Monday, January 4, 2010

The Glad Demise of the Ugly American

For a very long time America has been seen as the global Pac-Man - gobbling up everything in its path. The debt accrued in a quest for "more and better" (in addition to an international policy of exploitation and planet policing) has sullied the intended image of America as being a beacon of opportunity, democracy and freedom.

On a domestic level it has left many in more than a bit of a pickle. Strained personal finances and a shortage of work hours have left Americans with time on their hands to spend someplace other than a restaurant or a shopping mall. Yep. The bottom has fallen out of the bucket - and change, though painful, is proving to be a very positive thing. Rewarding, even!

According to an article in the NYT, in response to the "Great Recession," many Americans are choosing to spend their time and money on things like exercise, gardening and aesthetics, and are re-discovering the simple pleasures of "friend and family time." People are now being presented with the opportunity to internalize the notion of it being better to "do things" than to "have things."

And although retailers are suffering from the shifting value system, museums and the performing arts are enjoying an increase in support. People are still spending, but are opting for experiences over objects. Economists are concerned that the end of a spendthrift mentality could hamper efforts to revive the economy, but with people redefining their values, marketing just have to follow suit as in any market shift. In the big picture, we'll all be better off for it.

Will this change in priorities be permanent? One can only hope so!

Meanwhile, despite our struggles, here's to the hope that 2010 brings America happier individuals and families with a greater appreciation for their lives - and a greater empathy for the struggles of our neighbors around the world. After all, we're all in this together.

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