America’s economy is crashing down. Even before Obama’s sound bite, the words, “worst since the Great Depression,” probably nudged the back of a lot of our heads. The economy may be on path to plummet as far as it did 60 years ago, but that does not mean our future will be as grim as our grandparents’ past.
If the standard of living just before the Great Depression was like smiling atop Big Bear Mountain, then the standard today is like burping in the sky, bloated off the stratosphere we slurp because it’s there. Most bellies today can stand to be deflated, and most soles could use some contact with soil. After all, a total lack of exercise kills more literally than paying $4 per gallon for gas. Ride a bike. Nowadays, meals cost at least two times what they should. But purchased portions are at least three times more than enough to satiate one person. Share an entrée. The fact is, moderation is always affordable. Let us shift our mind-set from gluttonous indulgence to healthy moderation. By doing so we won’t just survive this crisis, we will be better because of it.
Grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and witnessed America’s return to prosperity still value frugality. They know the meaning of necessity, and the cruelty of waste. Young ones, on the other hand, were born into prosperity. Indulgence and excess have been so affordable they are not even recognized. They are the norm, and they must stop. There are many individuals and families in the world who are seriously struggling. Their crisis is not to be belittled. Most of those families, though, do not reside in Irvine or Mission Viejo.
Affluence, too, will feel increasingly cramped in the coming years. Instead of sprawling out free arms and legs in a posture that is as pleasurable as it is slothful, let’s make some room in the elevator. The one that is plummeting, that is. The same fall is ahead of us all, though some of us enter the plunge less vulnerable than others. Some have the luxury and the option to adjust behaviors and pad the landing. If we start spending and consuming less, and save more now, we will have more tomorrow. If habits of “reduce, reuse, recycle” are established now, we will not feel so deprived later when reduction is absolutely necessary. Others beyond our “bubble,” will face different adjustments. Having to take the bus to school is not struggle. Struggle is having to beg change from others’ pockets yet still not being able to eat, much less go to school. If not out of respect for our health, but perhaps out of compassion for those unfortunate, we will adjust.
Litter can yet be collected from this land of waste. The adventure of folded newspaper boats sailing down creeks, then recycling them of course, may not be rediscovered, and the demand for eight different personal electronics may not be dethroned. Maybe it is far fetched to think anyone would give their iPod, laptop or Xbox to charity and be satisfied with frolicking in the park. That is OK. Dreams are essential in hard times because they remind us that worlds can shift, swirl and morph painlessly. Worries about how George W. Bushing long it will take to pay off our student loans and how Bushing hard it will be to even get a loan are totally legitimate. It really is unfortunate that we are inheriting this debt and this long, huge hassle for the rest of our lives, thanks to plenty of powerful strangers. Here in the O.C. no one wants to have to buy one new pair of True Religions per month instead of two. But hopefully, no desperate souls will be forced into the streets to sell crack for their Starbucks cash.