I think a lot about American Culture. Given the recent school shootings, it’s been on my mind even more. In America, we claim to celebrate freedom but in actuality, it’s not really freedom, but a toxic glorification of selfishness—mindless leisure and materialism at the expense of others. It’s an endless pursuit of freedom that doesn’t actually leave you free at all. It’s everywhere, equally in secular and non-secular arenas of life. Despite all of our material success, there is an emptiness and general unhappiness that is profound.
It occurred to me that America is building empty homes.
Have you ever been in an abandoned house, perhaps a place where love and life may have been but are no longer? An empty house ceases to be a home and is instead a bunch of random materials, smells, and shadows. There is a sadness to it, a loss.
Or have you ever been in a house that is lived in, but feels cold and sterile, lacking life? It could still look good mind you, but it doesn’t feel right and it may be hard to really put your finger on. However, learn more about the people that live there and the clues begin to reveal themselves in a thousand ways.
America seems to be falling somewhere in between these two situations.
When we put so many of our elderly in nursing homes to die, simply because it’s more convenient and we prefer a more youth oriented culture after all, we are building empty homes. When we throw people away in prisons, we are building empty homes. When we fail to teach children anything of value that they’ll actually remember, we are building empty homes. When we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are building empty homes. When we put profits over people, failing to pay a living wage, we are building empty homes. When we stop making quality products that last because we can import cheaper things made by slave labor for short term gain, we are building empty homes. When we choose to consume rather than to produce, we are building empty homes. When we don’t care about the human flourishing and security of all our fellow Americans, we are building empty homes.
The “thought leaders” of society will create nice sounding ways to say that greed and selfishness are good, and that no one knows why kids are shooting up schools or why we have an addiction epidemic and that if we just had more technology all of life’s issues would resolve. They’ll say that you deserve everything you want without a lot of work, and if you get it, you’ll be happy. Finally happy! They’ll say what’s good for the economy is good for you and that global trade is good for the peasants working in sweat shops day and night to sell you things you’ll throw away in a year, because economic development duh. Win win! After all, it’s about product choice, product cost, product upgrades, product convenience, product consumption, and a million other things that sugar coat the glorification of greed and selfishness.
Remember this—in the end, it’s not just products we consume, but each other and ourselves. I work for a home builder. It takes a lot of work to build a house—what’s the point of building an empty one?