WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Recession doublespeak

I think Einstein said that a problem isn’t solved by the same mindset that created it. So if we don’t want to be fixing the same problems over and over and over again, it’s our mindset – our assumptions regarding market practices that needs to change. 

One of the warps of human nature is the lust to possess more than we actually need. Sooner or later that takes away from those who do need. That is why governments need to regulate market practices to protect the vulnerable and safeguard the common good. But governments have too conveniently subscribed to the ideology that the market can regulate itself. The present crisis gives lie to that fallacy. Expecting big business to regulate its own ambitions is like asking the fox to look after the chicken coop.

Aggressive marketing and constant lies about what people ‘need’ also puts pressure on people to buy and to borrow beyond their means. Sooner or later they suffer. Those who sell them what they don’t need don’t see them from their yachts. In this culture exorbitant directors’ fees and bonuses don’t even look wrong!

I’m struck by our doublespeak; on the one hand we hear higher prices for houses described in the media as indicative of a good or improving market, while on the other hand the same media tell us about people who are in all sorts of situations because they can’t afford housing.

The planet’s resources are finite, which is another reason why unregulated consumerism is wrong.
None of this will change until it is accepted that happiness comes not from having more and more, but from being more. This brings us back to old-fashioned things like self-sacrifice instead of self-gratification at every opportunity.

It also involves people’s need to experience times of stillness, to pause and see more deeply into life; times of quiet, times for wonder, times for joy and thanksgiving. But if people are run off their feet in the chase to have more—or even to have enough—they do not have the opportunity to be human in those ways. That is what Jesus meant when he said we don’t live by bread alone.