We are grateful to be back home in Kenya, and equally grateful for a wonderful trip. This blog was written while in the States.
I’m just back from the supermarket: Culture Shock 101. I’ve been through this class countless times before, but keep ending up in “101” all over again.
We just needed bread crumbs. The best option would have been to make them from the secret ingredient: bread. In Kenya, we buy bread crumbs in the bread section, where the store makes them from the same secret ingredient: bread. But in the States, there were no bread crumbs in the bread section. They were 14 aisles away in the “I-have-no-idea-where-I-am” section. Now comes the dilemma. Before me are hot n’ spicy bread crumbs, Italian style bread crumbs, bar-be-que flavored bread crumbs, cheesy bread crumbs, low-fat bread crumbs, bread crumbs for fish, bread crumbs for chicken, bread crumbs for pork and bread crumbs for stuffing. Some are in boxes, some in small plastic resealable bags, some are in cylindrical cardboard and some are in glass jars. Aaaagh!
How can we escape from this excessive excessiveness? Is it any wonder that the “ecological footprint” of the average American is SEVEN times that which Planet Earth can sustain, and NINE times more than the average world citizen? On the surface, I could complain about the chemicals and additives in these foods – causing an increase of disease and rot of our bodies. But underneath that, the problem is even greater. The ‘world’ offers every variety of option that can satisfy every kind of desire. All are available to me and I am the master in a consumers’ heaven. What kind of worldview does that give?
Hey – I do not live a life of poverty nor advocate that we should. But in this context I want to shout ‘enough is enough.’ When will the madness end?
The late Wangari Mathaai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, says in Replenishing the Earth: “Material wealth rises at the expense of the immediate environment in the form of pollution, waste, and destruction of natural resources. The more we acquire, the more (most of us) get a taste for acquisition, and the more reasons we find to justify that acquisition. But material wealth does not satisfy. It is upon this fragile sense of dissatisfaction and the relative worth of our lives that the entire edifice of consumption and production appears to be built.”
I remember well my mother’s frequent statement: “You can’t have everything you want in life.”
It sounds fairly basic, but many voices seem to be saying otherwise.