We live in a society where being a good “consumer” is evangelized more than producing something new, original, or innovative.
Every year in America we enter the holiday shopping season, and every year I cringe. I’m not going to pretend I never went to Black Friday for those deals. Back when Black Friday started you didn’t see nearly as many headlines be about how many people got injured to have the mere chance of saving a few hundred dollars on the next technology that will ‘define’ them for the next few days.
Before you think I’m being a condescending hypocrite, let me explain why/how I’ve changed my view. With my background and career I’ve traveled to many different parts in the world and experienced things that not everyone gets to.
There are places where a lot of the population still has barely any running water. In these two countries I’ve seen the most uneven distribution of wealth to the point it’s sickening. To not call out any specific region and offend anyone, I’ll point out two very vivid memories I still hold without mentioning location of either one.
First memory, I remember staying a nice American-chain hotel having clean water, buffet of good food. Then being a short walk away from a nice American-mall where Armani Exchange, Gucci and all those other high-end retailers resided. Then just a short drive away animals were roaming the streets across from a real slum. Not a hollywood movie slum, an actual slum. People living underneath sticks and tarps, defecating in public near wild animals. They didn’t have running water, much less food.
Next vivid memory, was walking and taking a taxi to a store to buy bottled water so that we could make food later without boiling it to not get sick. Next going to a religious establishment (not going to point out the specific religion) made of marble and with gold-plated artifacts around where we went to and donated money to. You can see why this one stayed in my mind. We have no clean water, yet we give money to an entity that does nothing to give us basic infrastructure?
The reason I’m sharing with you those two memories is to make a point. It is sad and disgusting that while there are people out there struggling with basic needs, that we are in America, are fighting over “deals” so we can be perceived better than our peers. And guess what the irony of the whole thing is? We, in the US, are probably less happy than people with “less” in other parts of the world.
Instead of using the resources available to us to make the world a better place for everyone, we’re getting excited about how we trampled over other people to get the new gizmo for slightly cheaper than everyone else. We judge people for their appearance, gossip about the cheap Christmas or Hanukkah gift that someone gave you and squabble over what in the big picture of things, is absolutely nothing and meaningless.
I’m not going to pretend that America is in a great situation either, we’ve all been affected by the economic downturns in the past decade. Our income inequality is reaching levels close to countries known for rampant corruption. This level of apathy about the issue is disgusting and everyone in the US including myself should be ashamed.
We should use this time to innovate. Grow in areas that we would otherwise not explore if we were in a cushy job and had no reason to look around.
Try to be an entrepreneur, create jobs, gather influence to fix the laws that are crippling our society.
Try to be an advocate for an issue you care about, income inequality? minimum wage? unemployment benefits? homelessness? drug legalization? death penalty? gender equality? lack of pet shelters?
Try to help out other people, try to solve their problems. They’ll help you.
Try to change the culture of your city, work, community for the better.
You’re probably thinking, “But doing XYZ is risky! I don’t have the means to do it!”, “XYZ doesn’t bother me.”, “Nobody cares about XYZ”.
If you never take risks, you’ll never change the world.