In my pedagogics courses this spring I learned that each generation has its own caracteristics due to the influence they've received from the surroundings of the time when they grew up. I take this generation thinking a bit further...how has each generation been marked by their time in relation to material things?
My grandparents generation were marked by the war and the total lack of material things. We still have some "towels" used back in the 40's that I rescued from my grandparents summer cottage before it was sold some years ago. My mom would not touch the cloth, stiff and ugly, she said. For me the old cotton white-greyish towels served as excellent protection on the sauna bench. But trying to imagine how it must have been back then, it just shows that my own parents have not maybe been blessed with many imported Christmas presents and birthday gifts back in their days as child. My mom even talk about the day when the banana's made their apperance in Vasa. What a delicious taste! That was the Generation babyboomer's childhood. They knew that things did not come cheap, and that you had to work to pay for what you needed.
Then came my own generation, which in respect to material things seems like a five star luxury hotel compared to my parent's reality back in the 50's. I was born late enough in the 70's to skip the whole political revolution that those born in late 60's must have experienced. Instead, I was in the perfect age to enjoy the happy 80's as a small child. Plastic toys accesible to all: barbies, monchichis, smurfs, my little ponies, all those must-haves, in a wrapped package every Chirstmas or birthday. But still, I have the feeling that the consumerism in the 80's was rather innocent in comparison to what spurged after the great depression in the 90's. There were both financial restraints (imported stuff was still expensive) and a notion of that one is enough. One Barbie was enough, you did not need five of them, and most certainly not at the age of four. I still got handmade Barbie clothes for Christmas - not because it was cool but because it was cheaper and because there were not many options out in the stores. I think my own generation was brought up in a mixed world, influenced by our parents ideological convictions from the early 70's but still embracing the benefits of development and all those new cool things.
30 years later and what do we have? A world that has gone completely crazy on consuming. Consuming has become the meaning of life. One is never enough. If it breaks, you throw it away and get it happily replaced by upgraded cooler version. Material things are overwhelmingly present, everywhere: both in the hyper markets and in our overcrowded homes. Things have completely invaded our spare life. The children drown in both toys and clothes. There are so many toys in their room that they loose focus on what they are doing. There are so much clothes in the closet that every morning is a nightmare when debating what dress is suitable for the day. Do we really want them to learn that wanting more is a virtue? How much more before its enough? Wouldn't the best lesson be to learn how to pick just the necessary? Teach them to identify their real needs and not only how to fulfill their inner decire for more more more?
Then I start planning the birthday gift for the four year old... We've decided that she'll get a bike. But I feel its not enough. She would be so happy to receive something else as well. And I think she really deserves it, my beautiful wonderful lovely first born. Well, she needs a new helmet. Done. New helmet it is - bought in the closest shopping mall. But something else, a toy or a dress...something that reeeally will make her happy and that she can take with her to daycare in the fall... I stop right there and tell myself: Priorities, my dear, priorities! Learn how to prioritize. The bike is enough, she will be delighted and we will spend time teaching her how to bike. That is absolutely enough!