Sunday, August 17, 2008

Losing our way, accomplishment and pride

Perhaps it is simply my age and human nature to become reflective over time.  As I slide through my 40's I am becoming more concerned about  of society, especially the current and future state of our younger generations.  I suspect this is not a new phenomenon, for previous generations were convinced we were going to hell in a hand basket too.  But that does not change the fact I too am feeling this more and more strongly with each passing day.

We seem to be moving away from being a country of hard working producers of goods, to one of mass consumerism.   We once valued skills and professionalism, craftsmen were held in high regard.  Factory workers, like my father, were not necessarily proud to work on a line, but were proud to have solid jobs that sustained their families needs.  It was respectable to work, and work hard.  There was something else too, something less tangible, pride.  We were proud of our products, the fruits of our labor, the end results.  I struggled as a child to reconcile the grumbling of my father at the end of a long day, with his pride during open houses at that same factory, when we showed us the finished electric motors he helped produce.  His face would light up and he explained the part which he directly contributed to.  He was not solving world hunger, he was not saving lives, but we was producing something of value to others, being monetarily rewarded for it, and finding self worth in the process.

Today, the constant barrage of advertising and mass media suggests that happiness and not pride or ones contribution to our society is the most important aspect of being human in America.  And once you buy into the concept that your personal happiness is important above all else, its easy to flip a couple of switches and connect the acquisition of material goods and personal entertainment to one's happiness.  Having a shiny new car makes me feel good about myself.  Watching a movie is fun, and allows me not to think for two hours.

Just 30 years ago, there was very little in the way of personal entertainment that didn't also required a little personal output.  Radio shows gave way to television shows on a couple of channels during a few of hours each day.  The majority of the time available in a day was spent else where.  Play was physical exercise and typically not organized by adults, for the future hope of professional contracts and big money.  Adults worked and there were not many jobs that Americans were too good to do, or that didn't pay at least a living wage.  Most folks that had a job, had a full time job, and paid enough to house and feed their families. Unlike today were, in a effort to drive up corporate profits, corporations are only offering part time work to avoid the benefits requirements of full time employment.  

Today we sit in air conditioned comfort, in front of high definition televisions every available free hour we are not sleeping, making excuses why we deserve to relax and unwind.  Or we sit for hours on video game consoles, in simulated dangerous realities safe from the outside world, fighting wars, racing and crashing cars, and being criminals as we seek thrills and the pursuit of personal happiness.  We are not contributing to anything or anyone.  We are not producing a product, we are not impacting our society and we are not adding any value.  

We are consuming faster than we are producing.  For the last 25 years, stock holders demands for more and more profit have driven corporations  to dismantle and ship our factories over seas, to cheaper labour markets so we could buy more products for less money.  In our race for happiness and self pleasure, which we now achieved through material goods acquisition and personal entertainment, we have lost, or are rapidly losing, the foundation that allowed us the capital to accomplished this life style.  As we allow the base (production of products) to be shifted away from America, we are slowly lose the ability to feed our habits. Our young country is in danger.

Rather than face this reality we look the other way.  When we run out of money we print more.  When we have driven the value of the dollar to low to buy more we repackage it.  We create value where there is non and sell it to the greedy in giant bundles of meaningless mortgages.  Then once the world throws the covers back and discovers our fraud, we fall further.  They fear we can't buy their products, and offer us the sweet apple of original sin, a loan.  Just take our money and pay us later when you get back on your feet.  But without a product, and a work force willing to bend their backs to make it, how will that happen.  We are already seeing the widening of the separation of the classes in America.  Where once the middle class dominated, we are now becoming a two class society while China grows the biggest middle class the world has ever know.

Are we lost, has the train left the station, I do not know.  But regardless we must relearn the value of work, and reinstate pride.  Not pride in high scores of kills or wizard levels, but in our individual contributions to our families, communities and our society.  We must try and we must succeed for the sake of our generations to come and this country we love and want them to have as our legacy.


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