So…it would be appear that things are continuing to not go too well in the United States. A change in credit rating, the whole debt ceiling crisis, massive unemployment, fear of a double-dip recession…the list continues. What is worse is the American tentacles are reaching out to trading partners and many other countries around the world reigning fear and deep concern for their own economic welfare.
Canada, is no exception. While we are told that things seem to be holding their own here and that we have stricter policies and regulations in place that will protect us from global recession, the reality is, we are not immune to what the Americans are experiencing.
While I am not an economist (I dropped out of Grade 11 Economics..no thanks to Mr. McCartney) and I am not a maven of the stock market nor a huge follower of world politics (I like the simpler things), I do have an opinion on all of this nonsense and since this is my blog, I can write about whatever I like and you don’t have to like it or agree with it. All I would ask is that you read it, consider it and come to your own conclusions. You may even want to share your thoughts with me.
What is happening in the United States and elsewhere, has little to do with economics and jobs and all of that stuff; although these challenges are its by-products. It has everything to do with a fundamental breakdown in what the true definition is of the “American Dream”. While it would appear that this global problem did start in the United States, the very concept of the “American Dream” can be seen elsewhere in the world and I would include Canada as one of those places where our own “Canadian Dream” has been grossly distorted.
This distortion has caused many people to live beyond their means, get into real estate, overextend themselves and fill these houses up with a bunch of stuff they don’t need. When they fill up one house with stuff, many of us take out mortgages or cash and buy secondary homes (cottages/condos) and fill them up with even more stuff they don’t need.
Living in a capitalist society, everyday we are exposed to and enticed by companies selling us stuff, most of which, we really don’t need. But because we are suckers and believe the silly advertising that we are pummeled with on a daily basis, we believe that if we don’t have the latest and greatest gadget, car, article of clothing or whatever that we are something less and clearly aren’t considered “hip”, “trendy” or current.
So, we dig out our credit cards or go into our lines of credit, “credit” being money that really isn’t ours that is being lent to us to buy things we don’t need that we will one day pay back to the person lending it to us, with a boat-load of interest. We take this risk and this beating on interest and accept it because it gives us the opportunity to get all of these silly things we are told we need and that will help us have a better quality of life.
While I have a basic understanding of modern economics and know that we all need to be good little consumers because our need to acquire stuff gives others the ability to work so that these things can be manufactured, shipped, marketed and sold to the end user. But, as I write this blog, I can’t help think about one of my favorite comedians, Lewis Black, who said when talking about greed and consumerism: “how much shit do you really need”?
Why can’t we just settle? Why can’t we be satisfied with what we have? Why can’t we just learn to live with less? There are other countries around the world whose citizens are able to live abundant lives filled with little stress. Many of these people are spiritual and are quite capable to live rewarding and rich lives but with very little other than the essentials (shelter, food, clothing)…in many cases with assuming any kind of debt! What’s even better, they are able to live long lives because they take care of themselves (they don’t know from fast food).
I am not suggesting that we should all live our lives like Buddhist Monks. I am thinking that the emphasis that we place as a society on striving to amass as much wealth as possible, making ourselves sick in the process, so that we can buy a whole bunch of worthless objects that will supposedly make us happy, is just not the right way and really doesn’t seem to be working very well (in my opinion).
I used to think that the original definition of the “American Dream” included: getting married, a decent paying job, having a few kids, maybe a dog, living in a modest home with a white picket fence.
Not any more. We have gotten swept up in the consumerist mentality. We think having more will make us happier…will give us contentment; will provide us with a better quality of life.
Is that really the case? In the past 18 months, I have been forced to live with a lot less because my industry is still feeling the residual effects of the recession. I stay home a lot more…don’t buy stuff (because I need to use our financial resources for the essentials) and I spend much more time with my family and friends. Do I feel like I am missing out? Amazingly…no.
Many people point fingers at the government saying it is their fault for this horrible mess. Since the government is filled with policy makers who are elected by the people, I would suggest that we might want to consider looking at ourselves as the reason why we are in this pickle.