Turn on radio, read an article, scan the internet - the prevailing word of wisdom: we gotta spend more money. The American Consumer (sounds hideous, doesn't it?) has to dig in and get going - spend, spend, spend!
An economy built upon mindless spending and ceaseless consumption is just plain silly, and destructive of the soul, the family and the environment.
"We work in order to spend and we spend in order to work, and the more we spend the faster we must work" (Miroslav Volf, "Against the Tide," p.12) Like a squirrel in it's own spinning cage - going nowhere fast.
First, such a pace is destructive of the soul, as it transforms us into a consumer - like a toilet or a garbage disposal or some flesh-eating bacteria. A mindless, bloated, gobbling machine never satisfied and always yearning for the happiness that's just a purchase away.
Second, it's destructive of the family, as Mom and Dad spend more hours at work, fill the house with toys for the children that are played with once and then thrown into the closet, only to be sold in next summer's garage sale for 25 cents. Children watch Mom and Dad sell their souls to the company store; they learn how to use credit cards; they look at their playmates enviously or imperiously, depending upon the status of their possessions; they are distanced from the natural world of hikes and kites and butterflies; they are overweight and physically out of shape; the family doesn't know its neighbors, and no one has the time for a picnic.
Third, we're pillaging the environment to make junk to put under the next Christmas tree - plastic comes from oil, and once it's plastic, it's plastic forever, mostly to end up in landfills. Our homes are piles of stuff with a roof over it all, and we build storage units to hold more of our stuff. And when we divorce, or die, we fight over the stuff.
And in order to have more stuff, it has to be cheap, so we outsource the jobs, destroy the middle class, rely on credit and buy more junk.
How about an economy built upon savings, careful and thoughtful purchases of well-built items made here in the US?
How about consuming less and spending more time with one another?
How about being satisfied with the things we have and basing our life not upon what we have but who we are?
How about working fewer hours and taking more time to stroll through the nearby woods?
How about more vacation time? And it doesn't have to be a stellar cruise on a billion-dollar ship, or a madcap escapade at some Dizzy World that'll take every dollar we've got and leave us tired and cranky, but a couple of weeks in the mountains in a small cottage.
How about filling up the American banks with our savings, so that the American banks and government don't have to borrow from the world?
How about slowing things down and recovering the manufacturing sector of America, with TVs and washing machines that are more expensive and better built to last.
A slower economy with lower unemployment.
A soul satisfied with less things in order to have more of life.
A society less inclined toward violence and war.
Smaller inequity gaps.
Families that truly know one another and know their neighbors, too.
Wall Street reigned in.
The American Consumer transformed into the American Giver, the American Worker, the American Guardian of the Environment.
When George Bush stood in the rubble of 9/11 and told us to go out and shop, I realized just how sick we've become, and sick it is.
An economy built upon mindless spending is too fragile to maintain and can only collapse again and again.
We need a robust economy, not based upon spending, but savings and investments and real jobs.
We need to take a good long look at ourselves and no longer see ourselves as consumers but builders.
We had it once - the Greatest Generation understood those values.
We can lay claim to them again.