Exhausted


Hey all, as stated, this blog is the test lab for my book. Working title is Cool Is Killing Us, but I have been playing around the with the concept of exhaustion. Check it out:

I am exhausted. Life is busy running a start up nonprofit in the worst economy since Babe Ruth was rounding the bases in Yankee Stadium and Count Basie was rocking the Grand Terrace Ballroom in Chicago. Add to that recently getting married, moving to the rural suburbs, playing with and caring for six and four year old boys, managing an organic garden, and supplying a local restaurant with organic vegetables. And life is only going to become more sleep deprived when my baby arrives in January. But that is not what exhausts me. Actually, that is what energizes me. I love getting up in the morning wondering how it will all get done (it gets done… most of the time).

What exhausts me is only being treated as a consumer. I hate being defined as a consumer and my worth being measured by the “consumer price index” and “consumer confidence.” A couple years ago, I was sitting with some “poorest of the poor” people in India. They were growing food, making clothes, building shelters, etc. I thought, “I can’t do any of this!” If shit hit the fan, I want to be in a poor village because they actually have the life skills to take care of themselves. More likely, I will be throwing elbows at old ladies as we loot the Wal-Mart for bottled water and packaged goods.

Bottom line: I am fed up with being told that to be an American, I have to buy stuff.

Yeah, I know, its all about the market and making rational decisions based on quality and price. But how is it rational to believe that selecting between two brands of brown sugar water is choice? Both are so loaded with high fructose corn syrup that I’ll be diabetic by the time I’m fifty. There is no rational choice between McDonalds and Burger King. Both serve up industrial meat that is harming the environment, destroying the family farm, and loaded with fat and sodium. If the American dream means being an obese, diabetic consumer, call me a socialist.

I am exhausted from trying to refinance my mortgage and getting rejected by banks that I bailed out with my tax dollars (I will let you know what happens when my $30K second mortgage comes due in December). I am exhausted by the latest iPhone release that makes me feel like my perfectly good phone is “obsolete.” And do I really need the latest mobile app that will connect me to more friends I have never met and collect geo-location data on my every move so companies can market to me wherever I am?

I am exhausted by people preying to my needs, which are actually only my most base desires, and making me feel inadequate for not acting on them. I am exhausted by telling my kids “no” every time they ask me to buy them the latest plastic toy that was marketed to them on television, and feeling like a shitty father.

And I am not the only one, or thing, that is exhausted. Many Americans have just given up (or given in). They mindlessly eat fast food at least once a day and wash it all down with a 32 oz. Coke, without asking how it got to their “plate.” The numbers of Americans that are obese and have heart disease and diabetes are skyrocketing. I highly doubt they are expressing their right as Americans to freely die of a disease of excess. Maybe they no longer have the strength to fight the marketing messages that tell them their “loving it” or maybe they don’t even know they should be asking questions. Maybe they lack the energy to think critically to fight the onslaught of messages that tells them convenience equals progress, ignoring the personal and environmental feedback loops that scream they are harming themseles, the planet and future generations. Or maybe they simply cannot afford anything else, and what kind of choice is that?

It is not just people that are exhausted, but the planet. Clearly, our oil resources are exhausted, yet we continue to pour billions of dollars of investment into extracting every last, damaging drop. The soil is exhausted and no one knows how to grow food anymore without coating it in oil, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Our industrial agriculture products are so devoid of taste and nutrients that we have to pump them full of additives, salt, and sugar to make them palitable.

I am exhausted by Bloom, the grocery store in my neighborhood. I walk in and think about how all this food – grown on industrial farms, processed, and wrapped in plastic and packed in cardboard for me to heat up at home – got there. All the packing and a good amount of the food will be in a land fill by the end of the year. But I nearly panic thinking that if Bloom wasnt there, I would not be able to feed myself. I think of the hypocrisy of those politicians, companies, and myself that tell me I am part of the freest society ever created, yet I am completely dependent on corporations for my way of life.

I am exhausted by the platitudes our society showers upon itself, while we ignore the problems. I am exhausted thinking about the good fortune we have been given, yet how we have failed to take the responsibility such fortune requires of us.

The question is whether we are exhausted enough to do anything about it. This blog is my way of thinking through and sharing my thoughts and ideas on how to be un-exhausted. I have ideas and possible solutions, but for this post, I just wanted to say, “I’m exhausted.”

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7 responses to “Exhausted

  1. Been sitting on this post for a while but finally decided to let it rip. More to come on this one, including thoughts inspired by Raj Patel’s new book, The Value of Nothing. If you don’t know Raj, go read Stuffed and Starved, phenomenal book on food.

  2. Love the post! Consumerism has consumed our souls! This is my favorite line: “If shit hits the fan, I want to be in a poor village because they actually have the life skills to take care of themselves.” So so true!

    I actually think many of us do think and consider these issues. Sadly, the daily pressures for the middle and lower classes are great and likely leave little time for such musings. Think ab the time consume simply by daily commutes to work, to school, to doctor appts, to real grocery stores, etc if you’re using public transportation!
    Best,
    Wendy Smith
    http://www.givealittlenow.com

    • Thanks Wendy. I agree that high income people think more about what they eat, or at least a growing segment of us. However, do we think about what goes into manufacturing the new smart phone we just bought, or the cloths we wear. We consume without even knowing we are consuming. Thank you for your comment. And I look forward to checking out your book Give a Little: http://www.givealittlenow.com/

  3. Hey Dan, thanks for sharing this. Reminds me of some of the OWS messages I’ve seen in the news lately and the general feeling of frustration that the OWS movement is communicating. Anyway, I’ve been digging deeper into systems thinking lately. I’m still a hack, but I’m learning more about it everyday and I’m increasingly questioning the fundamental premises behind our current economic system. Specifically, it’s predicated on continued, relentless growth for the sake of growth alone. What I’ve learned from systems thinking is this: any time you optimize for one part in the system you harm the the system overall. Our economic system, when looked at holistically is fundamentally flawed. I don’t care if you’re a free marketer or a socialist, I’m talking about the nature of systems. By optimizing for profit and production, we are threatening the viability of our habitat by sucking up every last resource in our mad dash to produce more…crap. Thanks again brother. This is great and I’m looking forward to more of your rants.

  4. Specialization and trade, on the other hand, is what separates humans from the rest of the animals. This has been the case since the stone age. Rather than sending us all back to subsistance farming I would rather see tougher legislation around food production and perhaps tax high sugar and high starch food the same way we do with alcohol and tobacco. City layouts that make public transport unfeasable, is a problem, but not one that is extreme. As fuel prices skyrocket this will correct itself. The USA has already a large share of its goods being transported via rail which, in combination with vast expanses of arable land will stand the US in good stead for the future.

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