Thursday, December 3, 2009

Decade of Excess


I have been reading and watching television this week. Nothing like having the flu to get you to stay in one place. And I am fixated on stories of come-uppance:

Dubai is in the news quite a bit. I'm sure you've read stories of this city in the desert. It seems they wanted to have a bigger and better sin city than Las Vegas. The Dubai World is owned by one man who actually does not have oil on his little stretch of sand, so he thought he would just borrow all the money needed to build this little monument to excess. The world's tallest building, a palm tree island, mega malls everywhere. This particular dream uses about 250 times the carbon footprint to keep those indoor ski hills operating than the US. Their latest use of energy was to cool the scorching sand on the beach so people will not burn their tootsies running to the ocean that now has floating garbage. It seems they forgot to build enough sewer infrastructure, so they just dump raw sewage into the street drainage, and it washes right out to sea. Lovely. Except now the tourists, that are coming less and less, are not allowed to swim in the E-Coli infected waters. It gambled that the world would always have excess money, and that everyone would want to be a part of that particular dream (nightmare?) Only now that money is not so plentiful, Dubai is pretty empty. Maybe now the slave labor that built it can go home.

Nightline did a segment on giant jellyfish invading Japan. This is the ultimate come-uppance in my opinion. Japan has been overfishing for many decades. Using drag nets that kill everything it it's path. They, and others, have not cared one iota what they were doing to the ecosystem of the oceans. Including the vicious killing of dolphins for their ravenous unending demand for all things sea life. Now that they have killed all the predator fish around Japan, a giant jellyfish has invaded and is killing their catches. Hmmm - tofu anyone?

Nightline also did a segment last night on wives that have been left behind by their white-collar criminal husbands as they go to the big house to pay their debt to the society they scammed. The first one was about the wife of Healthsouth's ex-CEO Richard Scrushy. It seemed they were the toast of Birmingham, Alabama, with their own television ministry, 300 million in assets, and two 15,000 sq ft mansions. You always need two of those don't you? But alas, Daddy is going to have to pay back over 3 billion and that will leave little for mansions. They swear he is innocent, however. The second one, Karen Weinreb, had five houses, all lost, unfortunately/fortunately. Her husband was an unscrupulous hedge fund owner. We all know how hedge funds are doing these days. She actually sees now how the excess blinded her to the real world. I guess flying to Milan to buy your clothes can do that...

And last, but not least, I have been a voyeur of the undoing of the Real Housewives of Orange County. Now, I can hear your groan of protest against my very bad taste in television from here, but in my defense, I think these women are a microcosm of the rest of us. No we don't all have enhanced breasts, or wear sequins during the day, nor do we have fake tans all year, but most of us did get caught up one way or another in the decade of excess. It was impossible not to. I watched this program the first season, lost interest, and only recently became fixated once again. My daughter had it on at her house and after only two programs, I was hooked. It is the slow unraveling of their lives that I find fascinating. These women were all about the bling, the clothes, the cars, the botox, the dream of "you are what you own." Of course the program picks women who are less educated, and not nearly on the same scale as the women who had five houses and two mansions, but in their world they fought and struggled to look and be what the media said was beautiful and sophisticated. This season it is all falling apart. The bravado is slipping as their houses lose value, their jobs disappear, their lives become very real. One lady admitted, she was scared. Another dropped out of the program, as I'm sure she didn't want to be followed as she loses her home. Real estate is just not what it used to be in Orange County, and neither is her job selling it.

I think most of us were excessive in some way. Very few of us can cast many stones. Whether buying designer bags or spending too much on our homes, cars, travel, our children, sushi, most of us were not without sin during the decade of excess.

So where am I going with all of this?

I think we needed this decade to usher in the change I see coming. We've been humbled on a global scale. It's not just the United States, but the Mideast, Asia, Europe, Iceland. As someone said regarding Dubai - it is so two years ago! As the middle class disappears due to stagnant wages, rising prices in food and necessities, the world is beginning to see that their livelihood is inextricably tied to those without jobs. Because without them, there is no market for their goods. If we over fish the oceans we will not have fish worth eating. If we continue to drive big SUV's to the supermarket, we will forever be tied to Mideastern countries that use our money to attack us. If the US spends all if it's taxpayer's money on needless wars, there is no money for healthcare and infrastructure. We begin to see limits - to everything. As we focus on the small, we see the world differently. We can emphasize with those so much less fortunate. The veil begins to slip. We begin to look at our world from a global perspective. We are One on this small planet. It is home to all of us, not just those that want to exploit it. I look forward to the next decade. I hope that the decade of excess will usher in the decade of enlightenment.

I am permanently changed. I don't think in my lifetime, I will look at conspicuous consumption in the same way. When I see someone sporting all the bling, I just feel sorry for them. It was so two years ago.



36 comments:

Brian Miller said...

first off, that is the last time i pose for a picture...lol. ok, i agree. i think this decade has taught us a lot...i just hope enough people are listening...

GooseBreeder said...

And when you think the financial collapse was manufactured too, it gets scary hey?
Conspicuous consumption they used to call it, so distasteful it makes you cringe.
What is it about humans that they love to watch someone go down the pan?Guess someone else's misfortune makes us feel fortunate for a moment before we face what may be our own impending doom.
Somehow the destruction of the innocent like dolphins seems so much more distressing and wrong.

fizak said...

Bangladeshi Farmer Sends "Aid" to Dubai Government

http://theeggplantpost.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/bangladeshi-farmer-sends-aid-to-dubai-government/

Nancy said...

Brian - LOL!

Goose - I don't think it is loving to watch someone go down - it is more - what is this teaching me? And how am I like them - however much I like to think I'm not?

fizak - I must read this - thanks.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Insightful post. I remember that after Bush passed some sort of tax thing that made Hummers and the link tax deductible, we seemed to see them everywhere around here. Hummers. 3-5 miles to the gallon, but hey, no problem. It was the military mentality or something, these hulking monstrosities on the road, everyone else scrambling to get out of the way.

For me, the Hummer will always be the symbol of excess for this decade.

Nancy said...

Trish & Rob - The Hummer is the perfect example, for sure.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

ah, the hummer!!! and conspicuous consumption! the evil twins!

trish is right - very insightful post - and i must say, i admire your tenacity in being able to focus on anything at all when the flu bug is visiting - i'm SO not a good patient!

great post, lady!

lakeviewer said...

YES! We are awakened. Everyone is trying to sell us things we don't need. Great post.

Leah J. Utas said...

I so hope you're right about the world's wakeup call. I've been afraid we haven't hit bottom yet, but maybe you're right and we have.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Having money is not a bad thing. People over borrowed and bought cars and designer shoes and clothes and spa treatments and the like by leveraging the equity of their homes.

I remember my parents saying that you shouldn't live beyond your means. Our house dropped in value. over half a million dollars, through no fault of our own. The neighbors were over leveraged and brought the property values down when their payments soared because of stupid contracts with unscrupulous lenders. Our equity went POOF. Oh well. I have never bought a pair of shoes that cost more than eighty dollars, and we own our cars free and clear, and haven't built up debt. Our nest egg was invested in a house that plummeted in value and our investments were lost but we are still healthy and we know how to live frugally and make money and build our savings back up. Those Housewifes of Orange County sicken me, talk about shallow!

Nancy said...

Gypsy - I think this post might be because of the flu - I'm crabby. :-)

lakeviewer - I think there is a sychonicity with the whole world reeling - maybe everyone hit at the same time will bring about change. We can hope!

Leah - I'm not sure about bottom - but we are getting there!

Elizabeth - I am so sorry about your home. It has devastated so many, through no fault of their own. The banking industry is the last man standing... and only because of us. Ironic, isn't it?

Miss Footloose said...

Nothing like the flu to get you to stop and think about things. I liked your post and agree with what you say about excesses.

Having lived in developing countries with very visibly poor populations, I have become quite aware of my own excesses, as well as the fact that we all live in the same global boat and we better find a way together to keep it afloat.

Dubai's problems are no surprise. Many have seen it coming for years.

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

Thought provoking, indeed. I watched exactly one minute of the dolphin killing video and had to turn it off. Tears were welling up in my eyes already.

I never realize how much of a hermit I am until I hear from friends and family about current events.

It's a cycle... and I agree, we will learn. At least I hope we will.

DJan said...

I think that my hippie origins is what saved me. I loved another hippie who also doesn't ever want to own a home, but we have two Honda Civics that have been paid for a while. We rent. We watch what is happening in the world from a place of dwindling resources, but still enough to live comfortably. I have never watched the Housewives show and probably never will, but I will always, make that ALWAYS read LITSF, as long as you keep writing things like this.

Nancy said...

Miss Footloose - I have become so much more aware of my excesses now that I worry about families on the streets. I could not agree more with the boat metaphor.

Phoebe - I couldn't watch it either. My blood boils.

Nancy said...

DJan - What a wonderful thing to say. Thank you so much. I want you to know you, and your husband, and the way you live, is an inspiration to me. I think of you often.

ρομπερτ said...

Many getting well wishes!

otin said...

Credit cards ruined a lot in the decade. People got items that they really could have never afforded. The internet has created a shop at home mall that eats up credit limits!

Emom said...

I agree on so many levels...
honestly, I cannot bring my self to watch too much TV...boggles the mind...smiles.

Nancy said...

Robert - Thank you.

Otin - Absolutely! And shopping on TV, too.

Emom - We are doing less and less of it - it's just this week - I'm trapped!

Marguerite said...

Great post! What floors me are all of the big trucks and S.U.V's! $100. a fill-up and all of that pollution! I think it's been a buildup of "decades of excess" and there is no easy way out of this predicament. If everyone drove hybrids, then maybe things would get better. Someday! So glad you're feeling better, cher! :)

Lori ann said...

I wanted to say first, i am so sorry to hear of your Roxy. It's so sad. I hope your all doing okay.

Your post is brilliant. And it makes me glad again that i don't watch television. But i do read and i agree with all your saying.

We haven't lived in excess because we couldn't afford to.(and wouldn't want to) one of my kids said to me the other day that they liked the economy stumbling because now they didn't stand out. Everyone it seems is now taking the bus and eating at home, making do or doing without.

our exception is travel, we live frugally everyday, to save for the trips that we dream about.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen!

Nancy said...

Marguerite - We have been looking at cars for a few months now (I gave my SUV to my son-in-law for his work) and I definitely think my next one will be hybrid.

Lori - Thank you - we'll miss Roxy, for sure. I liked the comment your son made - the field definately has been leveled, hasn't it.

Missy said...

Fascinating! It is a very humbling time and scary-especially with jobs. I wonder how it will play out over the long haul. Certainly I think less consumerism, but what happens when the majority of the country is in the boat of not being able to support ourselves and/or others??? If my generation approaching retirement has no social security, and has had to use 401k money due to job loss, what happens then??? makes me wonder.

smiles4u said...

I so agree with all of this. It used to be that the second hand stores were not that crowded when I went. Now, more people are realizing it's value. More and more people are learning that they can't live beyond their means. My kids who are now grown tell me that they are thankful that they learned how to live simple and withhin their means as kids. I really hope that more people will start listening!

Nancy said...

Missy - Very good point. How many of us in our 50's are not helping out our children? At a time when we should be saving for retirement. I guess we just have to trust that what is happening is going to usher in a new paradigm.

smiles - I think they have no choice!

Jeninacide said...

I hope you're right, that this is all a means towards furthering enlightenment. Let's hope it hasn't all been for nothing, anyway.

ds said...

Great post!
Still, as I sit here in my bejeweled sweatpants, I have to wonder, is it time for the "Real Housewives of Cell-Block 23A" ;)

Will we remember the lesson of humility in the future, or will that become "so two years ago" also? I hope not.
Thank you.

Steve E said...

Oh what a picture you paint...and it is JUST WHAT IS! that's the problem. this is all so REAL!

I thoroughly enjoyed to read this post with fear, lots of fear for humanity--not the planet, which will survive long after we leave it, but for us Peeps!

I should do a blog "LIFE IN THE FOURTH QUARTER", having to do NOT with football. But having to do with being lively (supported with espressos!) happy, HAPPY, at-peace, enthusiastically long-time sober guy, age 76, no trombones! But violins, yesss, VIOLIN!

The reason I'm writing all this to you, Nancy, is that my new blog "name" will have been inspired by YOUR blog title...Thank you!

Nancy said...

Ugh those "Housewives" are annoying. I remember one of them saying, "Now that I'm 40, my goal is to be as hot as possible!"

And another time one of them said, "My hubby has supported me for 20 years so now that I'm working I like to buy myself something really nice each time I get my paycheck."

I was like, huh? Dont you mean buy HIM something really nice? LOL
And since when is being as hot as possible, a GOAL?

They are hysterical to watch sometimes though because they are so dumb. Just goes to show, golddiggers still exist.

I agree with points of view here, I know I have learned alot from this decade, by my own mistakes and others'.

susan said...

Good point but I'm afraid there are still too many of the super rich who haven't got the message yet. You have to wonder what they're afraid of.

The news about Dubai was very positive. Made me smile.

Nancy said...

Jenin - There is always a "point" - it's just whether or not we get the point. I like to believe the scale of the change will bring about good things.

ds - Good point.

Steve E - I look forward to that blog!

Nancy - They fascinate me. They really do.

susan - I was thinking the same thing the other night when John Travolta was being interviewed on Letterman and he said he would not be piloting his plane home that night - he had a pilot who would be flying him home. And this is a BIG plane. Do these people ever think, or care, about their carbon footprint? They ALL have their own jets.

~JarieLyn~ said...

There needs to be a middle ground.

PeacefulWmn9 said...

I think a simple (and humble) "Amen" fits here.

Karen

日月神教-向左使 said...

AV,無碼,a片免費看,自拍貼圖,伊莉,微風論壇,成人聊天室,成人電影,成人文學,成人貼圖區,成人網站,一葉情貼圖片區,色情漫畫,言情小說,情色論壇,臺灣情色網,色情影片,色情,成人影城,080視訊聊天室,a片,A漫,h漫,麗的色遊戲,同志色教館,AV女優,SEX,咆哮小老鼠,85cc免費影片,正妹牆,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,聊天室,情色小說,aio,成人,微風成人,做愛,成人貼圖,18成人,嘟嘟成人網,aio交友愛情館,情色文學,色情小說,色情網站,情色,A片下載,嘟嘟情人色網,成人影片,成人圖片,成人文章,成人小說,成人漫畫,視訊聊天室,a片,線上遊戲,色情遊戲,日本a片,性愛