Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Economy Of Experience

Time to think beyond the state of my abs for a moment.

2008 was certainly a transformational year.  I discovered that my weight and waistline could go down- permanently, and the nation discovered that stocks, home values, but apparently not banks could go down. I googled around for some numbers on the size of the bank bailout.  Remember when congress approved $700 Billion?  Well, some estimates say that the total bailout package could go as high as 4 Trillion dollars.  Right now, I'm hearing Mike Myers as Dr. Evil saying "Four Trillion Dollars" in my head.  Pardon the understatement but gosh that's a lot of cash.  And the banks?  They survived, most of them, by just holding on to the money.  The economy?  It hasn't recovered because our economy is driven by consumption, and people without jobs, cash, or credit find it very difficult to consume.

So now what do we do?

Dear readers, we cannot consume our way out of our dilemma, we have to create our way out of it.  "Create you say?  How can we create our way out of this mess if there's no one to buy what we make?"  Simple, we shift from an economy of ever growing consumption to an Economy of Experience.

What is The Economy of Experience?

Years ago my world history teacher made a statement that went something like this:

"The grandfather is a soldier
so that the son can be a merchant
so that the grandson can be an artist."

We were taught that the whole purpose of technology was to give us the freedom and leisure time to develop our culture.

Now culture is the central world in my argument for an economy of experience.  The reason  our economy is moving back into recession is that nothing congress or the Fed does has been able to support and sustain its growth.  Culture is more than art and architecture, music and dress, language and entertainment.

Culture is Another Word for Growth 

I believe that the consumer economy has been driven by discontent ever since the advent of advertising, and especially since the arrival of television in our homes.  We were taught to compare ourselves to others, to their level of wealth, beauty, power, and happiness.  The images presented to us are always meant to look better than what we already possess, in order to urge us to want to have more.  Our economy found it's growth in our relentlesss pursuit of more goods and services that would make us happy, worthy, complete.  Now we've hit the wall.  There's no more room to consume like this.  The resources dwindle, there's no place left to store our excesses, whether in our homes, or in the landfills.

So what do we do?  Simply retreat from consumerism and live with less?  Won't that damage the economy even more?  Yes, that would be like driving another nail in the coffin, but there is another way.  There will always be an economy that is based on our need for food, clothing, and shelter, but I'm writing about a major expansion in our cultural economy.  How do we expand our cultural economy?

The Return of the Amateur

Recently I read an article in our local paper about how people used to flock to our little community to dance at the pavilion at Phoenix Lake.  Sometimes 3,000 people would drive in from San Francisco and even farther away to dance under the stars on a warm night.  Today, no one dances but the stars, or the pros, and everyone else seems to leave dance, behind even the little girls who started ballet class at age six,  by the time high school is over.  It's the same with singing, acting, painting.  When was the last time you made a clay pot?  High school I'll bet, if you even had the chance to take pottery then.

It's time for us all to think in terms of what we want to do with our lives, insead of what we want to have in them.  I envision an entire new economy of people who teach and lead and provide the experiences of culture to people who directly participate instead of simply looking on.  Of course we will always pay to see people who are great innovators in culture do their thing, and we will buy their creations.  But at the same time we will create experiences ourselves.

I have to close because it's time to go teach Zumba.  Maybe the move toward the economy of experience has already started.

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