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Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

A Matter of Convenience

April 21, 2008

If there's one thing most Americans love, it's convenience. From fast food to fast computers to cell phones that work anywhere to affordable health care, we want and expect and take for granted more and more. It's an attitude that often ignores the cost of living lives of convenience and could hurt us in the upcoming election.

Maybe it's because I'm in the maelstrom of implementing a massive software system that will probably take the rest of my working life and that of many others as well to "work the bugs out".  It's supposed to, in the long run, make things more convenient for future generations of customers and employees, but still leaves me more cautionary about accepting the premise that convenience is always a worthy goal.

Too often, convenience relates to expediency which in turn leads to a never-ending quest to cut corners in the interest of avoiding hard choices and hard work. The predominant culture in this country today has largely lost sight that it was many hard choices and much hard work that built this great country.

The technological revolution feeds this predominant culture by promising an ever-increasing smorgasbord of goodies to supposedly make our lives easier. What these gizmos often do is make us slaves to them-spending hours upon hours adding software, downloading files to computers, cell phones, I-Pods and so forth-time that could have been spent in other pursuits. It's questionable whether all the time spent on downloads and upgrades really increases the convenience factor all that much, anyway.

It's when people look to government to make their lives easier that we really start to have problems, however. That's when political schizophrenia takes over. For instance, let's cut government spending, unless it affects some benefit of mine. Let's raise taxes to increase the government's revenues, as long as they're not my taxes. Let's build more oil refineries and nuclear power plants, but not in my back yard. At some point someone has to break this logjam or we as a nation will continue our downward spiral.

There will come a time, perhaps in our lifetimes, when we as a nation will need to once again pull together in a time of crisis. We have a great, all-volunteer military that models what making sacrifices-including the ultimate sacrifice of life itself-is all about. Unfortunately, the last few generations, including my own, were taught not to respect our government and, by extension, our nation. And it's tough to sacrifice much, if at all, for an entity that you do not even respect. That's why the troops deserve our undying support-what they're doing is more countercultural than ever.

At the onset of John F. Kennedy's presidency, we were told, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Now the slogan seems to be "Let George do it," whether George is our president or our neighbor. What has made the war in Iraq have such an eerie quality is that only a small fraction of the population has made the sacrifices that in past wars were made by everyone as a matter of course. Whether Bush's reluctance to call on the public for more support stems from the unpopularity of the war or his own low ratings, it's a terrible shame. Instead of asking us to sacrifice in some way for the cause, we've been treated to an expanded list of goodies from a federal treasury that in fact is tapped out-but for convenience's sake no one wants to do anything but whistle past that graveyard.

With cradle-to-grave healthcare being presented as a moral birthright, to be layered on top of already failing government programs (Medicare, Medicaid) and an obscenely expensive prescription drug "benefit," we are literally conveniencing ourselves to death as a nation. Would it have been too much to ask to at least index the prescription drug program so that Bill Gates doesn't get the same benefit that more "average" people receive? Apparently so, since it would have inconvenienced government bureaucrats who would have picked up some added workload. Can't have that, can we?

The culture of convenience is what is really behind abortion on demand, as much or more as the feminists' demand for a "woman's right to choose." The cases of self-abortion in a land where abortion is readily available are frightening examples of taking convenience to a macabre extreme.

Likewise, it's convenient for us to take our information about what's going on in the world in manageable bites off television or the Internet, with little time for real thoughtfulness. Media types have turned the convenience of using talking points and sound bites into an art form; undoubtedly their investigative laziness along with their infatuation with the man has led to such tardy disclosures of Senator Obama's questionable associations.

You can look it up in the Good Book. This life was not meant to be a convenience trip. The more we try to make it that way, the more we ultimately lose.

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Copyright ©2008 Phil Perkins