Sitting pretty in a gilded cage?

July 8, 2021

She couldn’t run and play with her friends at the party because she might damage her beautiful, expensive dress.

This is what has stuck in my memory since the 1960s from a story in my primary school “David and Ann” reader. Why remember this story and not any other of the many? I have a vague recollection of conflictually empathizing with the sad, lonely little girl while thinking that’s what she deserves for being so spoiled.

Perhaps it’s that very uneasiness of not knowing how I should have felt at the time that has made this a sticky memory. Today I see it as a cautionary tale. 

Sixty years later, proportionately so many more of us in wealthy countries are “spoiled”. Our beautiful, expensive dress is our larger-than-necessary home, our remodeled kitchen, our shiny new cars, our state-of-the-art electronics, our gym and club memberships, our regular dinners out, our Caribbean vacation, our cottage, our boat, our promotion, and so much more statusy success stuff. Acquiring, accumulating, maintaining, upgrading and protecting our “stuff” demands an inordinate amount of our life’s time and energy. We’re no longer free and able to run and play. And it’s no secret that we’re a sadder, lonelier society than ever before. 

We can step out of our beautiful, expensive dress. In so doing, we’ll not only set ourselves free, but we can also feel great about helping to create a sustainable world for our children in which they can run and play. The question is: do we have the courage and will to do it?

You’re enuff without stuff. 

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