9.24.2009

Buy Local, 'cuz You Have to

In two short days, my dear friend K is off for her 10-week research trip in London. I remember all too well the stress and anxiety associated with living abroad and I've done my best to convince her that it will all work out.*

K's major concerns are financial. For all of us who study Europe, the cost of jumping through the great hoop of research abroad is probably the single biggest obstacle, after mastering languages. As I've noted before, for decades the strength of the dollar and the flaccidity of most European economies were such that Americans could easily and comfortably spend as much time over there as they needed to in their studies. Now, it's a rushed death march through the libraries and archives before one's finances run out, going toe-to-toe with the Euro or, even worse, the Pound.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Mr. Rich a while ago about music. Above and beyond the collapse of the music industry (no big loss), gas prices threaten the whole phenomenon of bands touring outside of their home regions. He pointed out that this could lead to local scenes getting stronger, but having fewer live connections with bands from other places since everyone would have to more-or-less stay put.

The idea is that with the contraction of the global economy and the only-going-to-get-higher price of energy, we're all obliged to limit ourselves to the local. The socialist version of this goes back to Proudhon, the idea of local communities producing most of what they need and exchanging what they had to exchange between themselves. Gorz's updated version was tied to his ecological concerns and his sneaking suspicion that capitalism was approaching a new crisis. Both are completely antithetical to the way the global economy operates.

I think my point is that another symptom of the fact that my parents' generation was and will be the last one to experience an increase in real wealth is that we all are forced to limit our scope and figure out ways of doing things within truncated horizons. That's depressing, of course, but so's everything when you look at it hard enough.

* I feel confident in this prediction largely because they speak English, albeit a weird version, in England.

5 comments:

noncoupable said...

Luckily, being in the humanities and all, we've already been conditioned to live our lives more "constructively" than those who had the sudden oh !@$% panic of this past year's financial crisis.

Kelly said...

I must say, knowing I'm going to a country where they speak English makes me feel like even more of a weenie for whining. I guess I'd be ok in a Spanish speaking country, but I'd probably be paralyzed if facing France or Taiwan. Or drunk, very, very drunk.

noncoupable said...

China is a scary place. I almost cried when I got off the airplane and realized I'd signed up for two months in a place where I didn't know the language and I didn't know anybody. Of course, in Taiwan it was for a year, but after China nothing frightened me.

El Chupacabra said...

I hadn't really considered the thought that our parents generation was in all probability going to be the last generation to "come up". It seems like excess never really mae anyone happy for long though, so this is probably a good thing. Power to the Broke!

hardcori said...

The whole local sustainability just seems like common sense. Doesn't it just make sense? I think it's incredibly F-ed up that our system has gotten SO far away from that I recently heard a story about a guy in PDX that made the turned wooden taps for Widmer. Until they realized they could get them cheaper by shipping the wood to China, having them made there, and then shipped back.....