Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I sit in a cubicle and get paid for it. But it is a tad worrisome that our goals as a culture seem to revolve around sitting on our ever-growing behinds. When not at work in our cubicles, there's 'must-see TV' and the newest movies. Sidewalks are history. Everyone drives everywhere. The movie Wall-E makes a very pointed social statement with the human race represented as slug-beings. What's frightening is how much we 1st world countries already resemble the slug beings.
What's interesting to me about the absurdity of thinking that butt-sitting is the penultimate achievement is how tied that thinking is to what is going on with our economy. We are, rather obviously, coming to the end of the time when perpetual acquisition and productions of shiny-things-we-don't-need-but-want-on-our-mantels is sustainable. In reality, it never was, but we convinced ourselves of it for a good long time. Shopping became not a means to an end, but the end itself. No more. The earth, and our wallets can't take it.
So what happens next? Well, a few things. We may continue to try to have the same type of economy for a while. I'm guessing we will - it may take more than just one bad recession for people to truly believe that individuals buying stuff making up 70% of the economy is sustainable. Or maybe it's that we know it, but we don't know how to do things differently.
If we do things differently too, the economy - both the US and other countries - will crash further. This is true. Except where those particular economies learn to adapt.
What kinds of different things could we do to adapt our economy? Well, we could make stuff. Everything from dinner to quilts and blankets to furniture to houses. We could start to re-learn the art of crafting. It would still require us to buy or barter for things, but we would be wholly involved in the process of creation.
We could plan ahead better. Before buying property, people should ask themselves questions like "How long can I/we be happy here if our home doesn't appreciate" and "How long could we afford to keep the house if one of us lost our job?". I think it might change what people spend on their homes pretty significantly.
We could rethink our expectations. Just because J-Lo can afford an $1100.00 stroller doesn't mean you should try to have the same thing. Do you really need new clothes or shoes every season or every year? Could you clean your own house, and mow your own lawn? Sure, that eats up time on weekends, but is spending the weekend at home so awful?
Things are going to change over the next few decades, and as a result, we need to think, and think hard about how we can change with it. The apocalypse isn't coming, but on the other hand, Obama, Tim Geithner, and/or Santa Claus combined aren't going to be able to prevent this sea change. It's going to happen, and we need to start making long term plans for our own personal economies to deal with it.
That's scary and hard to do with so much uncertainty. I know - I am still waiting to hear if I have a job in February, and February is less than 2 weeks away. And I have no guarantee of a job after my maternity leave. So I've dealt with that uncertainty by saving in advance of it. And by knowing that, even if I have to work 2-3 jobs after I am done with my leave, we'll make it work because we have to.
The uncertainty is here to stay, I think. At least for a while. The folks who think this will be all over by summer are a tad optimistic, in my personal opinion. So to ride this out we need to be creative. And that may mean stepping out of our comfort zones. '