The time has come for my first submission to an APLS carnival, or, well, any carnival for that matter. A blog carnival is essentially where someone agrees to host the carnival, comes up with a topic, and those interested write about it by a certain date, submit it to the carnival host who links to the all the posts submitted. Anyways, I hope that made sense. This month's carnival host is Green Bean from Green Bean Dreams. The topic we were given for the month of September is affluence and what it means to us.
Here it goes!
Ah, the word affluence. Like so many words, it has very loaded meaning to many folks. To some, it is an offensive term, used in an almost derogatory manner (like the word “elitist”); to others, it refers to the wealthiest people in the Western world; and to others, it simply means “anyone who has more than I do”. I think one’s interpretation of the word depends on their perspective as well as who they are comparing themselves to in order to determine their extent (or lack) of affluence.
But that isn’t the question for this month’s APLS carnival; it’s about what the word affluent means to me. I don’t take offense to the word. I guess my definition would be: anyone who has financial security, a little more than what they need for “the basics”, as well as a degree of consumer and life choice. My comparison group is multi-faceted. When determining if I would consider someone, or myself, affluent, I would use the rest of the world as well as the poorest in the Western world as my reference point. So with these caveats in mind, yes, I am affluent. Am I offended by this? No, of course I’m not.
I will say this: I am not rich; I am not poor. I have just enough so that, when I go to the store, I don’t have to choose my food based on what is cheapest. More importantly, I have the means to go to the market and buy enough food for myself, Brett, and our cats; I can afford to buy organically and locally produced goods. I have the option of choosing Fair Trade; I have the option of simply not buying anything. I have a choice in my basic daily survival. I have choice, and with that comes responsibility.
My affluence hasn’t come at a small cost to those in the rest of the world. I, along with others, am affluent as a result of the subjugation and exploitation of people, animals, and the Earth. This is something that I never forget. While I didn’t have a choice in being born a white, middle-class American, the fact remains the same that I am, and others have sacrificed so that I and my family have what we do. I understand that even as an American, I am lucky; there are many Americans who don’t have the level of choice that I do. I have choice, and with it responsibility to live a voluntarily frugal life so that others may live.
The responsibility comes from being aware of one’s own affluence, nobody can be blamed for being ignorant (and I use the word ignorant in its literal meaning “not knowing”). But once you know, you have to do something about it - at least this is how I felt. My way of handling the cognitive dissonance that I have unreasonably elevated access to resources and stuff in comparison to the rest of the world, is to try to live sustainably. I don’t think that many of the things one does to live sustainably are necessarily hard (though some are, and some areas are beyond our control), especially when families that choose this path are all on the same page about it, move at their own pace, and do it for their own reasons. What is most difficult about it for me is the distance it brings between me and the rest of the American public. As I have moved down this path, I have changed, and in ways that make me less able to empathize, understand, and relate with my own culture. There are people and family members I was once close to that seem more like strangers to me now – and the same is true of me to them. This is just part of long term lifestyle change, you change, and others don’t necessarily change right along with you.
The short of it is, I am affluent, and to me, this gives me a responsibility to lead a conscious life, not one of wanton excess. Brett and I do what we can, but we still have a long way to go. It’s definitely been a journey, and one that is likely to continue for as long as we grace this lovely planet.
'Til next time.