Sunday, November 20, 2011

Complaints about America

I'm not sure how people multitask. I've been working 70 hour weeks for the last few months, and I've barely had enough time to brush my teeth everyday, let alone write posts no one is going to read.

Anyways, so I fell behind and have some old thoughts to get caught up on here. I went to Orlando for work a few months ago. I stayed in a hotel near Universal Studios, on the crappier side of town (government cutbacks), and it drove home how effed up our country's priorities are. The town is organized around entertainment, chain restaurants, and outlet malls. There's asphalt, concrete and traffic everywhere. Contrasting this to my home in rural Germany, where they've managed the trees and lakes to keep the area beautiful, where the towns are organized to have pedestrian zones and all your necessities in walking distance, it depressed me. Maybe that's like comparing Orlando to Asheville, NC, and it's just not fair, but there is something representative about Orlando's place in America. Orlando is an epicenter of entertainment, a place you work and save up for (assuming you still have a job) to take your kids on vacation. People also come from around the globe to get a taste of America. But outside the parks, this mecca for family fun is cheap and somewhat dingy. There's nothing aesthetically pleasing about the traffic or buildings. And shopping at outlet malls while not at amusement parks is like switching to beer after a three day binge of hard liquor. Either way you're an alcoholic, you're just getting your fix from a different source.

I heard on AFN radio the other day about a Target worker protesting the 12AM opening for black Friday. It's crazy the bind that workers like him are being put in. We have a shitty economy and a terrible social safety net. People have to choose between spending time with their family on holidays, or working to avoid losing their jobs. How is it these stores do it? A country where it's acceptable to force your employees to work at these hours without a social stigma? Americans really think the predominant goal in life is to make money. And on the demand side, how do we have consumers who shop at 12am instead of spending time with their families (or sleeping)? Maybe some of these consumers shop with their families at that hour? Is that what fills the void? Buying stuff at a cheaper price to give to yourself and others, because if you don't have these consumer goods that you otherwise couldn't afford then you would disappoint yourself and them?

So anyways, it's just disappointing to think of our screwed up priorities. How we organize our cities, our society, how we spend our time. We don't let others rest on the holidays, since we can't stop consuming. We can't afford to turn off the perpetual motion machine of being distracted. We expect our movie theaters, amusement parks, stores, etc. to be open. And we hype these cities of entertainment, but outside the parks they're gross and disappointing. So what are you going to do? Hope that we can reconstruct our society at least from a city planning perspective to encourage green spots and walking zones? Reprioritize the population to focus on anything other than materialism (community? family?)? Complain about it on my blog and hope that somehow makes a difference? Anyways, it's just a little bit of a screwed up country. But I don't see what can be done about it. For now I'll be spending Thanksgiving at home, eating food and watching grown men try to kill each other on the football field. Because I don't care about the time these guys get to spend with their friends or family. It's not my problem.

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