I believe it is important to use our dollars to support our values, especially when you consider that a dollar is just a device for trading our time, which is essentially our life. I believe that this world is filled with abundance; there are so many wonderful things already in existence that it is more than a shame to toss those to the landfill in favor of newer versions of the same. You might have heard of planned obsolescence (the article: The Gospel of Consumption, by Jeffrey Kaplan is a beautiful explanation). Essentially, in the late 1920s a movement in the business/political world began when people began to realize that the Industrial Revolution had provided them with machines and factories that could provide all of our needs in a very short period of time. All workers should then have the ability to have a great amount of “extra” time to spend with their families and community. The business owners realized that they could be making a lot more money if they instead pushed for more productivity (running their factories for a similar amount of time as before). This would only work, though, if people felt that they needed to buy more manufactured goods. This scenario is what the government and business owners have been promoting ever since… and take a look around to see where it’s gotten us.
I recently had a very touching experience that ties in with this society model. I volunteer at a local elementary school and am a “lunch buddy” to a 3rd grade boy. At one of our lunches he was very excited to play a board game that was in the program room so we brought it with us to our lunch meeting space. It was disappointing to discover that many of the pieces were lost and other odds and ends mixed in. We tried to be creative with what we had, but it didn’t work very well. I was telling a friend of this situation the next day and she was so moved that she wanted to buy the boy the game. I discussed this with the volunteer coordinator and she agreed that while it wasn’t appropriate to buy the game for the boy directly, it would be fine to make a donation of the game in his name. I had just finished reading the very inspirational book, Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen, and it motivated me to offer a second choice of having a donation made in the boy’s name to the Pennies for Peace program. (This program lets students raise money to help children in Pakistan/Afghanistan, many whom lack the fundamentals of schools, teachers, and even pencils, have an education.) I told the boy about the two possibilities and assured him that both were good choices that would make people happy. My lunch buddy admitted that it was a difficult choice, but I let him talk through his thoughts and feelings and in the end he decided that the elementary school he attended had many other very good options for games and he would like to help out the children halfway around the world.
I’m sure this child doesn’t spend most of his days thinking about how much we truly have in our society, but for a moment he was able to step outside of the media-drenched life he leads to think about the situation of other places and peoples. He said that he wanted to learn more about these children, and in the weeks since we’ve been looking at maps, books, and stories. We’ve also been using a chart that shows how much a few pennies and dollars can buy in that area of the world to see the difference the donation that was made in his name can make. I printed up a beautiful certificate that explains his choice and he was very proud to show it to his teacher and parents. It was only one choice, only one moment in his life, but I sincerely hope that he will continue to think about his decision and how much of a difference he made in the lives of many children. Children just like him in so many ways except for the luxury of being born in the United States.
Planned obsolescence has definitely become a way of life for us Americans. By becoming aware of it, though, we can have control over whether we choose to submit to the material-oriented “more stuff” aspect of our culture. There is always another choice, however. Like every choice it begins with how we choose to think about the situation and our attitude toward it. The next time something catches your eye at the store, think about everything involved in creating, purchasing, and owning that object. You might be surprised at your final decision.
Compassion is not religious business, it is human business,
it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability,
it is essential for human survival.
The Gospel of Consumption, by Jeffrey Kaplan
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen
Pennies for Peace program
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