Sunday, June 03, 2007

Non-expats Breaking Free of the Suburban Lifestyle

"It's the decision you make every day: How do you actually spend your time?"

The Sunday Washington Post ran this article about suburbanites who, like many of the younger expats I've met here in SMA, seen a need to change their lives and the pressure to continue the quest for the perfect house, job, body and family. And according to the article, many of them are actually successfully changing their lives in the suburbs.

On Friday I had two great interviews with exceptional women. In on conversation we discussed what expatriate emigration might mean for the U.S. Expats are, and probably always will be, a relatively small percentage of the overall population, but they represent a perspective for change. What if the expats decided to stay in the U.S. and change their communities? What type of influence might they have there?

Realistically, I know that when you're coming up against the forces of capitalism, you're always going to be swimming upstream. Nevertheless, this article seems to suggest that dissatisfaction with U.S. consumer culture is not just an expat issue, it's an national issue. American life does not have to be an endless treadmill of errands and activies.


Mark said...

I saw the Post article too, about slowing down in the suburbs. One thing troubled me about the article: every person interviewed was either inspired to slow down or found support in slowing down from their church. Surely there are examples of non-church goers who are trying to focus on friends and family instead of perfect lawns? Surely there are non-Christian support structures for suburbanites who want to stem the tide of consumerism in their lives?

This makes me wonder about the expats in San Miguel...what is their relationship to organized religion and what kind of alternative (if any) support structures exist for them?

Deb said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the comments. Interestingly, the expats that I've interviewed are decidedly not into organized religion. Many are deeply spiritual, but of the 50+ people I've interviewed, only 1-2 are regular church goers.

I think it's interesting that protestant and evangelical churches are starting to ask their flocks to look more deeply at their lives. For years now the evangelical movement particularly has preached a prosperity gospel, in essence, if you're right with God you're financial life will also flourish.

The major support, if you can characterize it as support, is that these expats were fed up with their lives. One woman told me, "I was anxious to retire to determine whether or not I was still a good person." It appears that if you life is terribly out of balance, then that is the primary motivator for making a change.