'normal' christmas

this conversation on facebook about helping ourselves, coupled with the fact that everyone around me is christmas shopping, has really got me thinking.

we find ourselves in a very compromised economic situation.  whether five years ago we had a whole lot of money--or were just scraping by-- we are now thinking about our finances a lot more of the time than we used to.  for many, many people in our country food, shelter (and heat), and clothing are at the top of the list of uncertainties that they are worrying about.  all of us are facing an uncertain future.

and yet it is christmas-time and and we all want a normal christmas despite hard economic times.  those who can afford it-- or those who have credit-- are spending like crazy at the mall, or the closest discount store, or online-- buying present upon present for children and family members to put under the tree.  we don't think about it-- we just think about what people on our list have asked for for christmas and we go about getting it for them in the best way we can afford.

and man, is it affordable!  there are SO many people shopping at the mall right now.  and there is SO much stuff-- most of it incredibly affordable!  how is it possible that there is a wool sweater for under $15?  a pair of shoes for $11.99?  we flock to these prices and we buy-- as much as we can afford-- all in the name of 'normal' christmas.

in doing so-- however-- we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

the most expensive parts of making any product are the labor and the raw materials.  the folks who make all those affordable products at the mall have got this one figured out, however.  they can't buy cotton or wool grown in the US because our cotton and our wool are too expensive to produce to meet those 'affordable prices' at the mall.  they buy the raw materials as cheaply as possible by paying sweatshop wages to people harvesting cotton, or wool (never mind how the sheep are treated).    then-- they can't make the products in the US because our labor laws and our labor costs are too high.   so they hire manufacturers who have a vast labor force in china working for very little but with no choice but to work in enormous factories producing our goods because their own government and economy do not protect them.

the more products we buy at these low prices the more we are guaranteeing our own uncertain future. the banks make money on our purchases when we purchase on credit-- the same banks who turn around and deny us mortgages or small business loans because they see us as credit risks; the companies manufacturing products in sweatshops in china make money when we buy their products-- the same companies that will continue to send those jobs overseas--no matter what our jobless rate-- because it helps their profits; the discount chains make money when we buy through them-- the same discount chains who may or may not be paying sales tax to our local and state governments-- money that goes to fund our infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, schools, etc).

during the christmas season, a time when, traditionally, we might most be thinking of our neighbors and helping each other, we are instead fueling the very economic system that has made our personal and civic finances so precarious.

to me?  the best way we can possibly help each other is to buy less and to buy responsibly.

think about it.


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