There Is No Plan

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After Rampant Consumerism – More Rampant Consumerism

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it ain't easy to kick the habit

it ain't easy to kick the habit

You gotta love economists. In way more complicated language than is necessary, they tell us the party’s over for our free spending ways. It’s time to save. We leveraged ourselves up to the eyeballs for a flat screen TV. It’s time to save. We bet the housing market would go up forever and we were wrong. It’s time to save. We’re all broke. We’re worried about our jobs, we’re upside-down on our houses, our retirement plans are in tatters. Winter’s coming and the recession’s on. The economists tell us it’s time to save.

Of course, that makes fabulous sense economically, but it doesn’t add up spiritually. Did the consumer boom of the last twenty-five years truly change us? I think so. I think it’s in our blood. I think it’s the reason we’re more obese than ever and only as green as is fashionable. Can we go back to our parents’ thrifty ways, when polyester was where it was at, and Wham! a really big deal. I think not.

Too much has happened to us, and most of it is bad. A new generation is in charge, and it’s been brought up on buying crap we don’t need. The teenage offspring of that generation know nothing else. Marketing is everything. We’re being sold all the time and we’re used to it. In fact we like it. Shopping has become recreation. Conspicuous consumption has become a religion. Our clothes and cars define us, our glittery trappings have become extensions of our out of control, avatar-driven, egos. All this and people are expected to save. What do the economists think we’re going to do, curl up with a second-hand paperback?

The crisis we’re about to face goes further than economics. It’s about who we are, and what we’ll do without those habitual strolls through the mall. Because saving means changing behavior, and not just a little either. It’s an open question as to whether our pampered, self-absorbed, media-drenched, lemming-like collective psyche can weather the storm without tumbling into an existential crisis. It’s easy to say, enjoy your children, or walk to work, or savor the sunset, but I doubt many of us, who weren’t that way inclined already, will truly adjust to the promise of a truly post-consumerist world. And then of course there’s the rather irksome fact that over seventy percent of the US economy is driven by consumer spending, so if too many of us did start browsing that second-hand bookstore, we’d only be making matters worse. Stimulus packages aren’t designed to encourage saving. They’re designed to feed the habit of crap junkies.

All those marketers, all that technology, all those developing countries making our ipods, need someone to listen and click, and sign up and most importantly buy. All those poor people who just want a piece of the fable knows as the American Dream need to spend. The pressure on us is just too much. The economy will demand that we cough up the dough as it comes in, and our materialist habits will come flooding back. The spend-it-all system was only perfected in the last few years. And it will be back.

It’s wishful thinking to suggest we can save, and save ourselves. More likely is in a couple of years we’ll all be crap junkies once more, leveraging ourselves like crazy for a wall full of hi-def imagery, and bragging about it to our neighbors, just like the good old days.

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