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Consumption Then and Now

Consumption Then and Now

(Clicking any of the underlined text in blue will take you to a reference on it.)

A friend sent me an online conversation of a 60-year-old grandmother telling her grandson about life when she was young. The woman’s very different world seems far away, but it is within some of our lifetimes; she was born in 1952. The additions to the consumer economy of her youth are mostly energy-intensive ways of satisfying old human wants.

Are we better off in net happiness because of all the new consumer products?

This is my shortened version of the conversation:

One evening a grandson was talking to his grandmother about current events.
The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.
The Grandmother replied, “Well, let me think a minute, I was born before:

  • polio shots
  • frozen foods
  • Xerox
  • contact lenses
  • Frisbees and
  • the pill

There were no:

  • credit cards
  • laser beams or
  • ball-point pens

Man had not yet invented:

  • pantyhose
  • air conditioners
  • dishwashers
  • clothes dryers
  • and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and
  • man hadn’t yet walked on the moon

We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CD’s, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings.
If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan ‘ on it, it was junk.
The term ‘making out’ referred to how you did on your school exam.
Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and instant coffee were unheard of.
In my day:

  • “grass” was mowed,
  • “coke” was a cold drink,
  • “pot” was something your mother cooked in and
  • “rock music” was your grandmother’s lullaby.
  • “Aids” were helpers in the Principal’s office,
  • “chip” meant a piece of wood,
  • “hardware” was found in a hardware store and.
  • “software” wasn’t even a word.

It’s difficult for some of us to imagine a livable world without air conditioning, but it worked for the Greatest Generation and for their children.
We moderns can also live happily with less, once we understand than moderating consumption is the right, the necessary, and the smart path for all of us.


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