Reconciling Anti-Capitalism and Keyboards


#1

Okay, I’ve been wrestling with issues of consumerism and capitalism in our community for a long time, and I don’t know how to reconcile my leftist political beliefs with my love of keyboards, artisans, switches, and everything this community has to offer. I thought I would open up a dialogue among people who may be fellow travelers with me on the left wing politically, to see what all of you think. So, without further ado, here is my dilemma:

While I love being a part of this community and I contribute whenever I can, the core experience of the keyboard community is purchasing and assembling extremely nice, personalized, and aesthetically pleasing keyboards. To acquire these things requires at least some involvement by the twin demons of capitalism and consumerism. While by no means do I believe that all keyboards regardless of origin are made by child workers in some gulag somewhere (though I guess they could be? mostly kidding), that makes me question what kinds of keyboard consumption can be considered “wholly ethical” and which are “marginally ethical”. I feel completely fine handing over money to an artisan maker who has sculpted, cast, and finished their keycaps by hand, as this does not involve any economic exploitation or coercion, I wonder what is on the opposite side of that spectrum. (inb4 $5 Dell rubber domes are made in a gulag)

  • Has anyone else grappled with these issues?
  • Where do you place mechanical keyboard obsession ethically? Is it “wholly ethical”, “marginally ethical”, “completely unethical” or somewhere in between?
  • Is there any way to square this consumerist hobby with being a “good lefty”?
  • How do you think about these issues?
  • What other issues bother you about this community from an economic or political perspective?

Thanks so much for reading!

Don’t agree that capitalism has some pretty bad side effects? Don’t consider yourself left-of-center politically? The door is over there! The a priori assumption of this discussion is that capitalism is bad, and I don’t want this to be a place for talking people out of their political proclivities. Thank you!


#2

I hear you. While everyday is full of compromises as a lefty in a thoroughly atomized and commodotized society, it would be nice to have a way to carve out a way for our hobby to reflect different values. I’m not sure what the answer is beyond building communities and what you say about supporting individual makers. Perhaps we can raise our voices if we see people’s work exploited, unnecessary hoarding, or excessive gate-keeping. Thanks for starting the conversation, should be interesting to see what people think!


#3

Sounds like you are questioning the relationship between art and consumerism, which I think is intertwined within the keyboard community (large tech brands being on the consumerist side and artisans being closer to artists selling their work).

I’ve thought a bit about this in relation to 3D printing and how it could change wastefulness in consumerism, the idea being you can print exactly what you need and some types of plastic (PLA) are biodegradable or recyclable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylactic_acid#Recycling

Other 3D printers have worked towards eliminating waste further by re-using the spools that normally are thrown away in the 3D printing process: https://www.matterhackers.com/articles/tech-breakdown-the-master-spool

Also, mechanical keyboards last longer than most electronics and are not designed from the motive of planned obsolescence - which makes them much, much better than any smartphone.

People using IBM Model Ms from the late 1980s and 1990s are keeping tech out of landfills.

A lot of the keyboard community supports both open source and open hardware as well - open hardware being linked to the right to repair movement, which could be considered less wasteful.


#4

Used and vintage keyboards appeal to me partly for this reason. I have seen used, repaired, re-soled dress shoes be recommended toward vegans, because non leather options are not taken seriously. In the same way someone wishing to step up a level conscientiously could consider rescuing some vintage keyboard stuff.

I’m attempting a repair on an Alps64 that somebody butchered hoo boy hope i get some garage time tonight


#5

I’ve thought about this a little myself, and it is very difficult to be wholly ethical in doing pretty much anything to live in this society. I liken it to the carbon web. Capitalism and consumerism are so intertwined in so many aspects of just existing on this planet that most any decision we make has some degree of “unethicalness” about it.

Because of that, I’m glad you have specified at least “marginally ethical”, as that might be the most we can do now. @keyboardbelle listed good ideas. As people subject to the systems that capitalism and consumerism have built, we can do small things to be more ethical. I think @ThieF’s suggestion to use our voices to call out unethical behavior is a good thing, too.

I dunno. I can’t say I’ve figured any of it out, but I hope this thread can help us all!


#6

Consumerism and capitalism aren’t inherently bad. They’re bad because of the things they can lead to.

Mechanical keyboards are so niche that they don’t have those issues. The mech kb industry is so miniscule that any effects it has is negligible.


#8

like i said:

The a priori assumption of this discussion is that capitalism is bad


#9

The whole premise of this post is based on the opposite of your first sentence.


#10

Identity politics are for people with too much time on their hands.


#11

Who said anything about idpol?


#12

lol gibberish. drivel. dreck.


#13

You also said:

Only one of those can be true. Is capitalism inherently bad or does it just have bad side effects? Is its badness binary? Dessert and alcohol are pretty bad, do you abstain from them completely?


#14

what if i told you i believe that it is both bad and has bad side effects? would your brain implode? of course not, because they’re easily reconcilable.


#15

This just isn’t the topic.


#16

Hey, my opinions differ from your opinion. That’s cool. Have a good day.


#17

this is a really thoughtful and interesting answer. i think you, @keyboardbelle, and @bbfeets definitely have some interesting approaches i will have to think about. thanks!


#18

and a very cordial and good day to you too, sir


#19

I would consider myself pretty minimalist and I try not to purchase things I don’t need.

That being said, I don’t see anything wrong with making a few exceptions for things that make me happy. In this case, keyboards make me happy and they don’t hurt anyone.

They are easily recyclable; there’s a very vibrant aftermarket so unlike other consumer electronics, they don’t get tossed. In fact, people will reuse, resolder, repurpose them for decades to come.

This is hobby with almost no downsides other than monetary, and to guilt yourself because you hate capitalism is just masochistic.


#20

Hey. What keyboard is that?


#21

lol then why are you in the keyboard community? enjoy your dell then i guess. i am not tortured or guilty, i just want to hear if other people have thought about this from the same perspective i have. have a good night!