Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gross Excesses

A little over ten years ago my wife and I were members of a local group providing support for those who had adopted children from overseas. Of course our association was because of the incredible Darth Wiggles, our daughter, who was born in China. As social groups go it was obvious from the first meeting I attended that the membership was fairly upwardly mobile, which should have been no surprise since adoption is always an expensive affair. For the most part my observation on the relative wealth of the other members was an abstract affair since I personally didn't run with in the same circles with them outside the adoption group. My wife is the upwardly mobile attorney while I am for all intents a glorified blue collar wrench-turner working for an hourly wage.

All that changed when my family and I were invited to a pool party being held at the home of one of the members. Normally, I would shy away from events being held in someone's home, it simply just doesn't feel right to me, even when the host is sincere in their attempt to make everyone feel welcome. The best way I can explain my reluctance is that unless its family or close friends I really don't want relative strangers having unfettered access to my home.

However, that is exactly what the hosts of the adoption group pool party gave to everyone. The party was on a Saturday but I arrived late because my job at that time had me working every other weekend. So after speaking to my wife, the husband of the couple hosting the party allowed me access to the master bathroom so I could change from my work clothes to swimming trunks and a t-shirt. Why was I given the master bathroom to change? Good question, while I wasn't the only late arrival the house where the party was being held was, and I don't use this description lightly, astronomically huge. In fact I was astounded to see the master bathroom had a larger square footage than my living room and kitchen combined. Don't get me wrong, it was an exceptionally nice bathroom with all the nifty features you can imagine but I had an hard time trying to figure out what purpose it served.

Not really being familiar with the host family I assumed, especially since they were in the adoption group and obviously well off, that there must have been at least ten to twelve people living in that house. No, I soon learned that only five people lived there with the house being at least seven thousand square feet. As distasteful as I find it now when I think about it, at the time I leaned heavily to the conservative side of American politics and saw nothing wrong with such a small family taking so much in resources while others went homeless.

As time went on though I started notice that while the pool party host family were the worst examples, the entire basis on the American middle class seemed to center on purchasing as large a house as financially possible, with consider efforts taken by many to go beyond even that. Of course, just a few years later such a flawed practice about brought down the American economy ushering in a Second Great Depression. Before anyone runs off on a tangent telling me I don't know how unpleasant it is to live in a small house, a good chunk of my childhood had me and my siblings living in small mobile homes so I understand the desire to have more living space.

But my ultimate issue with such blatant examples of American excess centers around the assumption that resources are unlimited and, metaphorically speaking, free for the taking as long as the money or even military muscle is available. As time went on and my distaste for American excess grew I was actually shocked find out that while we only make up five percent of the world's population we create half of the globe's solid waste. Some might be okay with that and I freely admit I have no personal illusions of being some environmental saint even the most intellectually lackluster individual should understand we cannot continue this way. 

Making matters worse there are over seven billion people on the planet now all wanting something akin to an American lifestyle. This means resources, both mineral and biological, that are already past the breaking point will be stressed even further. The nice quip most deniers of human destructive impact on the planet like to throw out is why haven't we seen the effects. That's an easy damn answer, because we have been told many times its just that Americans very rarely care about anything other than their own banal concerns. In other words we refuse to listen or learn.

There are some who while understanding the environmental issues we face feel technology will save the day as it has before. That is a possibility, but human are never satisfied and will undoubtedly want more should such a technological plateau be reached. Personally I have come to believe the current basis of Western Civilization will ultimately have to change all the way to its core.The planet is not some limitless sinkhole or pantry for our waste and wants, to believe we can go on this way shows a lack of intellectual honesty or outright suicidal stupidity. 


 Here is a TED Talk I found very informative:


Marja said...


I don't know why people want to live in huge buildings Maybe to want to get away from each other or maybe they love cleaning and have a whole lot to do.
Yeh the western world produces quite a lot mess. Bad thing is that our kids have to deal with it
But seen that most politicians don't care we probably go all down together or find a new planet

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Why some people feel an endless need to buy more and more, bigger and better, brighter and shinier has always been beyond me. I can't convince myself to replace the old old old carpet in our bedroom. (I'm talking circa 1968... shag!) It still works. Hard to justify complaining about something around the house that's merely old or "out-dated" when so many people in the world don't even have a decent place to live.

Happy Festivus, dude! And all the best in the new year.

Pixel Peeper said...

I couldn't agree with you more! What worries me - in addition to the environmental impact, of course - is the fact that people bought or buy bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger vacations, and expensive meals out instead of saving enough for retirement. I have a feeling that some day in my retirement my taxes will go up to bail out those idiots.

Jimmy said...

Yes Sir, I do agree with you and one problem is that it seems to me that everything is made to be thrown away, nothing is actually repaired and held on to by the majority of people, it is simply replaced and discarded, everybody is taught that the bigger the house and car the more important you are, I have to disagree with this mindset.

deafmutes said...

This pic looks like a langolier