Penalizing Prudence

Penalizing Prudence


Cognitive Dissonance



“Economy, prudence, and a simple life are the sure masters of need, and will often accomplish that which, their opposites, with a fortune at hand, will fail to do.” – Clara Barton


“Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.” – Aesop


One of my conceits, of which there are many, is the belief that because I have entered the third trimester of my life, I am now in possession of great volumes of wisdom and perspective. Thankfully Mrs. Cog is always nearby to efficiently and surgically remove any such thoughts of grandeur and omnipotence. That said, at some point during the flight of life, even birds of prey eventually turn their thoughts to the comfort of a nearby nest rather than their next fearless fight.

Even the most reckless among us begins elevating to greater importance the preservation of resources rather than mindless squandering, especially when we are closer to the end than the beginning. This is a good thing, by the way. It adds balance to the socioeconomic system, both personally and collectively, as well as countering the self-destructive tendencies of those obsessed with endless consumption.

There’s a reason we’re no longer referred to as ‘citizens’ in mainstream media or political speech, but rather the more personal-responsibility-evading ‘consumer’. If given even a minimum of thought, one quickly realizes this subtly propagandized term (consumer) is a significant, but not the only, component of the obvious agenda to infantilize the US (and global) population.

Like the one year old who eats, sleeps, plays, defecates, eats, sleeps, plays……with no personal responsibility other than to be self-indulgent and consume food and attention, we are being reduced (distilled down might be a better term) to our most base impulses. I suspect most people, if told this to their face, would not react well to my observation, assuming instead I was being critical of them personally.

Like mama always said…if the shoe fits, wear it.

The word ‘prudence’ is not trending very high in the public’s vernacular these days, at least not until recently and still only by a few. The massively disruptive socioeconomic changes thrust upon the population in the name of saving the world from the COVID boogie monster reminds me of a famous quote from the Vietnam War.

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it." – Peter Arnett, New Zealand-born journalist, quoting an unnamed Major during the Battle of Bến Tre.

I’m not exactly the bastion of fiscal, emotional and professional prudence. Not by a long shot. If anything, over the last seven years Mrs. Cog and I have ramped up our spending when cash flow permitted in order to improve, expand and maintain our little homestead up here on the mountain. While we do indulge on occasion, our work is our play and we rarely spend frivolously on consumer treats.

Except, of course, when we do.

Overall, our focus has been squarely centered on sustainability, in essence the exact opposite of consumerism just for the sake of consumption. A prudent person considers the exit long before entering, knowing full well in advance (or at least making an honest effort to do so) what is, and is not, within their control. A mindless consumer thinks little of the exit, assuming it will always be there simply because it has always been there in the past. The very act of mindless obsessive consumption precludes any probing deliberation and thought.

This is infantile thinking at its most basic, putting any naval gazing toddler to shame with our own audacity and hypocrisy. Today’s ‘adult’ is little more than an overgrown child with a credit card and an oversized sense of righteous entitlement.

While we all love to point to this or that ‘authority’ as the entity responsible for our own self debasement (a typical infantile response) it takes two to tango. Just because we can purchase something doesn’t mean we should. Somewhere along the line “We the People” lost the ability to understand the difference between needs and wants. Or more accurately, we lost the desire to understand.

Prudence and thrift were, not so long ago, considered admirable traits. Cultural phrases such as “A penny saved is a penny earned” or “A stitch in time saves nine” demonstrated the value assigned to conservative thought and practice. The viral spread of consumerism over the last several decades, turning exponential since social media exploded onto the scene, has branded conservatism (criminally conflated with the Republican political party, which long ago abandoned its core conservative roots) persona non grata in society.

The cultural, political and financial pressure to disregard prudence and thrift, essentially abandoning time-tested practices by the side of the road, endlessly bombards us via every glowing screen we own or encounter. Today’s freshly minted crop of children have never been introduced to conservative thinking and practices unless their parents and guardians deliberating and consistently pushed against the overwhelming tide of profligate squandering promoted by everyone everywhere all the time.

It is now considered a matter of national security that “We the People” (individuals, corporations and governments alike) continue our spendthrift ways, less the economy crater and the depression boogieman emerge from under the bed. In a finite world, infinite expansion and consumption lead to only one exit.

National (global) bankruptcy and social disaster.

As anyone (or any corporation for that matter) who has gone bankrupt can attest, one simply cannot spend themselves out of imminent bankruptcy. And yet this is precisely what we as a nation and as individuals are confidently told can, and will, occur from various conflicted and corrupted authorities and entities. A perfect example is Modern Monetary Theory or MMT, just the latest rationalization for unrestrained spending at all levels well beyond our means.

Sadly, tragically, we believe what we want to hear and there is no shortage of con artists, propagandists and politicians who will leverage our collective denial for their own personal benefit.

It is said that any government can do pretty much whatever it wants for as long as it can shield the population from the consequences of its actions. The longer the shield holds, the harder the eventual fall. At some point, when the general population is mostly dependent upon the government for basic services, distribution, protection and order, those most vulnerable to personal disaster will defend and support the very entity that is destroying them.

While reading about historical events that led to individual and collective disaster, I often wondered how and why they didn’t see it coming. From my historically distant and disinterested point of view, it’s obvious to me what was rapidly approaching for those who would soon be pancaked between a rock and a hard place.

I think I understand now. Life experienced from within the boiling stew pot is not the same when viewed from an external perspective. Our tendency to rationalize and justify even the most insane conditions is beyond logical explanation. This psychological pathology, the so-called human condition, is precisely why while history doesn’t repeat, it most certainly rhymes.

Welcome to the insane asylum.



Cognitive Dissonance


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