I was only 10 when Jimmy Carter delivered his ‘Crisis of Confidence’ televised speech to the American people. So his words were new to me when, earlier this year, I heard parts of the speech in a documentary. These particular words made me sit up.
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
The Club of Rome said similar things earlier in the 70s, which of course echoed philosophical and religious teachings that have been around for millennia. Overconsumption is not a new concept that we need to come to terms with; it is a tired state of affairs that we need to to own up to and address.’More’ is not the be-all-and-end-all: it can make us miserable, weigh us down, and leave us dependent and vulnerable. Let’s listen to Jimmy’s words again and, this time around, let’s get serious about heading in a different direction.
Full ‘Crisis in Confidence’ (1979) speech transcript: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/filmmore/ps_crisis.html