Reversing the consumer mentalityPosted: December 31, 2010
Being a consumer is the opposite of being a citizen. Let me explain…
I was raised in a great home in North America. Lots of ethical training/modeling, lots of love, and *lots* of grace (given what they put up with me from ages 5-18). But I also received modeling and direct instruction that is decidedly at odds with what I believe is sustainable in our world today.
Heavy consumption was modeled to me; something for which I still need others to keep me in check. I was taught to throw out broken items, rather than seek to repair them myself or do without them. I was taught that love is given through tangible gifts.
Not sure if this was/is just my family, or if it was a generational thing. I suspect it is a generational thing, given the state of the planet. To me, this state of heavy consumerism is the exact opposite of self-reliance.
I missed out on learning a lot of real-world skills as a youth, skills that lend themselves to self-reliance as an individual and as a contributing member of a small town. Skills like welding, stitching, sustenance (not sport) hunting, gardening, basic CPR, self-defense, camping, firearm safety, keeping a knife sharp, and using hand tools (not electric powered), just to name a few.
A good friend my age in St. Louis wisely observed that our fathers and grandfathers were not “mountain men type” guys. There were very few of those type of guys in the last two generations in North America. And thus not many guys in my generation learned this seemingly wide variety of real life skills. I know *some* guys that know *some* of these skills, but not many that know 50%+ of them.
I’d like to reverse that trend starting with my children. My father’s plan for me was to become the best in very few aspects of life, and then outsource all the others. I agree with that to some extent, and I am quite thankful that I even had a father interested in my life, as many of my friends do not.
But encouraging specialization is something I’ll do with my children only after a wide foundational base of skills is laid. I plan for my kids to be fairly well-versed in the “fight, shoot, plant, build, weld, forge, invest, raise things, nurture, etc” categories by the time they leave home, much of it just by tagging along with my wife and me when we are doing it in our daily lives. THEN they can specialize in something like engineering, education, medicine, agriculture, or whatever they desire.
I believe if my kids leave home with those foundational skills, they will launch into the world with a true sense of living. And then be well-equipped to find their own true sense of purpose, including being a strong, useful citizen of our town and country.
A wise woman told me this year:
What is truly crazy is the modern lifestyle developed nations have adopted that has people totally disconnected from the business of “living”. Our happiness and health (or the lack thereof) can be in large part attributed to this one factor alone. Even if you discount away the value of living well with lower resource consumption/impacts – this one aspect alone is compelling enough reason for me to expend energy and time doing things that I know I could well afford to just purchase or have someone else do for me.
I hope to train my children to be self-sufficient, without forgetting our reliance on grace. I suspect many other folks do, as well.