One concept that has baffled me for a long time is the whole notion of self-sufficiency. We are all taught at some point not to depend on others and to rely on ourselves for our entertainment, security and so on. As one friend of mine recently told me; “No one is going to provide for my old age, so I have to take care of it myself”.
I understood her logic because I share the same belief but I started to wonder if this obsession with being self-sufficient in only an American concept. I rarely notice my non-American friends struggling with the notion of being self-sufficient. When I talk to my friends who are entrenched in their ethnic identities and communities, they never seem to struggle with the idea. They somehow know that they will be taken care of on some level.
Now on the one hand, you could argue that they are relying on faith but I think it is more than that. About a year ago, there was a study done on the happiest nations in the world. Denmark was number one. Morley Safer of 60 Minutes did a story on it.
In his story, he went on to show that in Denmark people never have to worry about their retirement, health care, education and so on. He implied that maybe because all these things were taken care of was why they were so happy.
I have no idea if that factors in or not. However, I do notice in America we like to be in charge of our destinies. But are we?
Looking at the recent economic mess, it can be argued that all of this is due to the greed of a select few who de-regulated the system so that they could get rich. Now you can say that what they did was rational because they had to find a way to survive and the strongest survive. Or you could argue that their behavior is a sick reflection of how messed up we have become as a society.
In all candidness, I tend to go with the later. What happens on a global scale is a reflection of what is happening all around the country.
Cortisol, the human stress hormone, is released when there is a stress of some kind. Long before life became as complex as it is now, the hormone usually was released when a person’s life was in danger or there was some immediate peril. Now it is released daily.
Studies show that high levels of stress lead to weight gain. So the obesity we are seeing may really be due to stress as well as the fact that food is no more food but a list of chemicals that I have no idea how to pronounce, let alone know what they actually are.
Many people are so stressed out, it has become a way of life. Fear and stress go hand in hand or so it seems. We are a nation that is living in constant fear. Everything is rooted in fear. I rarely watch television and when I do, all I see is fear on display. Watching the evening news sometimes is enough to make me never want to leave my home.
I do realize that the horrors of 9/11 intensified our fear and provided justification but I think it has gone too far. The Dalai Lama has said numerous times that there is no such thing as being truly independent from another human being. He says that we are all connected in one way or another. He is absolutely correct.
Take any item that is in your home and numerous people were involved to get that item into your hands. The Dalai Lama often uses the example of food in the supermarket. If we were to take an item of food in the store and rewind until the process first began, we would be amazed at how many people were involved.
One of my favorite snacks is dark chocolate covered Goji berries. I often wonder about all the steps that were involved to get that little Goji berry in China into my pantry in New Jersey. That is one heck of a long trip! How can I dare think that I am self-sufficient? I truly cannot.
Of course, it may be argued that food is different than economics but I think this whole global crisis, if anything, has taught us that we are connected. My friends in Europe and Asia are angry with America for what happened. I understand their frustration but to understand America, you have to live here and that is what I tell people.
This country is a great country and I am so happy to have been born here. However, we are at a turning point in our society. We can either continue to go with fear and dig ourselves deeper or we can go with love. Believing in fear pretty much got us into this mess…maybe love is what will get us out of it.