I was drawn to the premise for two main reasons. One – the timing was good for me personally. All of my boys are in school now, and I’m at the start of a new era after 7+ years at home full-time with them. And two – the ongoing economic recession has me asking some questions about the incentive structure that drives profit, and success, in our system. That is, the key is consumption.
At a very basic level, it feels wrong to me that the success of the American economy (to which so many of our investments, loans and jobs are tied) is directly related to our level of consumption. Why is it that we have to spend our way out of a recession? As Hayes points out, the American household is no longer a unit of production – production of food, education, health care, goods and services for barter:
Traditional knowledge to care for the sick, nourish our families, produce our own food & entertain ourselves has nearly disappeared from our culture, with all of it being transferred to “experts” – factory farms, corporate health care, chain restaurants, media conglomerates – who are more interested in maximizing a profit than in conserving or replenishing our living systems.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is much, much drudgery and suffering that has thankfully been left in the past thanks to modern inventions & innovation. And it’s likely that most American families, ours included, don’t feel capable of selling their cars & moving off-grid tomorrow. But Hayes eloquently convinces me that things have gone too far. I’m craving more self-sufficiency, more community, more nature, more humanity.
In last month’s Fixing the Future (a PBS must-watch), an economist asks, “do people exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve the people?”
Instead of being tied to a certain level of income that will buy for us life’s necessities and “necessities”, maybe I could try settling into a smaller income & producing more necessities here at home. Hang up a clothesline. Bake bread. Join the Hour Exhange Portland. Knit socks (and maybe spin the yarn to do so??) Repair clothes by hand (and maybe invest in a sewing machine?)
I am not proposing a wholescale economic revolution, but haven’t the financial meltdown as well as repeated safety recalls made you feel vulnerable? Unsettled? Confused? I don’t know. Like I said, maybe via small steps, I can take back a little control for myself & family in this very big, crazy-ass world. It’s a small, local world, after all.