Monday, November 9, 2009
We were walking down the main street in Little Italy yesterday and I noticed several storefronts and restaurants that had Thanksgiving decorations in the windows. I was thrilled to see it. I love Christmas, make no mistake about that. And I sat last night listening to Christmas music and making ornaments. But even if I had my Christmas stuff with me, I would not be putting up the decorations just yet. I am a big believer in Thanksgiving. I have tried to cultivate an attitude of conscious gratitude in my own life and I think it's a good thing to have a day set aside specifically for us all to do so as a society. Unfortunately, it has become lost in the gluttony of consumption. We stuff ourselves on food, fill our time by watching too much sports coverage, and now we are exhorted to start the holiday shopping season a few hours early. Now instead of getting up early and being at the store well before sunrise, some stores start their sales on Thanksgiving Day itself. So the day in which we should sit down with people we care about and give thanks for all of the good things in our lives becomes yet another day to sit around and overconsume. It's a shame, really. It's sad. And it's not healthy. We have to consume in order to survive, but we have tipped the scales too far towards consumption and away from creativity. We can consume too many calories without lifting a finger creating fresh meals. All we have to do is drive through and fork over some cash, or buy stuff prepackaged and ready made, filled with too much fat, sweetener, and salt—just pop it in the microwave. It's killing us. Feel crummy? Need a lift? Then you will want to go shopping, no doubt. Buy some more crap that you don't really need. Who cares about the waste in terms of packaging, fuel use and human potential as some person halfway around the world has to work for slave wages so you can have a cheap doo-dad to make you feel better for a few hours. It always used to amaze me that whenever the newspaper or some other organization in Klamath Falls would ask people what they saw as the problems faced by the community, the need for more shopping was always mentioned by more than one person. Believe me, Klamath Falls has many serious problems. Having a place to shop is not among them. You may wonder as economists and analysts lament the fact that consumers are just not spending loike they used to. The recovery, they tell us, will really not even happen in practical terms until people are out there buying again. How exactly is this supposed to happen, I wonder? Unemployment is growing, easy credit no longer exists, people can't use their houses like ATMs anymore. Where are people supposed to get the money to engage in this festival of consumption? It seems a very logical question to ask, but I've not heard anyone ask it. Maybe I am not paying attention in the right places. I just don't get it. Now is the perfect opportunity to rethink the way we do things. But we resist doing it. So maybe, as Thanksgiving approaches, we can remember “the reason for the season,” to mix up my holiday cliches. Instead of thinking about how much food we can stuff ourselves with or how we can beat out our neighbor to the bargains at the store in the predawn darkness, maybe we can think about who and what is important to us and find ways to get more of that in our lives. And then we can enjoy a nice piece of pumpkin pie.