Spend, Spend, Spend

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Spend, Spend, Spend - Patriotism or Disconnection?

"If all of us acted in unison as I act individually
there would be no wars and no poverty.
I have made myself personally responsible
for the fate of every human being
who has come my way."

-- Anais Nin

In the wake of the September 11 tragedies, people all over the world began doing what our political and business leaders have deemed unpatriotic - they stayed closer to home, spent more time with their families, and bought only what they needed. A glorious opportunity was missed by those that govern us to begin fostering a nation and a world whose values could not be disputed.

The last few weeks have provided undeniable proof that the indicator chosen to measure a nation's health - the economy - is a flawed, outdated, environmentally and socially destructive concept that is totally unrepresentative of the true values of a culture.

The world's leaders all missed a pivotal moment in modern human history. They missed the chance to tell the world, "Our endless quest for wealth so that some can be rich while others are bitterly poor is over. We will now make our business the health and welfare of the people of the world."

But of course they would miss it. They are the leaders appointed by the world of business, not the world of humanity. Their job is to employ the masses to produce consumer goods so that the masses will buy them. And we have bought this line of garbage, as the fishers would say, hook, line, and sinker.

mall

Stamford, Connecticut mall features Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Filene’s, plus over 130 specialty stores and eight restaurants.(Photo courtesy Country Living Associates)
Amidst the blather of the endless radio and television talk shows over the last few weeks, people have been expressing their confusion and desire to do something to help. Rather than ask for an outpouring of compassion, the government has asked for increased consumption. Many are realizing that our leaders are not there to protect the health and welfare of their people. Rather, they are the ultimate publicists and cheerleaders for businesses, many of which they own.

Just when we started to get access to that inner strength that comes from staying home, facing and holding loved ones, and examining one's life to find out what is really important, our leaders came on the TV and essentially told us to return to being consumers, to take hard earned money out of our pockets and give it to that mysterious entity called The Economy.

What is The Economy, really? We are told that it is a collection of business and property owners who act on demand from the population and extract resources from the Earth as needed to create the goods that we demand. But how many of you have ever really demanded a product from a manufacturer? We are told that in order to be happy and content, we must purchase these items.

And now we are being told it is unpatriotic NOT to buy. How convenient this is for the business owners.

The news media is wildly playing into this strategy. Every channel is broadcasting endless analyses of the events, creating more and more unmanageable fear. We have already been taught since we were children that to feel better, you buy something, so the current orders from our President to consume fit right in to that psychosis.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, we were beginning to feel less like isolated individuals and more like beings who were part of something larger and more important than our daily lives. We began to feel less comforted by the shopping mall and more secure in the arms of our families. We began to look out our windows and see a sky filled with clouds rather than airplanes and their noise and pollution. We began to think about the future and realize that we can decide what it looks like.

But by beginning the process of restoring our connection to ourselves and the natural world, we threatened the very fabric of the part of American culture owned by the one percent of the population who controls 90 percent of the property and money.

Since these people are the very ones who run our cities and our nation, they were able to regain control, to tell us to separate from our innate values, and to return to being the frightened, isolated beings whom they have carefully crafted.

Individual consumers are separate from everything. They need no one and nothing except their credit cards and checkbooks.

Chellis Glendinning describes our modern day definition of our personal boundaries in her book, "My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization." She calls it a "fence, a national boarder, a property line, a suit of armor or a Giorgio Armani suit, a well-fed ego, a psychological defense mechanism." Our concept of psychological boundaries mirrors our political and economic systems. The Earth is viewed as a thing to be acquired, divided, used, and defended just as our psychological boundary is to enclose, protect, armor, and, ultimately, alienate.

flowers

Florist (Photo courtesy Freefoto.com)
But we can't be blamed for succumbing to this mindset. We are afraid. Fear paralyzes so many of us and keeps us from achieving our dreams. How differently we would all act if we didn't have fear of losing our jobs, not paying the rent, our bosses, of standing out in the crowd, of someone else stealing our work and getting credit, of not being powerful, of being harmed by a terrorist, and on and on and on.

Fear keeps us from acting, from challenging assumptions, and from calling things by their right name.

Where do so many of our life assumptions come from? Many come from our families of origin, to be sure. Yet many are supplied by the culture from the moment we are conceived. Glendinning says we have a deep mindset, a mindset of imperialism and of domination. Virtually all of us have been touched by the disassociated and disconnected values of our culture. How else can we explain that in a single day, people of the United States:

We have been practicing this disconnected way of life for a very long time.

Early in the 16th and 17th centuries, the last vestiges of thinking of the cosmos as alive and of identifying the Earth with human beings in spirit and body was considered naive, barbaric, and childish. The image of the universe was far from alive any longer. It was, as Isaac Newton spoke of it, a giant clock, a machine.

Kirkpatrick Sale says this time marked the demotion of god and goddess to little more than clock-winders. Slowly and powerfully, the values we embrace today were formed, and this paradigm transformed the attitudes of Western society toward nature and the universe.

Sale, in his book "Dwellers in the Land," says that Europe's treatment of the New World that was opened up about the same time was being formed by these new values. He reminds us that, "Two continents, pristine jewels of unimagined glories, were perceived as nothing but empty spaces for unwanted populations, repositories of wanted ores, tracts of trees to fell and fields to plow, virgin territories with no other purpose but to be worked. Those who inhabited those spaces could be honorably and properly displaced, for they were only hunters and foragers who did nothing to 'improve' the land and thus had no standing in the eyes of European law."

trash

Waste newspaper and cardboard at Waste Management of Denver (Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
Over the next century and a half, the New World was ravaged and plundered with the aid of forced labor of over 100,000 slaves per year. Many mindsets were formed during this period and a new relationship with nature became firmly entrenched in our culture. Nature became the provider of resources, the wild land to be tamed, and the prize to be owned.

It is imperative that we all believe that we were NOT wrong or unpatriotic to return from the malls to our homes and reclaim our souls over the last few weeks. That was the right thing to do. Don't succumb to the call to show the world our might through our consumption. We must show the world our might through our compassion and our willingness to look within and see what is really important.

When you look inside, the imperative to shop is NOT what you see.

RESOURCES

Need help getting off the consumer treadmill? These folks can help:

1. Read about redefining the American Dream at: http://www.islandpress.com/ecocompass/dream.html

2. Learn how to simplify your lives from the Simple Living Network at: http://www.simpleliving.net/default.asp

3. Learn how to redefine your relationship with money from the New Roadmap Foundation, the producers of the transformative book, "Your Money or Your Life," at: http://www.newroadmap.org/default.asp

4. Take back your life with the help of Seeds of Simplicity at: http://www.seedsofsimplicity.org/default.asp

5. Visit the Center for a New American Dream at: http://www.newdream.org/

6. See the effects of the media on our lives with the help of the National Institute on Media and the Family at: http://www.mediaandthefamily.org/index.shtml

7. Learn how to get rid of your TV from the TV Turnoff Network at: http://www.tvfa.org/

8. Redefine your relationship with media with the help of The Media Reform Information Center at: http://www.corporations.org/media/

9. See beyond the commercials with The Media Foundation, producers of Adbusters magazine, at: http://www.adbusters.org/

10. Keep an eye on corporations with the help of Corporate Watch at: http://www.corpwatch.org/

11. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them that you want an end to the rhetoric that spending is patriotic. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle. He can be found flying an Earth Flag and saving what little money he has for his child's future. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}