Things that should be built not just to last, but to be able to maintain and to resurrect.  

It’s not like that now. In this era of cheap mass-production, where almost all of our nation’s footwear is manufactured overseas, we place little value on the ability to keep those shoes on the road. The moment they wear out, we throw them away.

We almost don’t have a choice. Our shoes, along with most of our household items, our appliances, even our automobiles and furniture, aren’t really designed to last or to be repaired all that much. 

They are designed to be thrown away.

There’s a word for all this: planned obsolescence. And it has a rationale. 

The more material that can just be thrown in a landfill, the more stuff we have to mine, log, and drill, and the more overseas factories we need to replace all the stuff we thoughtlessly turfed.

And all this, of course, feeds a better and bigger world economy and a bigger Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. 

The more we throw away, the more we consume, the more containers rolling in off the ships to replace everything, the busier the railroads are, the more forest we can level for strip malls and highways, the more taxes can be charged, the bigger the bureaucracy can be, and the better we can delude ourselves into thinking our economic system and existence here on earth is resilient, let alone sustainable.

We are so saturated with relentless advertisements and marketing schemes and messages that most of us have come to associate repairing our footwear with being poor!  We associate mindless consumption, waste, and our nation’s GDP with our worth and status as human beings!

If you feel that way, I won’t pass any judgment. I like buying new footwear as much as the next person. We are all victims of materialism.

But if your shoes are worn out, take them downtown and get them repaired.  Give it a shot.

Throw a wrench in this globalized spiral of disempowerment. Throw a nod of appreciation to the bygone era of self-sufficiency it represents.

There will be a day when we need every shoe repair shop and shoemaker there is.

James Steidle is a Prince George writer.

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