Everyone knows America has a huge financial debt. My housemate was lamenting recently about the entitled, “self made” members of our parent’s generation who put us there. But while we talked I found myself realizing the other types of debt preceding generations have accrued on themselves (and of course, us all).
First I’d like to talk about what I see as the Health Debt. As Americans are privy to more and more fabricated convenience foods the natural, home-cooked meal made from food grown in a clean way has all but disappeared. If you have time to make cheese, someone once told me, you have too much free time! Most people balk at how expensive real (aka organic) food is. Meanwhile they don’t think twice about owning a fancy gas guzzling car (or iPod or new shoes or what??). Yep, people prioritize lots of things over their own health. And guess what? In the long run it is a LOT more expensive to end up with cancer or Alzheimer’s etc. Perhaps people opt for that second Coke cuz they’d rather have Alzheimer’s than remember how they didn’t prioritize their health…It seems to me that we are more concerned with the image of health than the real thing. White teeth, dyed hair, fad diets of either unnatural packaged foods or unnatural restrictions to maintain the waistline. Someone is going to have to pay for all those triple-bypass surgeries and all of that chemo and I have a feeling the bill is just starting to come due.
Next. Our earth and the shared resources therein have been consumed at a very unsustainable rate since industrialization. But even as recently as our grandparent’s generation people were THRIFTY. I don’t know when it started, but many people no longer give a single thought to where all that disposable stuff goes after the garbage truck cleanly removes it from your life. Or what happens to that nasty stove top cleaning chemical that you just washed down the drain? Or where do those precious metals for your shiny new device come from? Or what does it take to produce, package, ship and store all that processed food you buy. As a result our forests have been stripped, our water supplies are polluted and natural systems all across the globe are breaking down, I have come to see this as our Environmental Debt.
The last category is a bit more difficult, less tangible. I’ll call it Social Debt. Perhaps one of the most noble and esteemed traits Americans can think of is independence. This mentality has contributed to our national Health, Environmental AND Social Debt. By taking on life in isolation people have put a lot more stress on their systems thus breaking down their health. And a lot more resources are gobbled up when everyone needs their own this that and the other thing. Even grandma and grandpa’s house needs to be fully stocked with all the baby gear, you know!
But back to Social Debt. Independence grants us freedom- from sharing, from coming to terms with each other, from asking for help. Now, on the surface this seems wonderful: I hate asking for help! No one likes to share!! But in the end, I believe, we are the only ones to lose when we are able to avoid the humbling effect of asking for help or the true joy and satisfaction that comes when we can return the favor. When we sit alone in our cushy houses watching our favorite biased news source we miss out on a lot of mental and spiritual growth. So then we are sad and we eat more sugar and consume more trinkets and get angrier and angrier at each other…!
I wonder, what is the importance of financial debt in comparison to our health, environmental and social debts? Ok, I lied, I don’t wonder! And the same disclaimer as always, I don’t write this from a place of righteousness but from a place of frustation and concern. I know first hand how extremely difficult it is to admit fault and change my habits. It is usually HARD. And painful! And only happens when the alternative (not changing) is even worse! Which, I believe in the case our our many debts is definitely the case. But the problem here is that almost everyone is doing it…what is the incentive for one person to change? Think of your children?
This entire blog is pretty well summed up in one of my favorite videos, http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/