Budget blues, more is never enough

The only time off work I can recall my father ever taking was forced. Complications of diabetes demanded his hospitalization for about a week in the early 1960s. My brothers and I, along with a hired man, kept our family business, Jason's Friendly Station

The only time off work I can recall my father ever taking was forced. Complications of diabetes demanded his hospitalization for about a week in the early 1960s.

My brothers and I, along with a hired man, kept our family business, Jason’s Friendly Station, open.

From about 10 years of age until we could get jobs on our own, we helped out during our summer vacation by pumping gas, washing car windows, fixing flat tires or the sundry tasks needed to keep our seven-pump, three-service-bay gas station and garage going. By being there, we allowed our father to spend slow times next door at the air-conditioned Hickory Buffet.

A morning coffee with friends, a game of pool or just a cold beer on a hot, muggy July afternoon in Kansas City’s West Bottoms came as close to a vacation as my dad would ever get. If there was a problem or a job we couldn’t do we knew where to run. Most days we just watched traffic come off the Forester Viaduct and wait to see if it turned our way down Hickory Street.

My brothers and I earned $1 a day for our efforts plus a bottle of pop from our vending machine in the morning and one again in the afternoon. In the late ‘50s and ‘60s the average pop bottle held 6.5 ounces – or 192 ml by our count now. That cold drink slaked our thirst even on the worst of the sultry dog days of July.

By the early ‘60s a 10-ounce (or 295-ml) bottle filled our chest cooler. It didn’t take long for that to jump to 12 ounces or 354 ml. I think I had my first 7-11 Big Gulp at 946 ml a few years after worsening diabetes had forced my father to sell the station in the early 1970s.

Since the 1950s “the serve size of soft drinks has increased by 450 per cent,” according to M.B. Penisten in a 2004 Journal of Nutrition Education Behaviour article. Obviously enlarged serving size has meant a jump in consumption on our part. This, of course, pushed corporate profits up.

What else has this meant? Certainly this must have a role in our current obesity epidemic. The collateral damage in diabetes, heart problems and myriad other overconsumption-related health issues is obvious. Maybe another consequence is even more insidious. Have we been convinced that more is better?

The acceptance of this maxim is widespread. The necessity of unlimited and largely unregulated growth seems to have permeated our system and its structures. A record billion-dollar budget coming here in our territory, Ottawa’s $258.6-billion budget and a $3.6-trillion federal budget proposed by President Obama all have this in common.

Our decision makers seem convinced that we must save a system predicated on this concept of continued unlimited growth. Jean Paul Besset, a French ecologist, puts it this way; “A single God, Progress; a single dogma, political economy; a single Eden, opulence; a single rite, consumption; a single prayer: Our growth who art in heavenÉ.”

Did Thoreau have it right? “A person is rich in proportion to the number of things which he or she can afford to let alone.” We need a paradigm shift that will carefully ease us back down to earth and body sustaining levels of consumption.

A happy 94th-birthday greeting to Father Joseph Guibaud today.

Namaste Notes

Sunday, March 15 – Third Sunday of Lent. A suggested reading is John 2: 13-25.

Monday, March 16 – My Lai Massacre in 1968 of unarmed Vietnamese civilians by US Army forces marked a turning point in that war.

Tuesday, March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the life of Ireland’s patron saint, the 5th century Welshman who brought Christianity to Eire.

Friday, March 20 – 6th Anniversary of the USA-led invasion of Iraq. Estimated world military expenditures pass the $300 billion mark today.

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