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Aren't we all guilty of excess?
By Brian S. Wise
No huge surprise that a certain percentage of celebrity environmentalists are hypocrites. One could correctly say that a decent percentage of all lifestyle hawks are hypocrites, especially if they're parents. Living right, however someone of more stringent standards chooses to define such a thing, is tough. So tough that some of those same lifestyle hawks choose to preach one way of life and do something different (presumably because only they are capable of handling the less desirable alternative). All right, you'll have that.
But somewhere underneath the issue, if you dig deep enough, there lies a certain attitude suggesting there is something evil about America wading in its own opulence, represented by the SUV, that anything so large and wasteful can only be emblematic of America itself (Bill Maher is good for this), and therefore lingers near the outside edge of obscenity. (Don't laugh; I have been told, by a conservative woman of some intellect who holds a position of trust in my professional life, that there is no difference between pornography and the SUV.) Well, okay. Once in awhile you'll hear a report of someone throwing themselves a ten million dollar birthday party and you'll think, "That seems a little much." The reaction is not unreasonable, because other than the salaries paid the wait staff and the fee paid for room rental, there's really no point to the thing besides mass ego stroking, which is another column altogether.
Even in agreeing America enjoys phenomenal sustained opulence, and even in agreeing there is such a thing as much-too-much, can't it be reasonably said that (even within a majority of its poor) America enjoys opulence unequaled in history, and therefore can't it reasonably be said that we are all guilty of excess?
Example: I am, by all accepted guidelines, poverty stricken, but by the American standard. My income is relatively miniscule to others my age, and yet in examining my home, one can see an antique desk (upon which this column is being written), over 400 compact discs collected over 15 years, a few dozen videos and DVD's (and consequently two VCR's and a DVD player), two televisions, cable television, broadband, a study full of books and magazines, two computers (granted, one is in parts scattered throughout Camp TGO), facilities to wash clothes, central air and heat and I'm thinking of building a bar for the front room. Yet, the comparable standard of poverty throughout the world would often mean my counterpart is living in literal shanty towns, or worse.
Which means what? That we cannot help but wallow in opulence, even if intending to be modest in all things, because we are born into opportunities and allowances greater than those afforded the citizens of any other nation in the world, ever. One can live by their own standards, of course, but should do so without considering the options available to them as obstacles to some sort of ideological purity.
Brian S. Wise is a columnist at Intellectual Conservative. This is his first contribution to Enter Stage Right.
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