Friday, September 6, 2013

Materialism, Commercialism Harms Americans, Erodes Values

Becoming enlightened
I was changing a burned out light bulb the other day and noticed it was made in Mexico. No big deal. When I went to screw in a replacement, I noted that bulb was manufactured in China. Then I began to ponder an age old question but with a twist: how many people does it take to manufacture a light bulb? Zero in America, or close to it, if you’re referring to the kind that fit into typical household lamps.
I did a little research and discovered the last major General Electric factory manufacturing the familiar incandescent light bulbs in the United States closed in 2010. More digging uncovered an energy conservation bill, passed by Congress in 2007, set new standards that will make incandescent bulbs obsolete by 2014. Fun fact: the newer spiral-shaped fluorescent bulbs use about 75 percent less electricity than their incandescent cousins to produce the same amount of light.
Now I'm no economist but what troubles me about light bulbs essentially not being made in the United States is part of a larger problem affecting our country: much of the work that keeps laborers employed is being shipped overseas.
Ring in the new (but at what cost?)
It’s a business’ right to do so, of course. After all, this is America. It’s just that it says a lot about their values. And ours as consumers, since we buy their products. Many believe it’s okay not to fold social implications and moral obligations into business strategies. They say net profits should be the primary, if not sole force driving business.
What does all this have to do with humans being? Everything. That's because understanding some of the less desirable values associated with capitalism – or more precisely corporate capitalism –provides insight into many of the social ills plaguing our nation.
It’s sad but true: a chief priority in America is making money. Yet so many of the social issues affecting us are rooted in the acquisition of wealth and material goods. I've noticed whenever there’s little or no money to be made, there is little value attached to it overall in society.
It's no wonder why many of us care so little about our broken food system, or that as a society we cast aside our aging population like human waste when they no longer are productive in the monetary sense. Or that we treat disabled members of our society like broken items. It’s insane.
Rose-colored glasses blur the truth, doggoneit
Sadly, with great regularity I bear witness to or have eagerly participated in this insidious obsession with material things and money. Consciously and unconsciously. When I’m not paying attention I like to tell myself, especially when I’m wearing my favorite pair of rose-colored glasses, “It’s not for my own personal sake that I want to make as much money as I can. It’s security; the ability to keep my family safe and to take care of those closest to me.” Yet place the opportunity in front of me to earn an extra buck and my thoughts go first to buying a new mountain bike or MSU Spartans swag, before savings.
Yeah, I usually come to my senses and try to park the lion’s share of unexpected money in savings or investments, but that’s beside the point. My first thought was to spend it on things I could easily do without.
The point here is that American corporate enterprise might benefit from taking greater inventory on the influence and impact it has on U.S. citizens, even as it pursues its quarterly profit. It is said with great power comes great responsibility. It doesn’t take a light bulb going off to realize the benefits of such thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment