Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Buying Things Is Fun

Perhaps you recall that after 9/11, we were told that the best thing we could do to fight terrorism would be to go shopping. Keep that American economy perking away. That’ll show ‘em.
Now, seven long bloody years later, we are being told once again to go shopping. We (those of us who qualify) will be receiving checks from the government this spring. An “economic stimulus” it’s called. We are not to think overmuch about where this money is coming from, only that we are to use it to go out and buy something for ourselves.
I’m thinking I’ll use it to pay down my credit card debt, or some other bills. Which is what the gummint is telling us not to do. No, no, no, no, no! Don’t pay off what you owe! Buy something new! This is meant to be CPR for our moribund economy.
Let’s face it, kids, $600 these days is chump change, an amount of money that will evaporate faster than a water drop on the wood stove in January. Or April, the way our weather has been lately. I say this from the perspective of having a procedure done at a hospital recently and spending one night in said hospital. $600 would barely make them notice I’d put anything on my tab.
I’m not saying it won’t be nice to be handed $600, since it is coming. I’m not saying no. I’m just saying that putting the country deeper into debt while encouraging us to get deeper into personal debt sounds like a dim strategy.
I’ve read and heard for years that we are a consumer society, and that we are addicted to spending and overspending. We keep trying to buy happiness. You can’t buy happiness. You can, however, purchase a little temporary mood elevation. As my son says, “Buying things is fun, and then you get to keep the stuff!”
I’m not talking about consumerism as an outsider. I have yearned for and bought cars, computers, guitars, clothes, and one house; I have spent happy hours on the internet looking at fantasy houses and vehicles, among other things. So I’m not saying that buying things or wanting to buy things is bad.
I will say that I’m up to my neck in crap I bought, inherited, accepted, or found. I’ve acquired enough stuff in my life to have tipped to the evil side of consumerism – the point where happiness would have a better chance around here if I got rid of most of this stuff.
I keep thinking about the big picture here – the one where you can see the American dollar falling in value, and the balance of trade being wildly off-balance. I’m thinking about one more action by this strange administration which has done so much to bring this country to its knees and disgrace it in the eyes of the rest of the world, not to mention in the eyes of over half its own citizens. Now we’re all being handed a quarter to go to the candy store while the administration makes out with our big sister. The candy may be sweet in the mouth for a few seconds, but that won’t keep us from realizing how much has gone sour.
So enjoy that internet cell phone, or a few minutes’ peace of mind from paying down your credit balance, and get ready: we have work ahead of us as a nation, and it may involve things other than shopping.

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