Friday, November 26, 2010

American Citizen or American Consumer: Who Are We?

The news reports today on "Black Friday" are proclaiming a return of the American consumer. This article featured prominently in the NYTimes paints the picture:

Malls across the country reported overflowing parking lots, and stores reported lines out their doors, as Americans seemed — finally — to be spending again. ...

There seemed to be a resurgence in spending on discretionary items, a bright spot for an economy where nonessential spending has been weak.

I hear a line repeated often since the horrors of 9/11. "They hate us for our way of life". What does that mean?More and more it seems to me that "our way of life" is an endless quest for "things". We define economic progress by measuring nonessential spending.

When I was a kid and a member of the Boy Scouts, there were two merit badges that stood out above all others: Citizenship in the Community and Citizenship of the Nation. What we learned as we studied to fulfill the requirements for these badges were the responsibilities that come with being a member of the local community as well as the responsibilities of being an American. It was a proud day for me when I earned those two badges. Maybe this is a slight exaggeration but it sure seems like the only responsibility for citizens/consumers today is to spend, spend, spend.

1 comment:

Bruce Bergwall said...

Phil - Citizenship and Community have been replaced by tanning booth and Wi. Kids (and adults) think solely of themselves first and foremost which is funny because thinking of other has always been the first sign of maturity and growth toward maturity. Hate to say it but we deserve everything we get. Cheers