Quality of Life and America’s Flawed Value System

“Quality of life is subjective and multidimensional, encompassing positive and negative features of life. It’s a dynamic condition that responds to life events.” (Forbes Magazine). Yet we as Americans have been conditioned by our capitalistic principles that quality of life is primarily defined by economic factors, factors that affect our pocketbooks personally for the present.  In our current mind-set, if we can only afford one automobile, quality of life sucks; if we can afford two, it’s a bit better; two, plus a boat is good and add an RV and a 3,500 square foot home in the suburbs and it’s great.  Then if we can retire at age 50 and ride around in our RV on cheap gas, go on cruises, and buy everything on credit…well, that’s how it should be.

While both political factions in our country follow this philosophy, the conservative bent basically (or at least, currently) ignores the existence of any other contributing factors while those of the liberal bent just whine.  That is until disaster strikes; a hurricane, flood, epidemic, cancer, etc., then the big RV doesn’t matter that much and the question is “why wasn’t this prevented?”  But, until that time we cast our votes primarily based on a single issue, “Does it mean more money in my pocket for the immediate future?”  Effects of a degraded infrastructure, health and safety concerns, increases in pollution levels are afterthoughts…things to deal with when we have all the bells and whistles commerce advertises we must have to be happy in the steady stream of commercials on our 72 inch television screens.

I wonder about my current quality of life.  Sitting here in my dark living room with the air conditioner on full throttle because the temperature is 105 outside and has been that way for over a month (one day the thermometer hit 115) does not please me.  Will I again be able to sit out on my deck and enjoy my evening glass of wine as I did much of the summer 15 years ago when I moved here?  When…in November?  Does my future now fear the summer months rather than looking forward to them?  Do I fear driving across the highway bridges or have to wonder if the dam above my home will collapse and wash it away?  How about the effects on my aging lungs from breathing the smoke from wildfires regularly blocking out the view of the valley?  Do I really have the same quality of life I enjoyed as a child?  I certainly have more “stuff” but in actuality maybe there’s more than dollars to quality of life, at least for some of us.

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