And the Lord said unto the people of the world, “Verily, as the globe warms and the waters rise and the uncontrolled renovation of bathrooms and kitchens continues unabated, I will send a pestilence. This pestilence will be in the form of an Angel, and this Angel will be called the Angel of Financial Turmoil who will drive out the greedy company directors, merchant bankers and uncontrolled mortgage lenders to the land of moderation and frugality.
“And as the supply of credit dries, there will be no more funds for expensive four wheel drives nor the fuel they consume. The people of the world will reduce their consumption of all things, and will begin to walk, ride pushbikes or take public transport. Lo, they will realise that there is little money for regular restaurant meals or a diet of take-away food. They will once again grow vegetables, milk the beast and sustain themselves. The word ‘McDonald’ will once again be a Scottish clan and obesity will be no more. The people will rise and be fruitful and while they will not even think about it, they will be happy.”
When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. Some however found an interesting parallel between financial turmoil and the world’s need to consume less. Some understood the sign and saw that God and Nature had fought back in the way that people would best understand; that if reducing consumption to save the planet wouldn’t force change, reducing consumption because they had no money to do otherwise would have to do.
The financial turmoil of the past month has left many looking at ways to save a few dollars. My conversations with local restaurant owners indicate people are eating out less, and when they do, they’re becoming more price conscious. Radio gardening shows have begun serious talk-back on growing vegetables and raising chickens.
According to media reports, many are taking to the pushbike to save on fuel and parking costs. The world is certainly a different place, and while many mourn the loss of financial freedom the ‘Angel’ has delivered, others see our sudden consumption consciousness as the first step in solving the world’s climate crisis, perhaps a first step they were unable to take by themselves.
According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, if the demands on our planet continue at the same rate, “by the mid 2030’s, we’d need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.” For the unconscious spender, this simply means two planets to renovate. Great! To others, 2030 is very close indeed.
Yet rather than cry in our double brie about it all, there’s a definite feeling that this change, this new world we’re entering, could be OK. That in delivering the pestilence, the Angel has created a non-negotiable set of rules that we must abide by. Carte Blanch is fine, yet limits created through necessity provide a structure and direction that western society has lacked. Like a tear-away child needing discipline, western consumers ran away with the ball, really wanting someone to give chase and read us the riot act so we could feel safe within fair boundaries.
Capitalism, bless its little heart, has allowed us to do what we want when we want, yet capitalism spinning out of control creates individual greed and community breakdown. The ridiculous salaries paid to some company directors represents capitalism gone mad, especially when these salaries stand alongside declining literacy, underfunded hospital systems and an indigenous problem that we should all be ashamed of.
Yet we’re all responsible. I saw no street protests when the Macquarie Bank chiefs walked away with their zillions. Words of dissent in Australian society have been few and far between, and while we were renovating, many tear-aways ran away with the ball. Indeed, we may have run and hidden the ball ourselves somewhere in our new kitchen!
The structure, direction and limitation imposed through necessity need not spell doom and gloom. Throughout history, it’s the ‘difficult’ periods that create community and a sense of ‘pulling together’. Australian ‘mateship’ wasn’t a product of good times and consumer bliss but the result of hardship and necessary limits. Whatever the advertisers try and spin us, our lasting memories aren’t of lying in the sun sipping margaritas, but of the holiday when we had to overcome something that went drastically wrong. It’s of having something to work for with creativity and flair, not just having something to spend. It’s the memory of crusty bread from an old wood-fired oven, or long seasons without air-conditioning waiting for the southerly buster. It’s of warm bottled milk capped with cream, home without renovation and the romance of old things.
And as the people worked, and as they celebrated the Feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the harvest, they realised what they’d lost in the years between then and now. They laughed and they sung. They ate, drunk and danced and the children danced with them. They made love and made no plans – certainly no renovation plans. And the Lord saw that although the food was plain, and the wine cleanskin, it was all very, very good.