I’m curious when we traded common sense for convenience. I’m guessing it was around the time we stopped trusting ourselves. The same time we started believing all those claims that we could “have it all.” We can. But we pay a price for it.
My parents knew this. My grandparents knew this. Yours probably did, too. But our generation lost track of that little truth. Somewhere in between believing we could “just add water and stir” and that we’d “come a long way, baby.”
Convenience is a relatively modern notion, owing much of its existence to post-World War II thinking, which put women in the workforce, surplus military food into cans and cars in every driveway. Oh yeah — and television. Which, of course, put corporations into our living rooms where they could seduce us with “convenience.”
The hidden costs of convenience
Yet what convenience has done is create a society in which we’re only marginally invested in our own lives. It has made us less responsible for the consequences of our choices — and, as a result, we feel more out of control than ever.
The advent of heat-and-serve meals has rendered our diets more the product of science than soil. The invention of computers and cell phones has become, for those who don’t impose boundaries, a shackle around our ankle, keeping us tied to work and commitments and giving us no time to simply escape.
The fact that we can get to work in 20 minutes if we drive versus 40 minutes if we ride our bikes means, not surprisingly, that most of us take the car. Kids no longer walk to school. Too inconvenient. Yet recently a friend, a pediatric ER doctor, confided in me that she was disheartened by how many overweight kids with hypertension she was seeing. They just don’t move, she lamented.
Convenience is killing us.
I’m not advocating a return to churning my own butter and sewing my own clothes. There are some conveniences that I support wholeheartedly. It’s just that we’ve gone too far.
When I can’t recognize the ingredients in my food without a biochemistry degree. When I find myself driving to the gym in order to get exercise. When I’m “cleaning” my house with products that contain more pollutants than a tailings pond. When convenience is creating a life that will be filled with inconveniences – poor health, pollution, stress, debt — it’s time to kick convenience to the curb.