Wednesday, May 28, 2008

what I'm reading: deep economy

I just finished reading Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. The premise is that we need to stop focusing on the accumulation of more wealth (because its not making us happier) and focus on building stronger communities. In some ways, its shares themes from The Small-Mart Revolution (with a bit of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle thrown in). In more ways, it positions itself as the antithesis (one of my favorite words) to The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

I appreciate this counterpoint to The World is Flat, because when I was reading that last summer, mostly I thought, "I don't agree." Unfortunately, what I really got from both Deep Economy and The World is Flat is that we, in America, are screwed. Either we've become lazy and complacent (TWIF) and everyone in China and India is waiting to take our jobs and or we've well outlived our means (DE) and we need a serious shift in attitude before we destroy the world (which frankly I'm hard-pressed to believe will happen for a majority of Americans).

I don't consider myself a fatalist, or even a pessimist. (In fact, I've always considered myself someone who says, "well, the glass is half empty, but here's how we're going to fill it." Which, according to a cartoon I just saw, would probably make me an activist.) Unfortunately, despite what McKibben claims is meant to be a mostly hopeful tone, I ended Deep Economy feeling discouraged. Deep Economy really made me question what I'm doing with my life. By making jewelry, am I really contributing in a useful way, or am I just feeding consumerism and American's unending desire for more?

Endnote: I would just like to say, that if you're trying to choose between reading The Small-Mart Revolution or Deep Economy - go with The Small-Revolution. You'll feel more empowered, and less likely to curl up into a ball under your bench and cry.


Robin Marie said...

"By making jewelry, am I really contributing in a useful way, or am I just feeding consumerism and American's unending desire for more?"

I assure you that you aren't alone in these thoughts. Whenever I get down on myself my dad, a dairy farmer, (I consider that to be the epitome of utilitarian, justifiable jobs) always looks at me in disgust and tells me that "art is essential". People have been adorning their bodies and painting on walls for as long as history can recall. I think the work that artisans do is even more essential in this age where we have a tendency to buy everything from a factory and never understand its origins. You are reminding people of the power of the human body and mind. Each of your customers can look at their piece and know that a person sat down and created it, from beginning to end.

Corey said...

Amen! Robin.


I often struggle with the same issue of what benefit my career in the 'arts' is really having. But essentially, it's about connecting with people. The things I own that someone else made, even if I don't know that someone, and even if they made it through industrial methods (CAD, etc.), enrich my life because I know they are the result of the human capacity for good, productive thought.

Fight on!


megan said...

Thanks ladies! Its good to know I'm not alone.