More isn’t always better. Faster doesn’t always win. We know these things, but no one would think so by the way most of us Americans live.
Go ahead and keep writing it off or label me a doomsday extremist, but the fact remains: Americans make up just five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume a third of the world’s paper and a quarter of the world’s oil and coal. We import far more than we export, meaning we perpetually spend more than we make as a country (that’s bad). But here’s the real kicker: we’re also responsible for half of the world’s waste*. So… we buy other nations’ resources with a credit card that already has an outstanding balance of $17 trillion, and then we throw away what we’ve bought. Great concept, America.
(If you don’t pay much attention to economics and think billion-dollar bailouts and $17 trillion deficits are normal, I sincerely beg you to at least watch these two highly-rated documentaries on Netflix: “End of the Road” and “Surviving Progress.” Neither has anything to do with which side of the political fence you sit on. If you go watch them right now and never return to finish reading this post, I will be perfectly content. Although, if you leave now, you’ll never know how this relates to “Dumb and Dumber” and you’ll always wonder…)
Our minds have become wired to move “forward” no matter the cost; no matter how unsustainable and ridiculous the route becomes. We listen to popular media instead of the debt we’ve accumulated about what “forward” means, and so the idea of pulling over or even just slowing down is rarely considered.
We know what our values should be, right? We naturally recite that “faith, family, and friends are where happiness is found.” Then we pursue entirely different things for the same excuse of finding happiness. But the newest car, the latest fashion or technology, the biggest house… not even the highest-earning job holds the key to happiness. If you think it does, it’s time to: 1. Read your Bible, 2. Watch those Netflix documentaries (seriously), and 3. Find new friends to be better influences on you.
In that order.
In all our convenience and comfort, we’re missing it. The more stuff we get and the higher our expectation of living becomes, the more we lose touch with reality. Life is naturally beautiful and happiness is abundantly simple… but we’re missing it.
Having a high-paying job, a phone with useful features, or a big house (full of people) is not necessarily bad. It’s feeling like our lives would be worthless without them that has led us to lose touch with reality and therefore God.
God is in reality, not in self-centered entitlement. If you don’t believe me, take a look through the Old Testament at the prophecy against Israel in Ezekiel 16, or later against Egypt in chapter 29. God humbled these nations because they were completely absorbed with themselves and everything they had accumulated. They lived a life of total excess. There was no fear or reverence of God because there was no need for God. There was no room for Him among all the stuff they thought they needed and were doing so well in getting for themselves. Ethics had given way to profitability, and corruption was at an all-time high.
We can all agree that for someone who took a wrong turn, “forward” is the wrong direction. This car we’ve been driving (and the direction in which we’ve been driving it) has put us $17 trillion in debt, and counting. I’d say it’s about time we pull over and re-evaluate what new direction to take and how to get there.
Admit it, Lloyd. We took the exit for Nebraska as we were driving to Aspen. It’s time to trade the ridiculous van “straight up” and find a scooter to take us back the other way. I don’t think we’ll survive much longer if we keep scamming other people to pick up our tab. One way or another, we’ve got to figure out how to stop writing nothing but IOU’s.
The re-route will not be easy, or even remotely simple. But the first thing we should do is let go of this idea of saving the economy, as if it’s somehow separate or independent from ourselves. The economy is simply an indicator of what’s going on inside of our country; it’s the blood test results that reveal our own cholesterol levels and clogged arteries.
It’s ourselves that we need to save. Continuing to gorge ourselves on delicious pastries won’t change the worrisome test results, regardless of what the people making the pastries say. There will still be an economy when we stop spending needlessly. It’ll just look different. It’ll look more like it should have looked all along… based in reality and not self-centered entitlement. Debt is like having clogged arteries, indicating that something is fundamentally wrong. We can either change our lifestyle or brace ourselves for the impending heart attack.
So what do we do? Here’s what riding the scooter back to Aspen looks like (the first few miles anyway):
- Get yourself out of debt. If that means no cable TV or daily meals at restaurants so you can pay off more principle, you will be okay.
- Live within your means. Contrary to popular belief, kids can share bedrooms, and nobody cares how new your car is. Living paycheck to paycheck or slowly racking up debt indicates you have some re-prioritizing to do.
- Reuse and recycle everything you possibly can. Five percent of the world being responsible for half the global waste is absolutely embarrassing.
Will this blog do anything to stop us from continuing down our current road? With my readership, chances are slim. I know I’m likely wasting my time because people continually brush this stuff off because it’s somehow “un-American” to talk about changing the American way. But I can’t stay quiet any longer. We think we’re in Aspen, California, but haven’t asked why the Rocky Mountains aren’t a little rockier than this. But this is exactly what the American way has brought us to.