Friday, December 10, 2010
Why Simplicity? A Complex Answer, Part III
In addressing some previous questions on simple living, the point was suggested...
...simple living as opposed to technological advancements, and the wealth creation that so often goes with it, does not improve lives for the most people.
To that point, I'd say that the commenter was making some presumptions that go too far.
The Amish (as an extreme example of people who seem to be opposed to technological advances) are not, in fact, utterly opposed to all technological advances. They are CAUTIOUS (in the extreme) of technological advances. They epitimoze (perhaps to absurd degree, perhaps not) the conservative value of Prudence.
They don't willy nilly accept technological CHANGES that come along and presume that because they have come along, they are an advancement. They keep such changes at arm's length and, when they are comfortable with the notion that it is indeed something that can be helpful WITHOUT having hidden costs to themselves or others, only then do they embrace the advancement.
Thus, they use (sparingly) gas motors for cutting wood (obviously a technological change over cutting by hand), telephone booths, accept rides from others, ride the bus, etc... That is, they DO embrace some technology, but only cautiously and only when they feel confident that it's going to be a net benefit (or at least that's my undestanding of the Amish and technology.
This is what I'm speaking of... Slowing down the pace of our acceptance of each new technological option that comes along and weigh its net value. Live deliberate lives, thoughtful lives, sustainable lives, keeping an eye out for the impacts beyond just the immediate.
The commenter made the statement about being opposed to technological advances and the wealth creation that so often goes along with it. I think what the simple life advocates would suggest is that we presume too much too quickly too often. DOES positive net wealth creation come along with many/most/all technological "advance?" I don't think we can assume that this is true, not at all.
IF I can create a brand new Widget (TM) for $1 and can create a demand for that Widget and sell it for $10, then I have "created wealth" and the world is a better place! Hallelujah! That is the simplistic way of looking at it. The more prudent, cautious way of looking at it is to ask questions...
1. What IS a Widget?
2. Does it add anything to my life?
3. If I have happily lived without a Widget thus far, what reasonable "demand" for that Widget is there?
4. What are the costs of that Widget? Not JUST the cost to produce it, but did creating the Widget produce pollution? Waste? Has that waste and pollution been cleaned up? Who paid to clean it up? Were there any other associated negatives (ie, did it not only produce pollution, but TOXIC pollution, which increased the risk of cancer or other illness - and who's going to pay for that?)
5. Is the Widget replacing some OTHER item(s)/technologies? What are the costs associated with those losses?
6. Is the Widget causing less tangible - but no less real - costs? Does it cut into family time? Does it cause us to exercise less? To worry more?
You get the idea, I hope.
Simple living is deliberate living, conscious and conscientious living. It is not chasing after every new Thing that comes along, but recognizing that our confidence, our happiness, our lives do not consist of Things and more Things, but in God, in our relationships, in our family, in our community. This is where our contentment lies and thus, why do I NEED more Things?
Sometimes, there may be a very good answer to the question of "should I get this new Thing?" For instance, someone might like a mandolin or a flute so they can learn to play it (free entertainment, worthwhile education) and play with my family and friends (strengthening the family and community units, creating a better world) and thus, it may well be worth the cost.
Having decided that, I could buy a mandolin for $100, used, or I could buy a very fancy cool mandolin for $10,000 - what choice do I make...? Was the "cheap" mandolin made in China by child laborers in unjust circumstances (and thus, came at a much greater cost than the $100)? Was the $10,000 mandolin made with a rare wood that came from an endangered forest (and thus, perhaps came at a greater cost than even the $10,000)?
Deliberate living. Prudent living.
Does that mean I am paralyzed into fearfully buying nothing unable to know all the possible repercussions? No, clearly not. I'm just suggesting something more reasonable and prudent than beginning with the presumption that all the stuff I can buy is going to make the world and my life better.