Thinking more about the issue of abundance in our suburban consumerist culture (after reading chapters from The Suburban Christian). Supermarkets and other stores give a distorted view of how easy it is to gain things. The shelves are always full, there are always new and improved products coming out. If we want them we just need to buy them. it gives us the illusion of being self reliant. Yet behind each product is a complex process of design, manufacture and a vast logistical network transporting food and manufactured goods all over the world. This network usually works to bring Spanish oranges, Indian Tea, Chinese electronics and many other items to our shops.
Yet it doesn’t take much to upset the process. Back in 2000 there were protests in the UK over the price of petrol and diesel which involved just a few lorries blocking the entrances to oil terminals. The effect was to stop any tankers from exiting the terminals to fill up the petrol stations around the country. This went on for about four or five days.
Suddenly, abundance wasn’t there anymore. Tankers could not refill petrol stations, consequently the petrol stations ran out of fuel. Cars queued for hours at the few stations that still had petrol. Trucks could not refuel either resulting in the supermarket deliveries not getting through either. The bread aisle was bare. Of course, all this only lasted a few days and then everything was back to normal. But the speed at which the petrol stations and supermarkets ran out of perishable food items was alarming. Our abundance suddenly wasn’t as abundant anymore, in just a few days.
I guess the lesson is that we weren’t self-reliant at all. We were reliant on all the people in the process who transported our consumables around the world. We may have the veneer of self reliance in suburbia, but we in fact still needed each other.
In an agricultural society a person is at the mercy of God to bring the rain and sun in the right measure and to make the crops grow. There is only so much a farmer can do to assist the process. There is no getting away from the fact that provision comes from elsewhere. In suburbia we are just as reliant on sun and rain for our food but we are removed from the toil and sweat and the looking at the sky and therefore we feel removed from the realisation that it is God who provides.