I found the core of this in a "journal ideas e-mail" to myself. It still didn't come out quite the way I saw it in the first place, but what the heck.
Back in the seventies PBS had a series out the UK called Connections, hosted by James Burke. He’d take a subject such as the discovery of how a touchstone works and follow how being able to easily determine the purity of gold led to easier trade which led to other changes. At the end of the series he walked us through several scenarios of how people might react if they were told that no matter how hard they work, they can only have so much. A scenario that we’re facing more and more as we face increasing limits. Increasing population numbers versus availability of water, space, or the diversion of food crops into other uses such as ethanol production as oil prices rise.
And we can see how this plays out when what is “good” is defined as how many “things” you can squeeze into your living space. When what you have must be replaced by the newest version of what you may already have only to be po’d when the price comes down sooner than you expected. A price you were willing to pay because you just had to be the first one on the block to have the newest widget.
Remember the uproar a few months ago when Apple came out with a new cell phone? The price came down really fast and the first buyers were up in arms. I couldn’t help thinking “Hey, you wanted it bad enough to pay the intro price so you could claim bragging rights for whatever reason.” As if the charisma of owning the latest gadget would somehow rub off on you. You got what you paid for. You were the first. The price you paid not only covered the phone, but the bragging rights.
And the media is carefully structured to keep us believing that we can only be happy if we keepbehaving this way. That having time to read, learn an instrument, carve, paint, make cat’s cradles, spend time with your family, or singing (even if you do sound like Agent Scully singing Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog in the episode Detour) is somehow “unproductive.” Unproductive for who? Well, for the businesses that want to sell you these things ready made. But, maybe not for the rest of us who value family time, cat’s cradles, or singing. Even if some our best tunes are sung in the shower.