Let me stay for a while on this subject of consumption
. American individualism, on the face of it an admirable philosophy, wishes to manifest itself in independence of the community. You don't share things in common; you have your own things. A family's strength lies in its possessions. Herein lies the paradox
. For the desire of possessions must eventually mean dependence on possessions. … New appetites are invented; what to the European are bizarre luxuries become, to the American, plain necessities. … Where private ownership prevails, public amenities
decay or are prevented from coming into being. … There is no worse neurosis
than that which derives from a consciousness of guilt and an inability to reform
Anthony Burgess, from Is America Falling Apart?, which was published in the November 7th 1971 issue of the New York Times.
I own my own car and rent an apartment in which I live alone. Most people I know have roommates and some do not have cars, so I lend them mine. Furniture gets recycled among us, as each of us upgrades. Clothing too, sometimes pots and pans. Few people I know closely turn down something just because it's second hand.
There are the extremes of change: communes, family farms (which isn't really a change but a reversal to the way things used to be) and the like where effort has been poured in to allow an alternative world view to exist. And so, perhaps, freedom is the price of privacy, it is paid for with the loss of some convenience. You need to ask yourselves if convenience is freedom, or merely disguised as such, so that we will buy into it. When people tell me they need a new car, I often tell them that no, they want a new car.
Simply to say this in America is to get eyes rolled at you, to be called an oddball because you don't see what they see.
And I don't think for me, leaving the US is the answer, that as long as I continue to make people roll their eyes, I may eventually make them think. As Burgess seems to be saying to himself:
I come to America as to a country more stimulating than depressing. The future of mankind is being worked out there on a scale typically American---vast, dramatic, almost stereotypical. I brave the brutality and the guilt in order to be in on the scene. I will be back.