7.10.03

Here's some stuff i have been thinking about:

In the early 1900's, with industrialization and such, we in the first world reached a place where our basic needs were generally well met. In response to this, people wanted to work less, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. However two groups of people didn't want this: 1. The protestant moralists, who believed that to much free time would lead to, at the very least, sloth (one of the seven deadly sins). 2. The economists, who were operating under the assumption that growth is good, and in order to get growth needed people to keep working and keep consuming after their basic needs were met. So there were a bunch of economic meetings to find a way to solve this problem. In the end they come up with one, known as "quality of life" or "standard of living". Let me offer you some quotes (taken from "Your Money or Your Life":

"In 1929 the Herbert Hoover committee on recent economic changes published a progress report on this new (and very welcome) strategy: (reffering to the idea of getting people to consume more by promoting the necessity of improving the "standard of living")
The survey has proved conclusively what has long been held theoretically to be true, that wants are almost insatiable; that one want satisfied makes way for another. The conclusion is that economically we have a boundless field before us; that there are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied... Our situation is fortunate, our momentum is remarkable. (end of statement form committee)
Instead of leisure being relaxed activety, it was transformed into an opportunity for increased consumption - even consumption of leisure itself (as in travel and vacations)....
The Hoover Committee agreed. Leisure was not, in fact, a reason for not working. It was a reason for working more. Somehow the consumer solution satisfied both the industrial hedonistss hell-bent on achieving a metial paradise and the puritans who feared that unoccupied leisure would lead to sin. In fact, the new consumerism promoted all the deadly sins (lust, covetousness, gluttony, pride, envy) except perhpas anger and sloth.
Only mildly subdued by the Depression, consumerism returned with added vigor in teh post-WWII era.Victor Lebow, a U.S. retailing analyst of the early postwar era, proclaimed: "Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate." And thus the rat race was born, leading to our excruciating balancing act between working more to buy luxuries and having enough leisure to nejoy them. In our initial enthusiasm for our new status as consumers, we learned to assert our rights, standing up to unsrupulous business. 'Rights' however, have since taken ona different hue."

pg. 16-17

Yes, they actually had a committee that met to plan our cannabalistic demise and today we reap the "rewards". Sound to much like an evil empire? or some conspiracy of behind the scenes bad guys? Yeah, it kind of does. Wierd eh? But its not so much a conspiracy as a system of assumptions, implicit and explicit goals, that come together to create what we live in today. Some people, way back in the day, had the brains to figure it out, but unfortunately these were people who wanted it all to happen.

Stuff to think about anyway, and here is one more quote:

The dangers of the ideal of competition is that it neither proposes nor implies any limits. It proposes to simply lower costs at any cost, and to raise profits at any cost. It does not hesitate at the destruction of the life of a family or of the life of a community.
229
Wendell Berry, What are people for? (San Francisco: NorthPointPress, 1990) 131


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