Conspicuous Consumption

A couple of posts to which I want to draw your attention.

First, via Zach at IntheAgora, is this prophetic and funny account of future government economic stimuli. Indeed, Daniel Schorr, who I believe is the only living journalist to have experienced the Great Depression and the Depression of 1897, noted the shallow, cyclical nature of the current mess: “hard times reduce spendable income, which reduces purchasing, which reduces production, which piles up inventories, which leads to company closings and layoffs, which reduces spendable income….” The solution being offered by the government is: more money to buy stuff you really don’t need.

But do Americans (and in particular American Christians) really have a civic duty to spend so conspicuously?  That’s certainly the message of both political parties (remember what President Bush said average Americans could do to fight terrorism!? Go shopping!).

How do we break the culture of conspicuous consumption?  Rod Dreher addresses this here. He raises a good point: who is crying out against this culture of consumption? Not the Church, he says. I’m afriad he’s right.

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The Terror

Just watched a PBS documentary on the Lost Franklin Expedition, a 19th century British attempt to locate an Arctic passage to the Pacific Ocean that ended in total disaster – all 133 men and officers died, probably of starvation and exposure.

My interest in this ill-fated expedition was first piqued by Dan Simmons’ supernatural cum historical novel The Terror.  It’s a superbly told, highly imagintive yet firmly grounded fictionalization of the experdition. One can feel the Arctic coldness radiate from the pages; reading about life aboard the ice-bound ships produces continuous spine-tingles (how else to describe the feeling?) at the valient but ultimately unsuccessful efforts of the crew to save themselves. Finally, The Terror is a fascinating look at the cultures of the Royal Navy of Victorian England. Highly recommended.