Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Good Old US of A

I have lived in the US (this time) for about two years. I can hardly believe it has been that long. So, I have started to reflect on the way of life here.

Every item of food here seems to come with sugar. Why is that? Why should bread have sugar? I opened a can of baked beans yesterday, only to discover that the can contained beans and brown sugar. In beans? It is really hard to find food that does not have sugar added. Orange juice, licorice, even hot dogs. At least there is a good use for the verbose labelling laws here. I can now spend an extra half hour per shopping run trying to find just food.

Toys used to be special, something to look forward to. They are now cheap, ubiquitous and made in China. Toys are disposable. That just can't be good for anyone. Except maybe the Chinese. For now.

I live in a nice neighborhood in a relatively distant suberb of Washington, DC. There is no public transportation here. No buses. I have waited hours for a taxi, only to finally give up. For the first time in ten years, we are a two-car family.

The people in my neighborhood come from all over the world. That is cool. People tend to tolerate cultural differences here in a way that much of the world could benefit from.

We tend to almost fill one trash bin per week. Our neighbors generally double that. We recycle here, as do about a quarter of our block. The recycling blows into the lake and it seems to be noboby's job to pick it up. We do it sometimes and a couple of others have started to do the same. There are few trees, because they all got mowed down when the houses were built. It will be a few years before they go back. Things grow slowly when they have to hibernate for half the year.

It seems like the economy is dominated by a few very large corporations. News broadcasting certainly is. There seem to be two book stores chains in any given area. Three supermarkets (the two old ones and a new one trying hard to kill the one not keeping up with the times). Some things you just can't buy unless you go to Wal-Mart, like kids sleds. Toys "R" Us told me that I had to go to a specially party store (or Wal-Mart) to buy certain items for my daughter's birthday party. The big companies have become bigger and they seem to be divding the market. Considering the source of innovation (small companies) and the historic drivers for the economy (small companies), this seems like a bad thing. I can't say that I am in any way better off by living in a society dominiated by large companies. How much farther will it go? My guess is that America's time in the economic sun is about over.

Overall, I like living here even though this has been quite a rant. I do wish that American society wasn't so wasteful and blind to the future.

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