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America for Beginners


A poignant debut that explores unlikely friendships forged in unusual ...
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Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

Created: 07/26/19

Replies: 8

Posted Jul. 26, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2754

Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

"Far too many of the Bangladeshis Ronnie had met in America lived the most barren existence possible--because they didn't know how to accumulate anything."

Do you feel that you have more "stuff" in your life than you need? Do you think it is possible for individuals and societies to achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 304

Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

Yes and yes! I’ve always felt appalled at the gap — now a chasm— in living standards (and life span) between the haves and have-nots in America and in the world, and by the crass materialism of American culture (the one I know about, though I suspect America is not alone in this, indeed has inflicted it upon other cultures ). Despite these views, in my 20s I was eager to have more, and in my 30s, to have more for my children. Though never did my means stretch to the extent of my desires, and never did I follow fads or make a hobby of shopping, or hoard things —still, over 40+ years, I’ve accumulated more stuff than I need. Now it’s the time in my life to weed out, to downsize, to value experiences over possessions, and to be grateful: Widowed and now retired, I struggle financially—but I am one of the more fortunate, knowing I can meet my most basic needs and live in a safe, clean environment full of natural beauty.

I recommend Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted to better understand what hardship really is for millions of Americans. I know our economy can be arranged and managed differently—it is possible, it works better for more people in other industrialized nations—but I’m less convinced that voices of reason will prevail to bring this about. Still I am trying to work with others to pursue issues of income inequality as a matter of social justice.

Having said all that: Can we ever have too many books? (Just kidding.)


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2754

Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

My daughter graduated from UC San Diego this summer and Madeleine Albright gave the commencement speech. I was struck by her closing comment:

"I have found there are essentially three categories of countries in the world. In the first, people work all day and still don’t have enough to eat. In the second, families are able to scrape together just enough food to meet their basic needs. In the third category of countries, diet books are bestsellers. Confronted with this hard truth some people simply shrug their shoulders and say, 'it's too bad, but there isn’t anything anyone can do about it.'

I say such unfairness is intolerable and we each have a responsibility to change it. There was a time when we could say that we didn't know enough, or didn't have the resources. But today there can be no doubt that if we would only so choose we could produce enough food, build enough shelter, deliver enough medicine and share enough knowledge to allow people everywhere to live better and more productive lives."


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 304

Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

Thanks for sharing this, Davina! I love what she had to say and wish we could see a host of American and world leaders of her stature coming together to say this on a world stage—as often as it takes.


Posted Aug. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 327

RE: Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

When my husband was transferred three years ago, we sold our home and nearly everything in it. We pay for a small storage area in our former town. (JLPen77, it is mostly full of boxes of my books!) We currently rent our home, and it came furnished. Everything that is personally ours fits in my car (Ford Escape) and my husband's pick up-this includes the dog! It was really hard letting go of the "stuff" at first, but then so liberating. I am very deliberate with my choices in what I buy. I use the library a lot more. Compared to many people, I do not own a lot of clothes, but that is one area I am constantly trying to downsize.

Having traveled extensively across the United States, I have had glimpses of an America that I believe would shock people. I have recently read a rash of non-fiction on this topic or related to this topic including: Dopesick, Evicted, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Maid, Factory Man, and Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth to name a few. The problem of poverty is SOLVABLE in the United States, yet we continue to see school systems punish CHILDREN for unpaid lunch bills. Having money, making money, screwing people out of their money is more important than taking care of one another. And rather than look for solutions, our government continues to support regulations and laws that further harm the most vulnerable in our society.

And while our poorest citizens are often hidden from the rest of the world in plain sight, we know the extreme circumstances that many of today's refugees and immigrants are fleeing. Thank you, Davina for sharing Madeline Albright's comments. I would much rather the United States were the world's social worker, as opposed to the world's army.


Posted Aug. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2754

RE: Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

The recent United Nation's report on poverty in America makes for depressing but important reading: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/extreme-poverty-america-un-special-monitor-report


Posted Aug. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 406

RE: Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

Okay, so here goes: It is so easy to sit back and blame the crass American culture that we inflicted upon other countries, the United States and politicians who we voted into office for all the world's poverty. Blame is easy, solutions not so easy. I believe we are each responsible for how we live. Each person should stop and ask themselves "what did I do today, to help another person?" I believe the good will far outweigh the bad. If you feel you have too much "stuff" give it away and hospitals are always glad to receive donations of books. With due respect to M Albright, she is right, it is time we stop shrugging our shoulders and accept the fact that there is plenty WE the people can do as individuals.


Posted Aug. 06, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianeh

Join Date: 08/01/16

Posts: 70

RE: Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

This is such a huge question. My husband and I definitely have much more than we need. As others have already stated,we too have started to free ourselves of a lot of possessions. I grew up dirt poor in Canada and have never forgotten how it feels to see so much waste when you are doing without. All of us can take some responsibility for doing our part to help alleviate suffering but it does seem to be an never ending struggle.
I think our society has become more aware of the inequalities that continue to surround us and more of us are trying to make a difference. Sometimes there is a lot we can do right in our own neighborhood.


Posted Aug. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 353

RE: Do you feel that you have more 'stuff' in your life than you need? Can societies achieve a better balance between the haves and have nots?

I definitely have more than I need. Each time I travel to another country, I realize how wasteful we are in this country. A couple of years ago in Vietnam, I saw people making very creative toys and other objects from scraps. In Africa, women were making jewelry and bowls out of newspaper when all I do is worry about how to recycle newspapers and Amazon boxes! I’m sure I waste food even though I try not too. I have clothes and shoes I don’t wear. I think we could achieve a better balance by leveling the playing field. I think everyone needs to feel a part of this society if it is to function well.


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