“Nature is boring. I played in it once. There was nothing to buy. It sucked.”
The final film in the “Story of Stuff” series asks, What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better—better health, better jobs, and a better chance to survive on the planet?
Along the way, Americans have wreaked havoc on people and planet. Its an understatement to say the Madison Avenue version of The American Dream hasnt worked out too well for most Americans. The results here strongly suggest that its not going to work out better for people elsewhere.
The original version of The American Dream, however, was inspired by The Declaration of Independence and laid out by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. It’s a “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
So, where did Americans go wrong? And, can we get back on track?
With the help of organizations like the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, ISEC has been able to sponsor 50 “reality tourists.” Ladakhis stay with locals for as long as three months, visiting nursing homes, shopping malls, and garbage dumps, as well as local farms and solar energy installations. While they are astounded by the amount of stuff that is thrown away, Norberg-Hodge says the visitors are much more affected by people’s lack of free time, the social segregation of old and young, and the anonymity and lack of interaction with neighbors—even in densely populated apartment buildings. Some of their reactions are documented in Norberg-Hodges 2011 documentary, The Economics of Happiness.
“You’d be amazed—this way of life in the West is really not what we think,” Norberg-Hodge reported one woman saying upon returning to her village. “People live right on top of each other in a building and they dont even know each others names. When someone comes to stay they make such a fuss over things like bed linen.”
To me, it seems that as Christians, we have a responsibility to follow Christ’s example in our lives, and this includes economics. Christianity should not be associated with the seeking of profit and property, but with radical economic community and sharing. This was the economic vision of the earliest Christians, and it should also be for us today as society becomes more consumerist and the gap between rich and poor widens.