Thursday, November 30, 2006

Technology... Friend or Foe?

Time again for another insightful entry for the blogoshpere. One of my online discussion groups was pondering the question of what life was like 50-100 years ago and whether or not any one of us could have “handled” it. As I sit here in the local Chick-Fil-A and my oldest two play on the playland, I’m stuffing my face with waffle fries dipped in a combination of buffalo and Polynesian sauces. I have time to do this because I’m totally neglecting my house.

My floors are gritty and should probably stand to be hand scrubbed, but they’ll have to make do with a half-ass swiffering. I’ve got mounds of laundry that need doing AND last week’s is still not completely put away. My kitchen is not in “great” shape but it isn’t filthy. We won’t even go into the wreck that is the children’s room. Let’s just say that if Santa’s workshop suddenly exploded it would be *close*.

So, how IS life different from 50-100 years ago? Well, for ONE thing… 100 years ago, I wouldn’t be taking my kids out for a fast-food lunch – no such thing existed. But more than that, there was a totally different mind-set (paradigm if you will) in place. Now, our society (hereinafter known as “we” and/or “us”) has STUFF. Lots of it, too. We buy bigger houses to hold our stuff. And we just keep collecting MORE and MORE of it. To the point that a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house is called a “starter” home. Which puts our 2BR/1BA house to shame. I KNOW we have more stuff than our house can hold. And friends, that’s AFTER I “Fling Boogied” 27 tons of stuff out.

Another difference is that we have more “disposable” income than previous generations. We also have more debt. See THIS for more details on that. Admittedly, I’m no anthropologist, but this is just my observation. Did we have it “better” 50-100 years ago?

Yes and No. There are so many differences and so on that it would take a very long time to cover them in detail and this is but a mere blog, so I don’t expect to cover every aspect of them in depth.

However, I’m going to issue a challenge to you – dear reader – and believe me, it IS a challenge indeed.

1) Turn off technology as much as possible. Make a pledge that you will not leave your TV, radio or computer on all day. Many times we keep these things on to drown out the “sound of silence”. But really, we all need some quiet time during the day. Also, having too many things on at once is overstimulating and can cause the noise levels to be artificially too loud.
2) Get out of debt and STAY that way. There’s a process for this called the Total Money Makeover. Dave Ramsey wrote a book by the same name and it’s GOOD. While I don’t agree with ALL his points, the main thing is to get out of debt and stay that way.
3) Don’t buy things you don’t absolutely need. I mean it! Look around and ask yourself the following:
a. Does this item bring me joy/peace? If the answer is NO then TOSS IT!!!
b. Does this item get used more than once in a blue moon? Again, if the answer is NO then TOSS IT!!!
c. Do I have more than one of this item? If the answer is YES, keep only the best one and donate or toss the other(s).

If you absolutely MUST buy something, make sure you remove ONE thing from your home before bringing in the new one.

I told you this was a challenge. I will say this, though, these principles changed my life incredibly. I believe these 3 points are the major differences in mindset between our generation and our corollary of 50-100 years ago.

Our parents’ generation saw the birth of TV. Now, 99% of all homes have a color tv and those TVs are on (on average) over 8 hours a day. Microsoft recently reported 3 millions units of the Xbox 360 have been sold/shipped. That’s fully 1% of the population of this country. I’m no demographic expert, but that’s close to 25% of the nation’s households if not more. That number does not count the previous Xbox units still in use. What it does say, though, is that we are a WEALTHY nation.

Compare that to one of the other nations in the top 4 most populated countries in the world. Indonesia is number four (just behind the US) and the standard of living there is remarkably different than our standard of living. In some ways it is like America 100 years ago. Laundry is washed by hand, line dried and ironed with an iron that is heated on the stove. This is in an upper-middle class home, too! Even if they can afford an automatic washer/dryer, they aren’t trusted to get clothes “as clean” as they would be if they were washed on a washboard. I was told it was a “waste of electricity”. What a different POV than here, eh?

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