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Posts tagged ‘Gross Domestic Product’

From 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy


“Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all.

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.”

Robert Kennedy, University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

The Big Day

Black Friday

Black Friday! Cyber Monday! And then it’s only 23 more shopping days until the ‘Big Day’ itself.[1]

Of course the Big Day is characterised by that rarest of features, namely the closing of most shops … unless they’re online of course. Perhaps we should be grateful for such small mercies, what with Christmas shopping adverts appearing on TV anywhere from late August onwards. But then 24 hours later it’s off we go again with the Boxing Day Sales, the New Year Sales and beyond.

How have so many people allowed themselves to become caught up in such a meat-grinding system? How have so many people allowed their identity to reduce down into that of habitual consumer?

Has their potential identity as active citizens – rather than mere passive consumers – simply melted away under the relentless heat of the mass-media adverts that assault us 24/7 from every conceivable location and direction? Have they been rendered mindless by the transformation, decade by decade, of pretty much everything – including dreams and even (in some places ) fresh air – into saleable commodities? Are they simply brainwashed by the clever marketing psychology that stokes up peer pressures, preys upon guilt, plays upon the sense of prestige and fuels envious fears of ‘losing out’?

All this of course is part of the absurd, impossible fantasy that we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into, namely the never-ending expansion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), year after year from now until doomsday (see Goldilocks as Buddha).


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