Friday, November 12, 2010
Why less is definitely more
Why the recession may not be all bad news.
By way of Introduction
This recession is not all sweetness and light.
I do not wish to be insensitive to
- those who have lost their jobs
- those who fear for their jobs
- those in fear of losing their homes
- those who are forced to emigrate or whose loved ones are forced to emigrate
- those middle class who are struggling to put bread on the table
- those who are dependant on benefits that will be reducing
- those in the third world who are suffering more than ever
- those who were formerly rich of whom the majority were and are decent.
I am conscious that we are at but the start of a long, probably permanent and painful period of change and that we are unlikely to ever know the same level of material comfort. I hope to suggest that it need not be all bad, keeping in mind St. Paul who famously said - 'primum vivere, deinde philosophare' - 'we must live first and then philosophise' - Maslow would no doubt agree...:
1. The accelerating rate of consumption in the world was simply unsustainable. An exhausted world would soon have to give up trying to sustain a population of currently 6.9 Billion souls and growing at 6m babies every month. By reducing the size of our meals, more can feed at the table.
2. Looking through my wardrobe I find clothes never worn, my library contains over three hundred books of which less than 50% have been read, our garden hut is full of bikes no longer used, furniture that is surplus.
3. The developed world has too many houses and shops and offices and books and shoes and CD’s.
4. The underdeveloped world has too few.
5. We were running out of a raison d’être – just how many cars can we drive?
6. People at the top of organizations were getting paid one hundred times the wages of the people at the bottom. A scale of more than five times is madness. No human being's economic contribution is worth a hundred times another's.
7. Wealth was being transferred from the people who created it, from entrepreneurs, and from the workers to grossly overpaid hedge fund managers who created nothing and bank traders who created even less.
8. Families are learning to save for Christmas, for furniture and for holidays. The joy of saving and anticipating is greater than the unconscious spending of the noughties.
9. Children are being spared from over indulgence that was leaving them morally and economically incompetent.
10. We are rediscovering the joys of entertaining modestly at home where the food is often better, the wine cheaper and the welcome warmer.
11. We are more compassionate - realizing that our hold on wealth and health is but by a slim thread.
12. We are spared the nonsense of discussing house prices and our neighbors’ third skiing trip.
13. We are back looking for value and rewarding those who maintained price sanity in good times and in bad.
14. The joy of sharing has been rediscovered, a shared car trip into town, a summer home lent out, a pasta meal handed over a garden wall…
15. Our eyes have been opened to the fact that ‘nobody knows..’ not the Church, not the Government, not the economists. We realize that our ‘certainties’ divide us as humans while our doubts unite us.
16. We think twice about that trip to Cork, or London and the fuel it will use. We go on fewer trips that are more meaningful.
17. Driving speeds have dropped, at least in our area. We have the luxury of making a decision over a day when before it had to be in an hour.
18. We have discovered music channels on the radio and history channels on the TV and have turned off the incessant chat shows that take calls from unhappy people.
19. We have rediscovered that all the best things in life are free – peace, joy, love, forgiveness, birdsong, sunset and daffodils.
20. We have learned to be grateful for what we have got and to count our many blessings.