I am sorry. I really don’t understand. I always thought this was what we were supposed to be doing.
Pay as we go. Put something away for retirement. Don’t buy what we don’t need and when we do buy: reduce, reuse, recycle. Now they tell me our family’s irresponsible habits are destroying the economy.
A recent article in The Washington Post lamented—lamented!—the reduction of waste entering a northern landfill. This was taken as a sign of our failing economy— evidence that consumers no longer replace things that still work. Apparently our anguished economy simply cannot support this kind of unbridled self-restraint.
We’ve got to borrow more money so we can spend more money. We need to buy wider, flatter televisions; cell phones that file our taxes for us, fold our laundry, and put our children to bed at night; houses big enough to host shipbuilders’ conventions.
If we don’t borrow more, if we don’t spend more, people will lose their jobs. I don’t want people to lose their jobs. I cringe at the factory layoffs in Detroit and around the world. Hey, we put 180,000 miles on our last car. What have I done to our economy?
Won’t someone please tell me that it’s good news when American’s put 5% of their earnings in savings, keep useable electronic equipment out of landfills, and most days pack a lunch before leaving for work in the morning.
Is unrestrained consumerism the only model for a strong economy? Can’t we somehow develop and maintain economic habits of self-restraint and personal responsibility and still gainfully employ enough people to support and nurture a world population approaching 7 billion people. Can we, in the end, support and nurture 7 billion people if we don’t evolve a post-consumerist economy?
We have to find some other way. A way that navigates between parsimony and opulence, employs without destroying, saves without hording. Can you tell me what this is? I need your help, because I really don’t know. But I do know that this economic down turn can offer us a time for reflection and redirection, or it can just represent one more iteration of the last century’s cycles of consumerism and recession.
I want to believe we can re-emerge from this recession with a cleaner and more mature mechanism for economic growth. Help me with this, please. Today I am issuing a challenge essay. Tell us what you think. Start the dialogue. Write to Civic Soap box with your ideas for a new, sustainable and responsible economy.
- ▼ 2009 (38)