In 2007 I woke up. I remember the exact moment. I was driving to work on a 100 mile commute and was stuck in traffic. The weight of mortgage debt and a crashing real estate market is what shook me from a deep sleep induced by a version of The American Dream.
Since then I’ve been processing, like an old CPU on limited RAM, but I think I’ve come up with a few answers. Not surprisingly the tiny house movement has been a strong force in shifting my thinking.
The American Dream is a convoluted thing, kind of like Christmas. At one time Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Christ, and for some people it might still be that. But for most Americans it’s about celebrating consumerism. The American Dream used to be about earning the freedom to make your own way and succeed – but now many people seem to think they are entitled to a lavish lifestyle built on debt.
The source of the transmutation stems from our prioritization of acquisition over all other things, especially balance. When people make acquisition their top priority they may become rich or terribly indebted, but they miss out on many more important things in life.
They also put themselves and their community at risk. Imagine if everyone busied themselves with acquiring all they could, and few focused on finding a true balance between themselves, the people around them, and the natural environment. Wouldn’t that society as a whole eventually fail?
Native Americans have many stories about greed and how it destroys. The wisdom in stories like these should not be overlooked because they are some of the only windows into our past that teaches what it truly means to live sustainably. Balance, giving, generosity, fairness are values these ancient and long-lived cultures held dear.
Other teachers of the harsh reality of greed can be in historic accounts of civilization collapse. The pattern seems to be that a civilization collapses when people collectively exceed their support system. Collapse also seems to come suddenly due to an environmental or human-made calamity.
Today we live in such a situation, and I think that’s the key motivator for war. It’s clear as day that the U.S. Government wants a global war to protect American National Security. In other words, they know our civilization is overextended and loosing its support system. Evidence of this is everywhere.
- Economic Stimulus – The Federal Reserve’s economic policies of low interest rates and quantitative easing show that the U.S. Dollar needs propping up.
- The constant drums for war from Washington D.C. and the funding of destabilization around the world create more wars.
- The division forming between East & West.
- The drive to centralize power, as opposed to decentralizing, shows a tightening fist of control.
- Estimates that 1/3 of Americans are on some sort of financial assistance.
While many people focus on the symptoms, but I’ve learned to target the cause, which is how I landed on this whole Balance over Acquisition thing.
If we value balance over acquisition we still can find ways of making a living and making dreams come true, but we carefully maintain an equilibrium so as not to get too reliant on one thing. In other words, we adopt a diverse set of top priorities that we work to maintain in balance.
These could be things like family, work, education, travel/exploring, health, community participation, and so on. Many people already do this, although I’d argue to make things work in our society we all have to put the acquisition of money ahead of other things more often than we’d like.
If we extend this kind of thinking to our natural environment, resources, and consumption we then become a more stable part of our larger community. If the majority of people adopt balance over acquisition we build a stronger more lasting society.
But it would not be built to grow as fast as a society build on acquisition – which is what we’ve all become so accustomed to. Fossil fuels and technology have turned a little bit of greed into an enormous war machine capable of consuming vast resources. But it’s not built to last. It’s built to grow exponentially.
So when it runs low of fuel, like we are at this very moment, those best at acquiring pull out all the stops to avoid seeing all they have built disappear. This is the real reason for this coming war.
What to Do?
I’ve just described the problem, a solution, but no bridge to get there. Unfortunately I don’t think Americans want to wake-up, and can’t imagine the world moving at a slower pace. So attempting to wake people up is a bit of a challenge. A war would wake them up, but would refocus their attention on the need to acquire more to save their acquisition paradigm.
When this happens, it’s going to be a huge mess, and probably a dangerous time to be alive. If you are awake and open minded enough to consider that our civilization is overextended and fragile, consider building a bridge.
If some sort of collapse occurs many people will succumb to the torrent simply due to their unwillingness to see what is before their eyes. Others will react violently and grab what they can. Or maybe the current paradigm will continue through successful war after successful war.
In any event, your open mind and ability to adapt will be your guide through all challenges that come.