Sunday, November 25, 2007

Consumption Without Consequence

A good friend just returned from a trip overseas. He travels a lot both personally and professionally... Germany, India, China, Vietnam, Israel and Egypt in just the last year or so. He's reluctant to be one of those people who thinks "everything's better in Europe" (even though he's lived there on two separate occasions), but he did relate two interesting tidbits to me yesterday:

1) No matter where he's been, the people in every country (we're talking the professional class) share one belief: George W. Bush is a moron; and

2) In Germany, they just can't understand why the United States can't stop spending money it doesn't have.

The former point has been beaten to death, and consensus on the matter is almost as concrete as gravity or man-made global warming. The latter point is far more interesting anyway, because it refers to something more permanent than a single president.

I asked him if the Germans he talked to were referring to the government or the people. "Both," he said.

It's true, of course. The government runs up debt on revenues it doesn't have. The people spend, spend, spend way beyond their means... using credit to buy non-essential items, taking on interest-only mortgages, guzzling fuel whose supply (even the Wall Street Journal acknowledges as of last week) will soon hit its peak--and, let's never forget, directly funds Wahhabi-based terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

I remember a phrase coming to mind when W. told everyone to be patriotic in the wake of 9/11 by continuing to shop:

"Consumption without Consequence"

I had hoped that I could introduce this phrase into the political lexicon so that certain factions on the Left could use it to hammer certain factions on the Right. That hasn't happened and never will, of course. I'm no Frank Luntz.

But if I could sum up an American trait that has now officially turned from childishly amusing to just plain dangerous, that would be it. We are a nation that believes in consumption without consequence. No, it's not just the stereotype of the SUV-driving suburbanite; it's all of us except the very poor. It's not going to change without a rude awakening, and I suspect that awakening is coming a lot sooner than we'd like to believe.

9 comments:

mike said...

I'm so glad I can count you, John the Baptist, as one of my good friends. I'll just mention in passing that, when you hook up with Herod, Salome is someone you want to avoid on your way to the wet bar...

That said, "consequence" was the word du jour this past holiday, so it really stopped me in my track when I read that.

Consumption, on a basic level, means to me: diet. What are you putting in your mouth? Why? How much? How will it affect you later? Consequences.

I really think the answer is on a personal level. One to one. Families, coworkers, contacts, it's all connected, in ways difficult to imagine, but it's all there.

S. Holster said...

The Germans as a model? The Germans?! Really now, you want us taking the Germans as a model of anything social, political, economic, etc, etc, etc, with a time honored and proven standard of what?!? I may just be Hun bashing here, but c'mon now...

Marc Conklin said...

Here we go.

Did I say, "The Germans are the model of all things political, social and economic"? No. Strawman.

Does offering any objective criticism about America automatically mean that you're holding up other countries as "models"? No. Strawman.

I would venture to guess that for you, no "model" exists except the good ol' U S of A. Well, right now, with our dependency on a fuel that supports people who want us dead, a dollar so weak that JayZ is waving Euros in his newest video, a government that can name you an enemy combatant based on no evidence and lock you up for life, and, for good measure, rampant obesity from coast to coast, you'd have to admit we're not the model we used to be.

Anonymous said...

Bye bye Shadowlands,
Hello Melodrama!
What a bunch of drama queens are you all...

Anonymous said...

You know, the Swiss are starting to look awfully good right about now. Great watches, a kickass banking system, and no wars for 700 years. So what if fondue is the national food.

- DK

S. Holster said...

This is why I kept the self questioning window open with the 'I may just be Hun bashing here' part. Thank-you for immediately reducing a dissenting comment as logical fallacy, repeatedly. Thank you for establishing my motives for the comment and clarifying my intent for me. Many pardons if this sounds snide, but when what was intended as a light pre-amble to a potential conversation is met with such specific accusation of my [perceived] nationalistic tendancies, it just kinda kills it. You do some really good work with the words, man. I mean that, no veiled anything with that, you have a way with the language and all the best to you.

Marc Conklin said...

Sorry, S. Holter. Maybe I've listened to too much talk radio. Your comment sounded to me like that kind of banter.

S. Holster said...

The 'tone' aspect of the blog thing and how swiftly the conversations(?) are taken to the dark side is a weakness of the format, I'm as bad about it as anyone, and it's moving me to get my s**t together to bring in audio, for the subtle powers of the spoken word. Sorry if the comment came off as shallow as talk radio, my bad.

michael f. said...

Kunz, there's this too.

"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
--Harry Lime