I have finally figured out what’s wrong with America.
I’m not talking about Washington or our political parties (right, left or center). And I don’t mean the people who occupy or work on Wall Street.
What’s wrong with America (or at least with American economics) is how we define recreation. I recently read that consumer spending was improving, as measured by the purchase of “durable recreation goods like televisions.”
My beef isn’t with consumer spending: it’s what accounts for much of our economic growth. I’m all for that, especially if it leads to lower unemployment.
And just to be clear, I don’t have a problem with durable: anything that’s worth building is worth building to last. Our landfills are littered with way too much stuff that was designed to break down or become obsolete.
No, the problem is the pairing of recreation and television. It’s not that I’m completely against television, though the research is clear that large doses of television (like large doses of most things) are hazardous to your health.
When I think of recreation, what comes to mind are activities like riding your bike, going for a walk or playing in the park. But television? It can be fun, but it doesn’t meet my standard for recreation.
Okay, I admit I enjoy some of what’s on television. Shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad. Also The Housewives of New Jersey (for this I thank my friend Ellen). But the truth is that too much television is not good for both mind and body.
If you treat watching television like dessert (not an everyday thing but a once in a while treat) you’ll be fine. Though judging by our national viewing habits (about five hours per day), it looks like we’re binging big time on screen time.
My definition of durable recreational goods are things like bicycles and baseball gloves. My first “real” bike, a 10-speed wonder, lasted for over 30-years. And as for baseball gloves: my son’s 10 year old mitt is still supple and taut.
The thing about real recreation, activities like throwing a ball or riding a bike, is that it recharges our batteries. It’s also good for our health, and it connects us to our communities and to each other. On all of these counts television just falls flat.
And the best thing about recreation? It’s durable and it’s free, though I would never frown upon the purchase of a new bicycle. Especially from one of our local frame builders (I see this as a sort of economic stimulus).
But whether you ride, run, walk or pedal, just do it. Have fun and recreate, on or off of your bike.
I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better. And with happier, healthier citizens, our economy will be in better shape, too.
Jonathan Simmons is an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published next spring by Cadence Press.