x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A material world

The idea of sharing material possessions has its benefits – and some drawbacks.

In this day and age, materialism is more the rule than the exception. When you can have it all, why bother to share?

This world view has become part of life - ordinary, everyday consumers can, it must be said, be pretty rotten individuals. And when people are surrounded by greedy peers who are only out to get theirs, come what may, nothing is more natural than for them to erect their own anti-personnel defences.

That is why a new idea, dubbed "collaborative consumption", seems both a little unlikely and rather heartening. The proposal? Instead of buying more and more things, we can simply borrow them - for a fee - from someone who has some to spare, or swap items that we no longer want. The pair of new, ill-fitting shoes collecting dust in the wardrobe is exchanged for a shirt that may be a new favourite; a digital camera that was used on that one holiday could be rented out for a couple of quick dirhams.

The trend extends to renting out a spare room, or a car, or even hiring out services to help with the chores and shopping errands. Undoubtedly, people who are predisposed to share are a self-selecting crowd who will probably get along just fine. There may be some horror stories, however - the houseguest who never leaves; the pair of shoes that comes back slightly clammy - that argue a bit of selfishness might not be so bad.