Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So who's hurting, anyway?

I keep hearing about how tough times are for Americans during what many economists are calling the "greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression." But I have to confession that here on Long Island--epicenter of the the crudest form of crass consumerism on the planet--I just don't see any evidence at all that people are changing their behavior in the face of economic uncertainty.

I went to the mall the other day to buy some much needed curtains for the house ($29 on sale at J.C. Penny's, in case you were interested). It was a Wednesday morning around 11am and I was amazed to find that the parking lot of the mall was as packed as ever with the usual assortment of over-priced cars and SUVs. As I struggled to find a spot to park my 15 year old Corolla, I couldn't help noticing all the people leaving the mall loaded down with shit that they probably didn't really need. Inside, the mall seemed about as crowded as ever with the typical garish, self-absorbed drones--drinking Starbuck lattes, of course--who have always shopped there.

Am I just living in a land-o-plenty in an otherwise struggling country, or are these people simply incapable of reducing their consumption after so many decades of habitual buying? My guess is that it is the latter. We are so used to deriving our happiness and meaning from what we buy that the idea of reducing consumption is sacrilege to many Americans.

The good part of all this is that those of us who have been living prudently will ultimately benefit from the inability of our neighbors to stop shopping. They may drive their own families into bankruptcy because they must have the latest Ipod or flat screen TV, but this sort of desperate consumption is probably all that stands between us and total economic annihilation. Certainly, if the economy of the United States had to depend exclusively upon cheap bastards like myself, we'd all be in very big trouble. All I can say is, thank god for other people's addictive tendencies!!!

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