By the time readers pick this up, the worst Black Friday will have come and gone. Retailers in Oklahoma will be looking at their worst Christmas ever, and the depth and severity of the recession will be truly sinking in. Believe it or not, this is cause for hope, and replete with hidden blessings!
Everywhere you turn, wise people are encouraging us to simplify and live with less stuff. Then we are told that in order to save our economy, we must go out and buy more stuff. A local newscaster recently referred to our duty to shop as critical, as if the hour was growing late and the end of the world as we know it hangs in the balance. Here’s to the end of the world as we know it.
We got ourselves into this mess by buying more stuff than we could afford and being addicted to easy credit no matter how unscrupulous the lenders. No credit? Bad credit? No problem! If you’re not deeply in debt, you are not a patriot. Own it now, and make no payments until 2010 when you will have forgotten why you bought it in the first place and your loan will be bundled, sold and toxic ” waiting for a bailout.
Unfortunately, there is seldom any clarity or change in life without suffering. The economic mess will cause great suffering for Oklahomans, who, as it turns out, are not as recession-proof as we once thought. Patriotism (not to mention real religious faith) will concern itself with compassion and assistance to the poor, not arguments about who is going to heaven or how to get rich quick. In the process, the church stands to recover its soul.
We have been living unsustainable lives and doing unsustainable damage to the only planet we have for a long time, and this is our time of reckoning. So, let’s consider an ancient idea that has forced itself upon us: More is not more. It is often better to fix something old than to buy something new. A handmade Christmas present will be cherished long after the obligatory mall gift ends up in the garage sale. Adult family members need to stop buying other adult family members gifts they don’t need and instead draw names from a hat to keep it simple. Spoil the little ones, but give the gift of your presence to the rest of your family. Or, donate to a charity in someone’s name, but just let the madness end.
In a sense, the hard times will fold Okies back upon their most redemptive characteristic ” their capacity to help others in need. Vegetable gardens will make a comeback, and people will stay home, cook food and invite their neighbors to share. Do you know your neighbors?
Men will learn to sew on buttons, and thunderstorms will be cheap but spectacular evening entertainment. Everyone will take their own shopping bag to the store, and farmers will harvest their crops and then let the poor “glean”” a biblical imperative in which the fields are picked clean of what is left or might be wasted.
Nothing will seem stranger than an “all-you-can-eat” restaurant, and nothing will bring more shame in the future than to sport a grossly distended belly in a world of skeletal children. We will become a nation of savers again, and we will learn to love small houses, small cars and secondhand clothing. When gas prices soar again, we might just rediscover the joy of walking and riding a bike ” even the socializing power of mass-transit. The future is green and we will get there. An evening at home will be considered sacred again, and the greatest of all myths will be dispelled once more: that there can always be more and more of everything.
The age of “it’s all about me” is coming to an end. We can’t afford it. The age of scarcity is upon us, and none too soon. If you want to buy stocks, may I suggest a company that makes knitting needles.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower UCC Church of OKC, and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.