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You regular readers know that I have said here that I see a connection between the obesity crisis and the indebtedness crisis in the US — and that that connection is a moral refusal, conscious or unconscious, to live within the limits of our capacities. I have also said that I see our sexual excesses and the fallout within the broader culture as coming from essentially the same place. Turns out Patrick Deneen has been having similar thoughts about the Gulf oil spill and the Greek debt situation. Excerpt:
Thus these two crises are even more deeply connected than a glance at the newspaper might reveal, as the worldwide belief that we could live permanently beyond our means was literally fueled by our brief and exuberant burning of most of the world’s supply of “easy oil.” Over the half-century or so, the world has enjoyed seemingly unlimited economic “growth” whose source was most fundamentally a sea of accumulated sunlight that was never “ours,” but which we treated as the property of the living generation without regard for the effects of our massive addiction upon the substance for future generations. This accumulation of millenia – allowing us to live for a time under the impression that humans no longer were dependent upon or governed by the earth – was tapped over the course of 150 years at increasing rates that led to its greatest amount in the early 2000’s (and the stock market at its highest level), and then suddenly began its inevitable decline with $150/barrel oil and a predictable economic crash whose inevitability was discernible to anyone who knew that the age of growth was over, and that our debt could only be repaid (if at all) by a long and painful time of austerity. We are living through the aftershocks of a world pressed by limits to growth, and – addicted to that condition of permanent thoughtlessness, and having been told that the permanence pf growth was ensured by the solidity of industry and government alike – today demand increasing debt to make up for declining wealth. The worldwide deleveraging that we have sought to forestall by means of “stimuli” and financial chicanery will be all the more painful and dislocating with every day that we put off our reckoning.
The Greek debt crisis – what many “in the know” believe to be the first of several, and even many such national crises, likely to be replayed in some form in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, even England and possibly even the U.S. – is quite simply a consequence of a nation that has grown accustomed to living beyond its means for a long time, and which now believes itself entitled to that condition on a more or less permanent basis.
That “entitlement” mentality amounts to a kind of philosophical stance, the idea that abundance — material abundance, and abundance of liberty — is a permanent condition. Our most pressing problems, from the relatively trivial (obesity) to the more serious (personal indebtedness) to the global (sovereign indebtedness) to the epochal (climate change, vital resource depletion) all stem from the same source: the chronic inability to accept limits, and to believe that there is any such thing as enough.