Being back in Britain serves as a constant reminder of how conspicuous consumption has come to be a hallmark of American culture. When my wife and I moved to Britain back in the 1980s we soon became acclimated to the shift in scales to a size that seemed much more within our grasp. Yes, civilized people could live without undue excess and still be quite happy. Living in the States swiftly eroded the confidence that less is enough. Those who do not climb die. Back in Britain, there is evidence that the unabashed capitalism is spreading like a poison through this nation as well. Too readily the draw of gain and personal comfort outstrip our concern for other people. On a whole, however, the ideals of a society where all have health care and the elderly are not simply forgotten still remains intact.
Perhaps it is the benefit of having once been an empire that spanned the globe, or perhaps it is a hangover from having borne the burden of monarchy and a stratified society where noblesse oblige ensures that those below are not left behind. Not that such a system is without its faults. A century ago Titanic was setting forth from these ports and sank with the humble classes going first. Such tragedies show that even where noble ideas hold sway, the inexorable draw of evolutionary development will favor those who assert themselves. The monkey on top when the ship sinks gets to draw the last breath.
Back in my Nashotah House days I used to have recurring nightmares of sinking ships. In our attempts to extend mastery over the largest environment on our planet, the one in which we cannot survive, we face an uncomfortable reality. Even if those whose names still register a nod of recognition are those who had amassed the most wealth, they are equally as deceased when the hull strikes the Atlantic floor. Is it such a difficult matter to make sure that everyone has enough before allowing those enamored of wealth to accumulate superfluous amounts of it? When the ship sinks, those with the wealth to buy themselves extra minutes may have time to think. And if those thoughts are honest, they will realize that the cost has been too great all long.