I went to sleep late last night. Technically, early this morning. I think it was nearly 2, honestly. And yet, I woke up this morning at 7, ready to face the day! Okay, no I didn’t. I did wake up at 7, and I did not go back to sleep, but I sure wasn’t ready to get out of bed, either. An insistent bladder made sure I changed my mind. It’s okay, I wanted to get up. Today I was going to the Renaissance Festival! Whoo hoo!
It’s become a bit of an annual tradition. Years ago, I’d gone a couple times, when it was still new and only the truly dedicated attended (pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before), but it wasn’t a regular thing. As comfortable as I am doing things alone, some things are just better with someone else, and I either had no one else to do these things with or I had no money. Usually the former, actually. Because it was still on the new side, the 10th anniversary festival wasn’t too terribly expensive. and everyone dressed. Well, nearly everyone, anyway. I enjoyed it, I just hadn’t made it a regular thing. Now, though, it is. Now I have someone to go with and we have fun. Sometimes we finish up with dinner. Might be fast food, might be a real restaurant. Tonight, we went to Outback. And now I have lunch for tomorrow.
That’s not what this is about, though. It’s only a few years along, but I have what seems to be becoming a tradition, one I like, this annual trip to the Renaissance Festival. Just like Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Christmas are spent at my father’s house, and stores attempt to outdo each other in the Black Friday wars. Or should we call it the Turkey Day Turnout? I’m not quite sure how I feel about this – well, I do, truly, I think it’s horrible that people will have to work on Thanksgiving Day, or feel they have to shop on Thanksgiving Day, instead of spending it with family, watching the Lions lose. The only tradition held sacred is the one of consumerism, convincing us that the model we got last year – or last month, last week, last night – is outmoded and needs desperately to be replaced.
It’s all well and good to say it helps the economy to be constantly buying. And in the short term, it does. In the long term, it’s untenable. What we have is a closed system. Like water, which circulates around and around, cleaned, swum in, drunk, evacuated, discarded, and cleaned again for another trip, this constant buying has created an economy based on the same money, the same jobs, the same everything we already have, just not as new. That means more products have to be created, which is great, because it means people have to be employed. Then those products have to be sold, but because there are so many choices, those products have to be made more cheaply, which then means the manufacturers have to cut wages or move production to a place where they hadn’t heard of child-labor laws (or are corrupt enough to ignore them), and make sure they keep advertising so that we know when our item is obsolete, when we need the new one. Of course, as products are manufactured more cheaply, they become less durable, more disposable, and more likely to be replaced. The only people truly being helped by this are those who own the companies, who have significant ownership in those manufactories, not the ones they hire. In this closed system, rather than the money recirculating – the lie we’ve been told for decades – it is pooling at one end, with people who don’t need it, other than as a way to keep score.
It’s no longer enough to have a place to live and food to eat – now we need the coolest phone, the biggest television, the hybridest car. I’m certainly not innocent in all this, I’ve spent money I couldn’t really afford on things I didn’t actually need, just so I could say I had it. I’ve bought the latest re-release of a DVD, a special edition, now with a different font! I don’t need it. I already have a DVD of that movie in excellent condition, sitting on my shelf. If I’m satisfied with that, though, the publishers can’t make anywhere near as much money, so, they convince me I need the new version, and convince us that if they keep making stuff, they can keep people working. If they were really as altruistic as that, wouldn’t they pay a living wage? I’m not talking about raising minimum wage to $15/hour – that’s ludicrous, and would cause inflation to explode. But there was a time when the minimum wage was intended to be a living wage, enough to have a roof over your head, and food in your pantry. It’s not.
Now, I realize there is so much more to this, of course, that it’s just not so simple as make less stuff and stop selling it to us. It is, however, a dangerous tradition, elevating the cost of living, as well as the minimum expectations for a reasonable life. As it continues, the lower class will grow, the middle class will evaporate, and the wealthy will continue to blame it on the poor, many of whom are perfectly honest and hard-working.
It would appear that once again, the topic has veered from my original target. That was a bit unexpected. Still, this economic tradition has to stop.