Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shifting Standards

I was reading this article today. This quote was disturbing:

"We are subjecting millions of people to a standard of living below that which they could achieve if the economy were at full capacity. Underemployment means that many more people who can't spend as much as they otherwise would."

First off, I don't know who the we is that he is referring to. Who is subjecting these people to a standard of living below that which they could achieve?

And second, why is it such a very bad thing that people can't spend as much money? I mean, I know all of the economic reasons, and how everything is inter-related - less spending=more layoffs=higher unemployment ... yada, yada ... but less spending means those companies who are manufacturing things outside of the US might be compelled to bring production back to the US, because they're paying more to ship the stuff here from overseas than they're making, and that would mean more jobs. It won't happen overnight, and things will get much worse before they get better, but wouldn't that be a wonderful goal to work toward?

Personally, I'd be willing to accept a lower standard of living (still not sure what that entails) and a reduced ability to buy all of the things I want if I knew the result would be to make our country more self-sufficient - like it used to be.

Of course, just the fact that we're griping about our standard of living, when, quite frankly, we have one of the highest standards of living in the world is incredulous. Everyone, who wants it, has access to electricity, and even in some of the most remote, desolate places of these United States. With only a very few exceptins, we all have access to clean drinking water, on tap. Eighty percent of Americans have access to the Internet - at home. That's a pretty significant number, and belies any argument that *we* are suffering.

One family featured in the article had their power disconnected when they were unable to pay the bill. They had their gas cut, too, and had to spend the summer cooking outside on the grill. Man, they had it so tough.

I joke, but seriously, what's bad about cooking on the grill for the summer? And even if it extends into the winter ... well, there are worst things.

What amused me, as I was reading the article, is all of this talk of deprivation for things like losing electricity for a short time or having to cook outside on the grill, while so many of us eco-freak-o bloggers are trying to reduce our consumption, and even going so far as to voluntarily cut our grid connections for a weekend to see how we'd do without the grid, and to patch any potential holes in our preparedness for a lower energy future.

We're all trying to figure out how to live without our gas and electricity, because we know we can't depend on unsustainable luxuries, like grid power, and while we're practicing our little scenarios, this guy is working his ass off, and not seeing his son, just so that he can maintain the grid connection.

The dad is hopeful that they'll have the gas back on soon. I wish I could encourage him to work less at trying to keep his family connected to the grid and a more at reducing their need for it.

We had our monthly outdoor skills class today. Among the many things my girls are learning in this class is to be comfortable and safe with using a knife. Today, they carved figurines to give as gifts.

And we gave our immune systems a hardy boost with hemlock tea, which is rich in vitamins A and C, and has been used for centuries for treating colds and flu symptoms - much better than the flu shot ... or tamiflu.

For us, it's about learning to live more simply. The class is part of it. Learning to tan hides is another part. Having smoked rabbit meat from rabbits we raised for our Thanksgiving feast is another.

We're slowly taking our house off the grid, and in a few years, we hope to be, mostly, self-sufficient.

I wonder what the author of the article, and the people featured in the article, would think about our standard of living.

We're warm. We're clothed. We're fed. We're healthy.

Can it get any higher than that?


  1. To most Americans, those of us trying to voluntarily reduce our standard of living are nuts. They truly cannot understand why we'd do this. These are the same folks who would rather take pills - with tons of toxic side-effects - than eat healthier or *gasp* exercise. We are definitely in the minority, Wendy. :(

  2. Alas, I know that you are correct, Chile, but I see our numbers growing, and I'm hopeful that those who have embarked on the simplicity path by force will come to the realization that their new life is so much easier and so much for fulfilling than their previous consumerist lifestyle :).

  3. God save me from my wants. If my living simpler keeps someone from working overtime to buy MacDonalds on their way home because they are too overworked and stressed to cook food...I cannot feel guilty about that. Chile's comment about taking pills rather than eating healthier or "gasp" excercising is extremely funny - and totaly sad. It speaks volumes about our North American lifestyles. Imagine telling someone from Darfur that we pay people to starve us.

    It is a fundamental principle of consumerism to feed our wants and not our needs.

    A very dear price to pay when the bills come in. And they always will. Even if we have managed to avoid them for decades..

  4. Wendy - Absolutely! about everything you said. Many people in this country don't realize how fortunate they really are. To generalize here, "they" don't know any other way to survive - they do what they're "supposed to do" by working insane hours to provide all the things they "think" they need.

    And, Right on, to the commenters thus far! These are my sentiments too.