We presently live in a world of peace and prosperity, with a great many options for doing worthwhile and thus interesting things. Most people would instantly disagree with that statement, and would point to the abundance of evil things happening around the world. I just walked through Safeway looking for yogurt and had trouble finding some because there was a mountain of other stuff. If you looked at the labels, which I didn’t, they would be products from all over the world. It would appear obvious that these wonderful things couldn’t have been brought to us if the world was in the horrible turmoil that the media constantly projects at us as the truth. The obvious explanation for people worrying about such things is that they are paying too much attention to the media’s reporting on miserable things which they can do nothing about. Thus we have a public with massive amounts of free-floating personal anxiety about distant other people’s horrors.
Another problem confronting Americans is poverty. But what is that? It was reported last month that nearly half of American adults, even fully employed ones, can’t come up with $400 in personal savings in an emergency. That is a week’s pay at minimum wage, and that means most of them are within a week of personal disaster. And why is that? Because people buy stuff they don’t need because advertising convinces them they do need it.
A half an hour ago a friend and I were in a parking lot and there was a Mercedes Benz 400, and he looked at it longingly and said that if he had the money he would like to own it. He lives walking distance from where we were standing. I just looked up the price on that car. It’s $100,000-249,500. The local description of our city is “poverty with a view”, but it’s a view of extravagant consumption, and most people wouldn’t even notice that car. It appears to me that people are so desperate for others to think of them as rich that they spend their last penny on personal display. I see it as childish, or adolescent at best. It’s the ostentatious behavior of a very foolish person, who in my world view is to be personally avoided, not copied. And yet it is the aspiration of most people, like my friend, to be in that car.
I see owning that car as criminal theft. That’s crazy, most people would say, they didn’t steal anything. But they did rob the future people of even the possibility of living because the owner of that car is consuming the very stuff that would enable those people to eat and to live. Okay, I’m being too concerned with future people’s needs; after all they don’t even exist now, except in the form of dirt. Dirt that needs to be processed through plants, and animals, and mothers before they even exist. Why even give them a second thought, or first thought; as on old friend of mine back in Berkeley would say, “Screw ’em!” Or, as another old friend would say, “That’s their problem, let them figure it out.” As you can see from this blog post, I am quite open-minded in the choice of my friends; I have to be, because I am even weirder than they.
The type of responsibility toward other people I’ve been proposing isn’t working, so it’s time to consider other options.