Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Stuff is NOT the problem.

Recently I was pointed towards this:

There are two other parts that you can find on YouTube, but you get the idea.

It's a very cute and pleasingly done piece, but it is ultimately a deceptive and fear driven rant against capitalism and consumerism.

The worst part of this is, it's being foisted on kids in public schools. I can only hope that my daughter will be spared such indoctrination, but in the event she is subjected to it (and in all likelihood she will be, if not directly from this particular video, from some other source - a professor or two, or three or twenty) I will do my best to give her the whole picture.

And it might sound something like this...

Well guess what lady, I've traveled a bit too, and somehow came away with a different perspective.

After 15 years of traveling abroad, I can safely say that I'm now more than ever, an American Exceptionalist.

Of the 28 countries I've been to, including more than a few third world, communist, socialist and first world "utopia"'s of western Europe, there is no place on earth that holds a candle in generosity and humanitarian spirit to the home stadium of the evil giant that is capitalism, the good old US of A.

I truthfully don't think we should aspire to be like any other place, especially places where you can't own a firearm, get a liver transplant if you're over 50 or keep more than 60% of your income. Or for that matter can't get ice in your drink or free refills.

And when it comes to the juggernaut that is big business, I don't deny that industrialization and corporate greed haven't caused a lot of problems. Pollution and child labor, especially in the third world places that I've been to like China, Kenya, India and Egypt run rampant and unchecked. But from what I have seen with my own eyes, it's the governments of these places, not private corporations, that have their boots firmly on the necks of these people and allow less scrupulous companies to enslave their children and contaminate their rivers and streams.

And from what I've seen first hand, the only reason hell holes like Kenya see any relief at all is from private sources of revenue. Were it not for commercial companies and individual entrepreneurs, private non-profit aid organizations that I have worked for like Feed The Children wouldn't be feeding a dozen kids a day in Nairobi, much less a quarter million like they actually do now. It sure as hell isn't the government of Kenya that gives hope to it's people. They rule over a country rich in resources with a thick coat of corruption and an iron fist.

Yes, aiming for the almighty dollar has caused a lot of misery in this world, but conversely. were it not for the pursuit of "stuff", Americans and other first worlders wouldn't have a fraction of the prosperity, innovation and high quality of life that all of us (even those who purport to hate corporations) enjoy.

Furthermore, were it not for the enterprising spirit of the individual that the American system fosters, I can only conclude that the third world would be infinitely worse off.

I agree that we need to be generous and ambitious in our pursuit of helping those less fortunate, but where I part ways with big government folks is that I believe people have to be moved in their hearts to give - people should not be mandated by the state to sacrifice the hard earned fruits of their labor.

The smug demonization of private industry by the affable but ultimately dim-witted lady in the "Story of Stuff", especially to our children who are living day to day under the blanket of prosperity wrought by the blood, sweat and unparalleled American work ethic of their parents and forefathers, does little to actually improve the lives of those trapped in despotic regimes.

It makes professors and students feel good about themselves in the halls of academia, and gives protestors something to crow about when political conventions roll around - but where the rubber meets the road, the ACTUAL back breaking work of getting food to the hungry and disaster relief to the stricken doesn't come from anti-capitalist regimes or their puppets. It comes from the greatest country on earth, and the power of big business behind it.

I have been blessed in the past five years, to work for an extraordinary private NGO, which gets 100% of it's funding entirely from the private sector.

Our government will be giving a hundred million dollars to Haiti. That is fantastic and good.

Feed The Children has pledged to commit nearly two hundred million in aid to Haiti for 2010. And they are not even the largest private aid group with boots on the ground right now.

Feed The Children typically receive a billion dollars annually, most of which comes from corporations and wealthy benefactors, one of which that I know personally, a man who I will not name (as he prefers to remain anonymous in his contributions) who is a highly paid lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. He has personally pledged over a million dollars to the southeast Asian countries that were hit by the tsunami, and I imagine he will commit a similar amount to Haiti. .

I understand that it makes us feel less guilty when we all chime in about how terrible big business is and how greedy and shitty we all are for wanting to play XBox and buy hundred dollar shoes; but we do it anyway. We live our lives as hypocrites - decrying the system, yet busting our asses for "the man" and plunking down hard earned dollars for big macs and porn.

I would not be able to live in America and be happy if I truly believed that big business was all or even mostly evil. I would leave. I actually know a co-worker who did leave, after Bush won in 2004, and I respect her highly for it. (She did eventually come back, growing up a bit and realizing how good she had it, but I still give her mad props for sticking to her principles until she was able to educate herself).

I try my best to live here with a clear conscience and enjoy the many blessings of this country, while still recognizing that we have problems and need to work hard to fix them.

Most of all, I do my utmost to avoid indulging in a counter productive and decadent daily dance of self-loathing. After seeing so much suffering, all over the world, with my own eyes, that is only relieved by private and mostly American money and people, I find it offensive to point the finger of blame at my country.

The gauntlet of experiences that I have gone through, has led me down the path of a deep and abiding faith.


Faith that most Americans, even those in corporate suits, are ultimately working to make the world better, and it's only through the free marketplace, of both products AND ideas, that we may actually someday reach the "utopia" envisioned by big government proponents.

So, my daughter, I am not on board with "The Story of Stuff" which, much like the right wing nitwits such as Limbaugh and Beck, paint the world in black and white. I am not on board, and I will do my utmost to give you another side to the story, despite whatever indoctrination you might endure at the hands of your teachers. I will do this, simply because I have seen too much good undertaken with my own eyes to buy into the fable that big business is entirely or even mostly to blame for the suffering on this earth.

We are the greatest country on God's green earth, and no amount of moral relativism shrouded in hyperbole and self-hatred can obscure this truth.

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