The troublesome rejection of a Monopoly token

Reusing and repairing takes a hit from a new generation of Monopoly fans that have rejected the thimble

Sorry, all. I’ve been tied up again with book edits. But now they’re complete and shipped off, so it’s time to dive back into the troubled waters of eco protection.

If I may, I’d like to return tonight in the shallow end, with an issue that may not seem all that worthy given everything happening in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

But then, perhaps it is.

By now you may have heard the news about an online poll taken by Hasbro, the influential toy company based in my home state of Rhode Island. Apparently, last month voters opted to throw away the thimble as a Monopoly token. The thimble has been a mainstay of the board game since its introduction in the 1930s. Now it has succumbed to a generation more familiar with routinely buying new and tossing out worn clothing rather than stitching fabric together at home—a generation besieged every season with the next season’s new must-haves. It's doubtful that many young people today have ever pondered the ontology of a thimble.

Indicators like the this speak volumes. They remind us that the eco wars are not just taking place in the halls of governments or in board rooms. They’re taking place in the assumptions that everyone makes about how we live our lives.

Okay, maybe I’m reading too much into the demise of a Monopoly token. Or maybe it really is a sign of the times that we should acknowledge.

"Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity." Pope Francis

Pope Francis offers two points in Laudato Si’ that I suggest are relevant to the sad demise of the thimble. I present them below, out of sequence:

A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures. (LS 222)

If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market. (LS 215)

In other words, the unsustainable means by which many of the world’s cultures live in this age are rooted in what the Holy Father calls “the paradigm of consumerism.” This worldview provides normative, consumption-based understandings of life within every sector of human society and in every socio-economic strata.

No matter your opinion about my worries over the lost thimble, I hope we can all agree that our job is, with God’s grace, to offer and live lifestyles that flow from the sober and temperate Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than from what Pope Francis calls a ‘culture of waste.’ And of course, to do that, we must root ourselves in the life-altering, life-enabling sacramental reality of the Church.

Otherwise we’ll continue to roll the dice and move from this issue to that, responding always to what other players are up to—consumers and suppliers in particular—and not only will we never pass Go, we may, in the words of the Holy Father, fail to nurture a world that appreciates “the small things.” Even the importance of a thimble or an ecosystem.

Again, Pope Francis offers advice on all this:

A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment. There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity. (LS 211)

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.