I arrived home yesterday afternoon after a long journey, and despite what I’ve written recently concerning the problems in the states found myself happy to be here. I do love the weather, the scenery and the clean feeling of the Pacific Northwest. It’s quite literally a breath of fresh air.
However, I was soon a bit disappointed. While in Europe I lost about three kilograms – nearly seven pounds – without really trying. My long daily walks, daily climbs up many flights of stairs and healthier diet combined to help the weight fall right off me effortlessly. So, I decided that I’d try to keep this up while back home, and went to the grocery store with this in mind. Unfortunately, I found that healthy food is far more expensive than in Europe, while the junk is much cheaper. I wanted to buy a loaf of rye bread, some deli meats and cheese for snacks and lunch. All were expensive and of decidedly lower quality than in Europe. It dawned on me that the American lifestyle is not only pervasive, but for many of us nearly unavoidable without serious effort.
Additionally, you can’t just walk to the store here for daily essentials. Driving is necessary. So, once again I find myself seated more of the time. It seems to me that we went wrong somewhere along the line, and instead of simply adjusting to a healthier lifestyle we have to make extra effort and spend more to keep ourselves in decent shape.
Sure, you’ll see a lot of fit Americans, but they generally spend hours exercising every week. Instead of being a part of one’s daily routine, it is necessary here to schedule exercise, buy equipment, a gym membership, etc. What a disappointment.
Everything about the US in recent years seems to be a departure from nature. Instead of accommodating our lives to suit the natural world, we tend to fight it and compensate with more effort. Our politics are no different. Rather than adjusting to normal human nature, we create a police state to control every aspect of our relations with the opposite sex, our children, coworkers, and any other people we interact with.
This is unsustainable, and not only in the environmentalist sense of the word, but the human sense as well. People can only handle so much before things start to fall apart, and it seems to me that we are getting closer to the point of breakdown. I don’t envision some anarchic, Katrina-style armageddon, but rather a steady decline in function, much as a sick, aging patient slowly declines before finally succumbing. As I suggested a few posts back, I am a bit pessimistic about the hope for recovery. The structural problems are just too entrenched, and nobody will want to give an inch. Too much has been placed on the shoulders of the young, and those in power will continue to plunder the politically weak to suit their more powerful constituencies.
Finally, the people dominating the political debate are distracting us from the real problems with non-issues, such as gay marriage and contraception. As unemployment and underemployment continue along at unacceptable levels, our President and his rival can only talk about things that have the most minimal impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. Could it really be that the main issues of the campaign will be gay marriage and subsidized contraception? Are these more important than rising fatherlessness, the student debt crisis and stagnant wages?