December 25, 2008

Charity & Sustainability 2

     In the Bee's Christmas newspaper, EJ Dionne wrote about liberation from the tyranny of material possessions, by sharing rather than accumulating. A few pages later, I found an AP story, "What happens to all that unsold stuff?" It admits some of it might end up in the dump.
     I wish we could liberate our economy from the tyranny of the GDP, from the idea that the volume of monetary transactions is an accurate measure of economic health and well-being. 
     Until we understand that real economic health is based on meeting everyone's actual needs, rather than just churning through more purchases of more stuff, we won't be smart enough to avoid another financial meltdown. Or more ecological disasters such as coal ash floods, decapitated mountains, and freeway construction.
     Awhile back (65 years to be exact) Maslow developed his "Hierarchy of Needs" which can help us put material possessions in their place. Our material needs are, as I may have mentioned, clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. 
     Additional material things are more or less essential for modern lifestyles, such as telephones, cars, and antibiotics. But they are not essentials for life. And they are less essential than more ordinary things like pots and pans, blankets, or shovels.
     Of course, a blanket will keep you just as warm if it new or used. But people who have mostly only ever had 'previously-owned' blankets feel more special when they get something that is new and just theirs, not someone else's adopted heirloom.
     I suspect our economy would be a lot healthier if every piece of stuff we have were as dear to us as our old velveteen rabbit.

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