There is a lot of talk about what is wrong with the economy. Personally, I think the root of the matter is a problem with the English language. Language is such a fluid concept, and words can change their meanings over time. Culturally, we’ve lost our understanding of two words: want and need.
Those words have gotten mixed up. I see it in my children, my friends, myself. "I need a safe car to drive to work." Actually, I don’t. A bus would work, or I could change to working from home, or I could drive a beater for a while. That car is a want, not a need. I remember discussions of this nature with my mother many years ago. She would have argued that it is a need.
But needs…those are few. One of my precious sons was discussing the economy with me the other day. Fresh back from a class where he learned about modern slavery and child trafficking, he explained, "I’ve never needed anything in my life, Mom! In fact, I’ve hardly even really WANTED anything." As a mother, this makes me very satisfied. On the other hand, both he and I agreed that "real life" holds some unpleasant surprises for him…as it does many people.
What is a need? My husband talks of survival training. I need: air, water, food, shelter…in that order.
Am I breathing? Check one off the list.
Water — ah, here comes the first battle for me. Our local water used to be so sweet, but of late it tastes like chlorine and has been known to harbor interesting beasties. My water is currently provided by Crystal Springs. Sadly, that lovely water service is a want, not a need…but I’ve been guilty of calling it a need. I’ve wined about it, too. Claimed it was best for the children. But in a pinch, there’s the first area I could cut.
It gets way worse from there, though. I have been so blessed in my life. My real needs…those have all been met, as have many of my wants.
Like many people, I have been guilty of buying wants with credit. Now, we’re paying for those wants, and we’re paying a lot more money than we needed to because we allowed companies like VISA to tell us it was ok. There is a VISA commercial that my husband hates. It shows a shop of some sort where people are all working together and buying things in a machine like manner. Each person pays with a VISA and the machine hums along. One person tries to pay with cash and the gears grind to a halt. With an appology, the person pulls out a card, swipes it, and all returns to normal. As human beings, I think we all should have been offended by that commercial. Whose lives was that card really making easier? Compouded interest being what it is, believe me, it isn’t the poor schmuck who is trying to pay for his needs.
I do blame the banks for this money crisis, and yet…who let them behave that way? Who let them get away with charging me interest on a cup of coffee that was over-priced to begin with? I did.
One of my customers today was talking about how sad the pictures of the Great Depression were. He said, "I guess we’ll really understand now."
Maybe we will…or maybe we’ll believe the ads on television. Whatever happens, it does look like it will be an interesting ride.