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Childrearing in the Consumption Culture

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 12 Nov, 2009 09:20 am
Good Morning,

I think it beyond dispute that many habits human beings gravitate towards don't necessarily work well for us as a species. Instincts, propensities and desires that worked well for thousands of generations often now perpetuate serious problems as we find ourselves in a setting soaked with material prosperity.

Childhood Obesity and Parenting (News article out this morning on childhood obesity - link)

The Quest for Calories: As the basic unit of convertible energy, we crave these in their various forms for metabolism, brain functioning and the ability to get and stay active. Imagine a setting where cheap calories are available everywhere and you'll still find us craving them. Heap a truckload of high-caloric food on us and somewhere near the bottom you'll find someone still munching out. This is what we are; our bodies will continue to seek them out.[INDENT]Net Result: What we eat isn't what's necessarily good for us
[/INDENT]"Mom and Dad are at work": American Culture is in a place where in most cases, both parents must work in order to raise the funds necessary to provide for themselves and children. What's more, our cultural outlook equates career success - in particular, financial success - with "success" overall. I don't see being a parent or stay at home mom/dad as brag-worthy (although I think it is). At least a large portion of U.S. Hegemony validates your overall worth to what you wear, what car you drive, where you shop and what kind of house you live in. Whether out of necessity or towards accommodating cultural expectations, staying at home and rearing children does not occupy the place of importance its significance demands.[INDENT]Net Result: Children are often left alone and/or without parental company
[/INDENT]Interests, fun and Effort: I believe one of the most significant reasons for the continued survivial and evolution of the human race has to do with a behavioral tendancy that can be loosely described as Bang for Buck. And although the least effort for the most payoff can be seen throughout much of the animal kingdom; coupled with intelligent sapience, humans reap a particularly large boon from getting the most fun, material payoff or other benefit by gravitating towards what works with the least effort or pain.[INDENT]Net Result: If children can gain more entertainment from television, video games or cell phones, and such are available, that is what they'll do
[/INDENT]Parenting in Prosperity: It's more healthy to mow your own lawn; sweat a little, feel the breeze on your face and interact with your neighbors than it is to hire someone to do it. Yet, most people - given enough money available - would opt for someone to do it for them. It's better for you, as both an animal, planetary inhabitant and social creature, to walk to the store than it is for you to drive. Yet most people - given a vehicle to drive - will do just that. This is true of virtually everything we do; cultivate a garden instead of purchasing vegetables, join a social group meeting rather than talk on the phone, and the list goes on and on. Plop down 4,000+ Wal-Marts with proportional pricing in any 3rd world country and they, too, will experience this phenomena. This is the downside to prosperity and applies, too, to parenting. Although quite rewarding in an emotional sense, parenting is difficult, frustrating and time-consuming.[INDENT]Net Result: Humans will do what's easier, for any given result, than what logic/reason says they should. This is especially prevalent in rich countries. It thus follows that parents will often opt for the easier means of occupying children's time.

[/INDENT]So does it surprise us that Human Nature combined with a Consumption Lifestyle and Abundance of goods and technology has set before us this problem? Quotes from the above-linked news article:

  • "Pate and other childhood obesity experts say more American youths are becoming obese because so many are addicted to television, video games, testing and fast food."


  • "The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents between ages 6 and 19 has tripled since 1970, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study found."


  • "Burgos' advice to parents of obese kids is simple: Though it may be easy to save time by not cooking and by giving kids only the food they want, don't do it. "Don't let food become a substitute for the love and time you should give them," she says."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thread Questions:

  1. We see all around us the price we've paid for so many available goods and services. From either a health, intellectual or environmental standpoint, can this possibly be worth it?
  2. Is so much caloric, convenience and technological prosperity worth the 'price' we pay when such is realized?
  3. How might a culture refocus priorities from what's easy, what's thrilling and destructive to what's mentally and physically healthy? Can this be done?
  4. Is this issue, perhaps, just a case of Lazy Parents? If so, how could this be remedied?

Prosperity and over-abundance of resources feels like a good thing. I fear it's not though; that the price we pay is prohibitive.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

EDIT: Mods, feel free to toss this wherever it best fits. Either here in Health or Social Philosophy are good places
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xris
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Nov, 2009 10:27 am
@Khethil,
There is nothing like a period of poverty to appreciate gluttony. You have to appreciate the good things in life by measuring the bad. Balance is a necessity
0 Replies
 
chad3006
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Nov, 2009 11:30 am
@Khethil,
Khethil;103132 wrote:
1. We see all around us the price we've paid for so many available goods and services. From either a health, intellectual or environmental standpoint, can this possibly be worth it?


No, I don't think so. In American consciousness, the real price of these goods has been deferred for many years. The wolf is beginning to knock for some of us.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
2. Is so much caloric, convenience and technological prosperity worth the 'price' we pay when such is realized?


How could it be? A sort of irony to the whole thing is once you've over consumed and are obese, your encouraged to consume more in the form of diet pills, books, exercise equipment, etc.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
3. How might a culture refocus priorities from what's easy, what's thrilling and destructive to what's mentally and physically healthy? Can this be done?


My increasing pessimism on the subject, requires me to answer no. I believe that a culture will change only when there is no other choice. It's just plain unsustainable, and it will change eventually, but at what price then?

Khethil;103132 wrote:
4. Is this issue, perhaps, just a case of Lazy Parents? If so, how could this be remedied?


No, parents aren't lazy, it's part of their training. One hundred years of advertising has trained our culture into believing that consumption will free us.

To remedy it, you'd have to take on a $412 billion dollar a year industry (2008 figures, and that doesn't include lobbying, political spending, etc.) A good first step would be to remove the legal status of corporations as individuals. Or I guess, in the words of Leary, everyone could “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Has anyone ever read “The Midas Plague” by Fredrick Pohl?
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Nov, 2009 11:32 pm
@chad3006,
Khethil;103132 wrote:

American Culture is in a place where in most cases, both parents must work in order to raise the funds necessary to provide for themselves and children.


And consumer culture has made it this way. Both parents must work in order to keep up with the cultural expectations of consumption - the cars, the clothes, the houses of obscene size.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
What's more, our cultural outlook equates career success - in particular, financial success - with "success" overall.


And there's the most biting indictment against consumer culture. Jesus would be a failure, even though we are supposedly a Christian nation, right? The Buddha, a worthless beggar.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
Net Result: If children can gain more entertainment from television, video games or cell phones, and such are available, that is what they'll do


Rather than read and actively socialize face-to-face. It is the end of education and humane human relations, or t least a severe blow to these hallmarks of civilization.

Which brings up a question: are we living in a civilization, or just a densely populated society? Does the west still fit the definition of a civilized society? Did it ever?

Khethil;103132 wrote:
Net Result: Humans will do what's easier, for any given result, than what logic/reason says they should. This is especially prevalent in rich countries. It thus follows that parents will often opt for the easier means of occupying children's time.


Like buying them video games and putting them in front of the television screen rather than taking them camping and so forth. It's almost abuse. Or maybe it is abuse...

Khethil;103132 wrote:
We see all around us the price we've paid for so many available goods and services. From either a health, intellectual or environmental standpoint, can this possibly be worth it?


Only if we do not give a damn about health, intellect, or the environment.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
Is so much caloric, convenience and technological prosperity worth the 'price' we pay when such is realized?


Abundant food, healthy food, and technological sophistication are not necessarily impossible should we discard consumerism. And that's what the problem is, consumerism, equating happiness with consumption. The problem is that the west underwent a technological revolution, that is to say: an outer revolution. What we desperately need today is an inner revolution, a revolution that focuses on our human needs as opposed to our animal desires.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
How might a culture refocus priorities from what's easy, what's thrilling and destructive to what's mentally and physically healthy? Can this be done?


Eradicate the systems that currently focus priorities. I don't even want to think about the probability of this happening.... too damn sad.

Khethil;103132 wrote:
Is this issue, perhaps, just a case of Lazy Parents? If so, how could this be remedied?


Lazy parents is a problem, but ignorant parents is just as much of a problem. But even those conditions are not the sole responsibility of the parents; we must factor in the undeniable social environment so that we do not simply condemn individuals and miss the greater context - that is that each of us is responsible for everyone else because we all influence one another.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Nov, 2009 09:24 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;103233 wrote:
And consumer culture has made it this way. Both parents must work in order to keep up with the cultural expectations of consumption - the cars, the clothes, the houses of obscene size.


Spot on, I think.

It reminds me of something I read regarding a historical change in the U.S.

There was a time when we could live "simply"; plop up a house somewhere, dig out your outhouse, hunt, gather, garden or ride into town to get your goods as necessary. At the point where electricity, public sewage/water and "appliance" living became the standard all sought for, we put ourselves in a never-ending merry-go-round where we have to feed these things, "The things ride people" - get a car; no problem! But you're going to need a job to pay for it, constant income to insure it and you're going to need to feed it too.

I wonder just how much of our lives is spent getting money to "feed" the things we want and need.

In any case, once that "standard of living" was available; it was so desirable that the "simple life" largely went away. You now have two choices - get on the merry go round (complete with less time for your children, etc.) or abject poverty. The "simple" life is hardly available any more - hell, there's not even a place to go plop up a house, its all taken.

Just random thoughts... thanks
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Nov, 2009 09:46 am
@Khethil,
You're right. It was the industrial revolution. Instead of taking our time and considering the consequences, we fell in lock step with an unprecedented pace of technological advancement. Sure, great things have come and continue to come out of this revolution, but there is an undeniable dark side. That dark side could have been and still can be addressed - we just have to give up some degree of petty desire.

Of course, what can be done when people call global warming a leftist propaganda campaign aimed at destroying individual liberty? It's tough. People hate to think that their daily lives consist in part of devastating, immoral practices. What's worse is that many of these people cannot see far enough to realize that these same practices are self-destructive: that beef you eat is sick cattle, it's bad for the environment and for your health.

Now, you'll have to excuse me while I scarf down a giant plate of pot roast inside my three thousand square-foot home which has six cars between four people parked outside. (I try not to point out sins unless I share in them)
0 Replies
 
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Nov, 2009 10:16 am
@Khethil,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
People hate to think that their daily lives consist in part of devastating, immoral practices.

Was there ever a time when peoples' daily lives didn't consist, in part, of devastating, immoral practices? It seems to me there's always been something - we're just part of a different generation, with new, different destructive (in a variety of ways) practices.

Please don't misinterpret me: I'm not using this as an argument to ignore the current problems. That is, I am not using the argument, "Because there has always been some form of X, we should ignore X now". I'm just curious as to the severity of our current problems, in contrast to the severity of our past problems. Are things really overall worse, or do we just naturally highlight the problems of current and sometimes overinflate their severity? I think both are possible.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Nov, 2009 12:10 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;103132 wrote:
We see all around us the price we've paid for so many available goods and services. From either a health, intellectual or environmental standpoint, can this possibly be worth it?
  1. Is so much caloric, convenience and technological prosperity worth the 'price' we pay when such is realized?
  2. How might a culture refocus priorities from what's easy, what's thrilling and destructive to what's mentally and physically healthy? Can this be done?
  3. Is this issue, perhaps, just a case of Lazy Parents? If so, how could this be remedied?

[/LIST] Thanks for the thought provocative post, Khetil.

1. The problem here is that our bodies evolved in conditions when having enough food was the problem. So the very recent invention of high yield farming and moreover calorically dense / nutritionally poor processed food is exposing our bodies to something quite different than our ancestors (and evolutionary progenitors) faced.

But we couldn't have known such things in advance -- when Nestle and Hershey and CocaCola etc started making snack foods and sodas, we couldn't have had any idea that they would become public health problems. They were just fun, inexpensive, and tasty. Now we can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.


2. Changing culture is not really something that can be accomplished with policy. Education helps, obvious things like food labeling helps, and funding healthy school lunches, phys ed, sports, and safe parks will help.


3. There are a lot of good parents who inadvertently cultivate this problem. If people could tell the future then they'd act differently. Only VERY recently have we realized how obesity really begins during infancy and toddlerhood.

One thing has changed for the better: WIC (i.e. foodstamps for poor babies) at least in North Carolina is as of last year only funding 2% milk rather than whole milk for toddlers over 12 months. A big proportion of the diet in toddlers is milk, so that saves quite a bit of calories.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Nov, 2009 01:06 pm
@Aedes,
The pendulum has to swing and the reality of world demand will put us all in the position of valuating between our greed and need. The glutton will always eat himself into poverty , society is the glutton and its excesses will destroy the society, it can not sustain its greed indefinitely.

History shows us over and over again how societies can be destroyed by its own success. I try to tell my grandchildren how need or hunger is essential. Going to bed hungry is a great incentive. Moral attitudes and a puritan perspective is the only path.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Nov, 2009 06:03 am
@xris,
Zetherin;103316 wrote:
Was there ever a time when peoples' daily lives didn't consist, in part, of devastating, immoral practices? It seems to me there's always been something - we're just part of a different generation, with new, different destructive (in a variety of ways) practices.


Although there have always been people who make it part of their daily lives to practice devastating immorality, I would say that there have been times when the average person did not live in such a way. Sure, immorality has been timeless and universal, but today we live in a world in which we wake up and, by simply eating breakfast and dressing ourselves, we perpetuate practices which we know to be environmentally and socially destructive. Eat the steak and contribute to global warming and animal cruelty, buy those Nike sneakers and fund atrocious child labor.

Compare this to, for example, an early American agrarian family that did not own slaves. They could wake up and at least get through noon-time without abusing children and wrecking the natural world.

Like you, I want to make sure I'm not being misunderstood. This is not some 'oh, the good ole times' rant. This is an 'oh, there were times when we had at least a solid opportunity to live in society without simultaneously wrecking society'. And that's all.

Zetherin;103316 wrote:
I'm just curious as to the severity of our current problems, in contrast to the severity of our past problems. Are things really overall worse, or do we just naturally highlight the problems of current and sometimes overinflate their severity? I think both are possible.


Things are better in some senses and worse in others. We've much better healthcare, but our daily lives involve practices that are quickly wrecking the environment of our daily lives.

For an example: as the seasons change and the weather cools, many of us begin to open our windows at night to let in the cool, fresh evening air. It's great for sleeping, yeah? Ah, but there are many warnings in most parts of the country advising against this due to the terrible air quality. And I'm not just talking about the Inland Empire, either. All over the country experts warn not to open the windows for health's sake. Our health care has improved beyond imagination, but our environment has been degraded to the point where one begins to wonder: how much longer until our healthcare advances cease to outweigh the environmental dangers?

Mostly, I think we can all agree that we face different problems. And that our modern problems as compared to our ancient problems are equally threatening to human life. Just as we look back at past sins, like slavery, and see them as unacceptable, we will one day (if we get that far) look back at our current problems and see them as unacceptable. But when will we have the sagacity as a society to see through our problems to solutions, and rally behind solutions? Beats me.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Nov, 2009 08:54 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Good Comments.

I don't believe anyone's saying this, but whenever this flag's run up I have to call it out: That there have been issues before along similar lines doesn't diminish or lessen their urgency in the here and now - not one iota. They can give us perspective; the voracity with which humans 'do' these things, potential solutions, etc. But this isn't a reason to toss up ones' hands and say "oh, well it's happened before - no biggie". I believe it a hallmark of human perception to subconsciously conclude this - in a subtle way - whenever historic parallels are brought to light

Didymos Thomas;103780 wrote:
But when will we have the sagacity as a society to see through our problems to solutions, and rally behind solutions? Beats me.


This is a great point. I'd say: Only when such problems become so in-our-face, so painful a force in our daily lives, that we can't any longer deny them. Even as I type this, I see other blatant situations in need of resolution - grossly obvious - that others continue to deny. So maybe not...

Thanks
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Nov, 2009 10:20 am
@Khethil,
How much more of a painful force is needed than air quality? In some parts of this country, the US, simply breathing outdoors is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes every day. Yet conditions worsen.

It's tough, brother. I don't think of myself as a nihilist, but when this becomes the topic of conversation, I feel myself falling into abject nihilism. It's tough.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Nov, 2009 07:36 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;103845 wrote:
How much more of a painful force is needed than air quality? In some parts of this country, the US, simply breathing outdoors is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes every day. Yet conditions worsen.

It's tough, brother. I don't think of myself as a nihilist, but when this becomes the topic of conversation, I feel myself falling into abject nihilism. It's tough.


It is rather disheartening, isn't it. Like a 100,000-ton train rolling along, I don't think anything's going to change quickly, and lots of cars are likely to derail when and if a crash does come.

We have to keep purchasing to keep our consumption culture afloat; so that the stores can keep stocking, so that they warehouses can keep shipping, so they can order more, so production continues. Social Security, welfare and other pensions exist ostensibly just as much to help the individual as they do to keep this Machine working. When did we get on this merry-go-round of mass consumption? A decade or so after the turn of the century I'd suppose.

Yea I can only see one outcome: Our children will continue to degrade in health for having too many toys and calories, tech will continue to enrich some minds while causing others to waste away, plastic will continue to choke everything from streams to dumps to sea-turtle intestines, the oceans will increasingly become become our silent, out-of-sight dumping grounds. Economies will rise, fall, collapse, rebound, collapse, prosper, fall, etc. Mass production has poisoned our minds, bodies, marginalized any need for social enrichment, pushed traditions to the background, acidified the air and rain, made irrelevant community structures and warped our sense of priorities. There is a point where our quest to do and have more, easier, hurts us - and yea, it's not likely to stop - and no, no one really cares much.

No, I doubt I'll see the end of it either; at this point, I'm not sure there will be (barring some sort of armageddon) - we'll just keep modifying it as needed to keep us fat, stupid, superficial and at-work.

Wow that sounds negative; but yea, I share that feeling.
0 Replies
 
Subjectivity9
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 07:32 am
@Khethil,
Hi guys,

I believe that the fact that we are entering a deep economic depression, at least in the USA, is actually a good thing, when you think about what waste and planned obsolescence has done to our lives. The reason that this is good is…

Quote: “Even the Gods bow to necessity.”

With less money to throw around, we are simply going to have to start using things, (esp. things that we already own), more wisely. There will probably even be a job market created by the need for repairing these already owned articles, since we can't just toss them.

I heard somewhere that more people were beginning to grow their own food in backyard gardens. This will serve to create many fine improvements in our lives. We will have fresh food. We will get out into the yard for sunshine, fresh air, and some much needed exercise. We will probably even spend some time with our kids, weeding and harvesting. Our kids will learn about shared accomplishments and the wonders of the Mother, (nature).

With fewer jobs to go around, we might see more ‘job sharing,’ meaning more time at home for a little quality of life, and a chance to renew relationships.

Quote: Taoist: “Everything has its yes, and its no.”

Smile, and be happy. All is not lost.

Warm regards,
S9
xris
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 08:26 am
@Subjectivity9,
Ive lived through such times and at the time I never felt deprived, it is only retrospectively do I see the hardships. Toothpaste ,shampoo, toilet paper where items of the future. Never saw a banana till i was six and helped grandad in the allotment, good times in certain respects. Have you seen grown men fighting over horse manure for their rhubarb? Yes, two men who had fought Hitler, having a fist fight for a bucket of horse ship, those where the days.
0 Replies
 
Subjectivity9
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Nov, 2009 10:52 am
@Khethil,
xris,

Smiles back to you. You are a funny guy. : ^ )

Mankind is always fighting over horseshit of one form or another. He has lost track of what is important.

He runs out and tries to shop himself happy, and next week he is selling all of his horseshit at a yard sale. Go figure.

"Simplify, Simplify. Simplify."

Warm regards,
S9
bmcreider
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Dec, 2009 10:13 am
@Subjectivity9,
I am new to these forums but have been aching for months to be able to discuss subjects just as these with other intelligent minded people...

My dilemma is similar to everyone else in this thread...

How do you live in this society of consumerism and the dog-chasing-its-tail way of constantly being a tool for some company's disposal to make them profit, either at your job, or at Best Buy...

...without being a hypocrite?

I am 24 - barely in college, delivering pizza. I have been in IT, and I was a mechanic at a Cadillac (of all things) dealership for a short stint. I can't go a day without being a hypocrite, without wondering how I can change myself or the world around me in order to live a fulfilling life.

Seriously. We all participate, and we can all lay down our criticisms at the feet of capitalism, consumerism, and culture - but we all spend the same (dwindling in value) dollars at the same stores to buy the same things (albeit with more taste I imagine) that fat Bob working in propane sales does...

So how do our words or "consumer choices" change absolutely anything? How do our "democratic choices" change anything in government? Neither does, maybe due to us being a minority that isn't ignorant to the crumbling world around us, or maybe because we are powerless.

Either way - the people who prefer it this way to profit off of us do not care about our criticism, just our money, which we still run in place to make at useless jobs catering to useless people - so we can spend it at multi-billion dollar retail outlets.

How does one come to agreement with such a situation?

(not to be melodramatic or anything, I am not depressed, just honest)
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Dec, 2009 12:29 pm
@Khethil,
One does not have to participate in the "consumption" culture.
Once you have met your basic needs regarding food, shelter, clothing, security and health care, you have a choice about how to spend any extra time or money.
It is your money and your time, only you can waste it.
0 Replies
 
 

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