Process versus Product: America's Obsession with Immediate Gratification
If you read the title of my blog or have read my initial entry, you may already know that in addition to politics, hiking, and my dog, I have another obsession. Knitting. Pictured here are a hat and scarf set I have been working on for myself for several weeks now. Knitting, in many ways, goes against the current American obsession with immediate gratification and "getting a good deal". I paid about $30 at my local yarn store to make this hat and scarf set. I'm sure I have already spent at least 5 hours working on this project. At $7.25 an hour, that's already $36.25 in labor. Now we're up to $66.25 with at least 2 more hours in labor to go. So, minimum we're looking at an $80 hat and scarf set. Surely, I could have gone to Target and bought this set for less than the yarn alone. For me, however, there is a personal value in the pleasure of creating something with my hands. There is also value in supporting my local yarn store instead of getting "a better deal" online.
As we head into this holiday season, when circulars from big box stores are bigger than the actual newspaper that they are placed in, it is difficult to ignore the reality that one of the philosophies of current American culture can be summed up as this, 'Whoever gets the most stuff at the lowest price wins.' The front pages of newspapers the day after Thanksgiving are not dotted with stories of how this day of reflection has driven Americans to understand how priveleged they are by selling their McMansions, moving into Thoreau style cabins, and donating their profits to those who are "food insecure." Instead, we see images of people lined up in front of Macy's, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other temples of consumerism, to get the "best deal" on items that will distract them from any real engagement in civic life. Just to pour salt in the wound, these items, such as Playstations, talking dolls that actually pee in their pants (apparently this is a bonus!), and other plastic stuff made by small children in third world countries, will likely their way to a landfill within 10 years.
OK, so I don't mean to be a total grinch. In fact, I love giving gifts. I just don't like giving gifts at other people's expense. It's hard to believe that something is "a great deal" when the person who made it is 8 years old and works 14 hour days. So, in light of this, I am a big proponent of "quality over quantity". As a child, whenever I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday or christmas, she would say, "Make me something. I love anything that is made by you." I guess, eventually, I heard this message, because this year, I am knitting my mom a vest. On Saturday, instead of going out to buy my mom an item whose origins would cause an episode of insomnia, my mom and I went to the local yarn store and she picked out yarn for her vest.
Now, I am not about to say that I am going to knit every person on my Christmas list a vest, but I am going to try to buy thoughtfully and support the local economy. You may be able to get a better bargain for an item online or in a big box store, but you might not feel like you got such a bargain when your Main St. looks like a ghost town because local businesses can't offer the big bargain. If it costs five more dollars to buy a sweater at local family owned business, consider the five dollars a holiday donation to the preservation of community life.