An Opportunity for Real Change

I recently watched this very disturbing video which shows 50 kids opening their presents Christmas morning to discover they received a Nintendo Wii. Now I don’t have anything against the Wii itself, and I even considered getting one for my kids (didn’t), but I have a problem with their reactions. Many of these kids are just way too over the top. This is very likely the most excited they have been in their whole lives. As a parent, it is rewarding when your kid responds with such glee to a gift, but these reactions really point to the rampant materialism that our society has generated.

One of the things that bothers me is that I know that one of the things that will bring the US (and the world) out of the recession is for consumers to begin spending again. Two-thirds of the US economy is based on consumer spending. So at a time when people are losing their jobs and losing their homes, I am deeply disturbed that they are being encouraged to buy goods that they don’t need. The escalation of too much stuff has reached a breaking point.

We need to reset our priorities in life. Is it such a bad thing for families to stay in and spend time together? Movie night is great, but what about game night? How about a hike in the woods? And maybe even volunteering as a family to serve a meal in a local shelter. All of these are opportunities to reconnect and talk about important issues. Life does not have to be about material things and getting more, more, more.

Consider that the lost value of the stock market is gone, and companies need to lower their expectations and goals. Rampant growth based on consumption cannot continue. This is not just for 2009, but forever. And as we stick together as families, maybe we need to look at our country’s place in the world, too. Maybe we just can’t be the world’s strongest nation and intervene around the world. And I’m not just talking about armed conflicts, but humanitarian aid as well. They may be hard decisions, but sometimes you just need to stop and say no. There does come a time where you just can’t do anymore. How much debt do you really want to pile on your grandchildren?

Everything is on the table for change in 2009 and you can view this recession as a unique opportunity. There are many small steps that we can take in our own lives, that can have a real effect on resetting our society back to a sustainable level of consumption and responsibility. Here are some examples. What are you willing and able to do in your life to achieve real change?

  • Think about what is truly important to you and focus on that.
  • The next time you want to buy something you don’t need, don’t buy it.
  • Commit to regularly spending quality time with your family or friends without the tv, computer or video games.
  • Find a local charity that you can support with time or money.
  • Consider the environmental impact of your actions.

Add any other simple ideas in the comments below.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen