Consumerism


I Wish You Enough

Speaker Bob Perks was at an airport when he ‘overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”

He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!’

Source: Bob Perks. Used with permission

Corporate Rule

On July 4, 2001, Independence Day in the United States, many United States homes flew not the traditional American flag but a corporatised version. The top left corner of the US flag has white stars set on a blue background. In the corporatised version the stars have been replaced with corporate logos – those of Nike, Warner Bros, PepsiCo, McDonalds and more.

No this is not a new marketing strategy for these firms but a protest strategy organised by the Adbusters group. Their claim is that America has lost its independence to massive global corporations, that the directions of the nation and the world are not being set in the interests of people, but in the interests of profit.

The Clock Thief. A Parable About Contentment

Once upon a time there was a rotund little man with dark brooding eyes who was obsessed with collecting clocks. The world is filled with an almost limitless number of clocks – grandfather clocks, grandmother clocks, cuckoo clocks, alarm clocks, digital clocks, analogue clocks, big clocks, little clocks, medium size clocks. And our rotund little clock collector with the brooding eyes was obsessed with collecting as many as possible. By day he thought about clocks, by night he dreamed about clocks. He visited antique dealers to buy old clocks, perused the shelves of department stores to buy the latest clocks, scoured garage sales to find unwanted clocks.

Soon he had so many clocks he had to build a warehouse to hold them.  And each time he found a clock the process was the same. He’d hold the clock, feel the contours, listen for its tick, and then take it to his clock warehouse. When he arrived he’d undo the super heavy duty padlock on the barbed wire fence. Then he’d drive to the front door, look to make sure there was no one else around, and only when he was sure no one was able to peer on his magnificent collection, he’d quickly unlock the security locks, rush into his warehouse, shut the door behind him, and carefully place his latest acquisition in its allocated place.

He was however haunted by each visit to his clock warehouse. It was as though each time he opened and shut those doors someone was whispering in his ear: “Hans of Sweden has more clocks than you…Jillian of London has rarer clocks than you… If only you could get another clock, then you’d be happy.” On occasions the whispering was sinister:  “Is your warehouse secure enough? People might steal your clocks…” At times the whispering was indignant “Why should low income earners get a clock concession. Why don’t you get a clock concession too?”

Whenever the whispering started the rotund little clock collector with the brooding eyes was sure he could see someone out of the corner of his eye. But the moment he turned there was nothing.

One day the rotund little clock collector came to his warehouse with his latest prize. He was pleasantly surprised not to hear the whispering inside his head. But his pleasant demeanour ended the moment he opened the warehouse door. There was someone else in the warehouse, right in front of him, a tall, wiry fellow with impish eyes. In his hands the tall, wiry fellow with impish eyes held the most exquisite antique cuckoo clock. It was not one the rotund little clock collector with the brooding eyes had ever seen before. “Who are you?” demanded the clock collector.

“Why I’m a thief” said the tall, wiry fellow with impish eyes. With that he carried the exquisite antique clock to a shelf, placed it gently down and gave it a quick dusting. “Oh, don’t worry, it’s not stolen. It’s mine, and it’s my gift to you.”

As the tall, wiry fellow with impish eyes spoke his voice sounded familiar to the rotund little clock collector with the brooding eyes. Yes, that was it, this was the voice of the whisperer; this was the voice that whispered in his ear each time he unlocked his warehouse.

“A thief! A thief!” cried the rotund clock collector. “But a thief would be removing clocks from my collection, not adding to them! What sort of thief are you?!”

“Oh, I haven’t come to steal your clocks” replied the tall, wiry fellow with the impish eyes. “ You know my voice, don’t you? You’ve heard me many times before…” At this the tall, wiry fellow with the impish eyes leaned in close and whispered “Hans has more clocks, Jillian has rarer clocks, if only you could get another clock, is your warehouse secure? Why do lower income earners get a clock concession?” He continued “I’ve been here every time you’ve visited your warehouse. I haven’t come to steal your clocks my friend. I’ve come to steal your contentment.”

Who or what is the contentment thief for us today?

Source: Scott Higgins

Is That It?

George Harrison was one of the Beatles, one of the greatest and most influential pop bands of all time. Harrison knew fame, adulation, the pleasure of mastering his craft, the sense that his was a formative influence on music. So his comment in the Beatles Anthology is instructive: “When you’ve had all the experiences – met all the famous people, made some money, toured the world and got all the acclaim – you still think ‘is that it?’. Some people might be satisfied with that, but I wasn’t and I’m still not.”

Source: Reported by Ananova News Service, Nov 30 2001

The Gift of Us

Marjorie Tallcott was married and had one child during the Great Depression. The family managed to scrape their way through, but as Christmas approached one year Marjorie and her husband were disappointed that they would not be able to buy any presents. A week before Christmas they explained to their six year old son, Pete, that there would be no store-bought presents this Christmas. “But I’ll tell you what we can do” said Pete’s father, “we can make pictures of the presents we’d like to give to each other.”

That was a busy week. Marjorie and her husband set to work. Christmas Day arrived and the family rose to find their skimpy little tree made magnificent by the picture presents they had adorned it with. There was luxury beyond imagination in those pictures- a black limousine and red speedboat for Dad, a diamond bracelet and fur coat for mum, a camping tent and a swimming pool for Pete.

Then Pete pulled out his present, a crayon drawing of a man, a woman and a child with their arms around each other laughing. Under the picture was just one word: “US”.

Years later Marjorie writes that it was the richest, most satisfying Christmas they ever had.

It took a present-less Christmas to remind Marjorie and her family that the greatest gift we can ever offer is ourselves, our presence. This too is the great gift that Christ offers us, not only at Christmas but throughout the year – himself. If he was to draw a gift perhaps it would be just like Pete’s: three people with their arms around each other laughing – human community with Christ at the centre.

Source: Reported in Illustrations Unlimited

Billionaire George Soros on Materialism

George Soros is multi-billionaire financial wiz. He retired from his Investment Agency at the age of 70 in the year 2000. He was also phenomenally successful as an investor. If you had invested $1,000 in his Quantum Fund when he started out in 1969, he would have turned your $1000 into $4 million by the year 2000.

Yet life was not always so easy for Soros. He was born in Budapest in 1930. He also Jewish. When the Nazis invaded his homeland during World War 2 his father had to bribe government officials for false identity papers so that George could pretend to be the godson of a gentile bureaucrat. Then the family had to spend a period of the war hiding in the attics and concealed stone cellars of almost a dozen homes.

After the war the teenage Soros moved to England and worked odd jobs. As a waiter at Quaglino’s, a posh restaurant in London, he found himself scavenging the leftover profiteroles. Eventually Soros enrolled in the London School of Economics, and the rest is history.

Partly because of his background Soros is not only a capitalist, he’s also a philanthropist. He has injected almost $3 billion into foundations designed to promote open and free societies throughout the world. He plans to give away the rest of his fortune – another $5 billion – by the time he turns 80.

In recent years Soros has turned his attention to the sorts of societies being created by our international economy. And he is concerned by what he sees. Unlike others who have had a rags to riches story Soros does not believe anyone can do it. Indeed, he is worried at the way financial success has become the dominant value of our age and the skewed social outcomes this is delivering. “Markets reduce everything, including human beings (labor) and nature (land), to commodities” he says. “We can have a market economy but we cannot have a market society.”

Source: Biographical information found at Soros Foundation website. Quotation on markets taken from George Soros, “Toward a Global Open Society”, The Atlantic Monthly; January 1998. Volume 281, No. 1; pages 20 – 32.

Chief Seattle’s Letter

In 1855 American Indian Chief Seattle is said to have written this letter, in  response to a request from President Franklin Pierce to purchase land from Seattle’s tribe. It is highly unlikely Chief Seattle wrote it. Nevertheless its sentiments are highly moving. Here are some sections from it.

“There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insects wings.

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath…The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh…

We will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers…I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from the passing train…But what is man without beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected…

Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth…This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth….Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself…

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people…The earth is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family…

So when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us…

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it he moves on…He treats his mother the earth, and his brother the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or beads…

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways.

The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.”

 

On the authenticity of the letter see Jerry Clark, “Thus Spoke Chief Seattle: The Story of an Undocumented Speech” in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Spring 1985, vol. 18, no. 1 and an article at http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/fake.html