Ideas like "growth" and "development" mean different things depending on your perspective. For the average person, concepts like "spiritual growth" or "personal development" are often associated with the best of what human beings might pursue for themselves on an individual level. This is because what people achieve for themselves in their relationships with others ultimately forms the basis of their contribution to society as a whole.
These terms take on different meanings when we depart from the concerns of the average person and lend priority to the preferences of their rulers. Growth and development, not to mention democracy itself, meant different things to George W. Bush than they did to most of the world's peoples who experienced his interpretation first hand.
Among those subjects within the advanced consumer societies, the people of the United States know too well how the ideas of growth and development have assumed a meaning altogether peculiar when compared to the idea of full and free development for all. The necessary requirement of economic growth lords over every social possibility, from one's ability to retire to those municipal services on which most communities rely.
Just as all social development can be retraced to the sustained efforts of committed individuals, so economic growth demands the daily exertion of innumerable units of nerve, brain and brawn. Because growth in this sense predicates itself on inequality proportional to its success, most people have no choice but to submit themselves to this daily grind.
A common consequence of a life spent working for others is a life not spent developing oneself. This is true to the degree that employment points to a purpose that one cannot rightly call their own, over and above the inevitable requirements of living. Whatever can be taken from our jobs and used for the betterment our lives diminishes progressively with each unchecked advance of "growth" into the productive arena, because growth is inevitably a product made from the surrender of our lives.
Both employment and personal growth make their demands, but only one is required to live. This leaves the other an open question, to be realized at will.
Consumerism poses two obstacles to the self-development of the individual. One is employment which diverges from personal goals; the other is the market.
People who give their best energy to their employers don't have their best energy for anything else. Whatever they endure, they endure for their bosses; it is only natural that the rest of the time they are averse to pain, and structure their lives in avoidance of it. In the US, this often comes in the form of sedentary consumption.
The market plays its part by promising two things: ease of use, and personal fulfillment through commodity exchange. The market, first and foremost, demands nothing, but rather puts consumers in a position to make demands. It is little wonder that we cannot resist the appeal, and gravitate psychologically to this sphere! Secondly, it tells us we can be effortlessly happy by purchasing one thing after another, ad infinitum. We don't have to suffer at all, we only need to buy.
Nevertheless, suffering is always at our heels, no matter what we put into our heads. Our obligation to suffer at the hands of others directly informs our desire to escape suffering through the market -- in the act of consuming to make ourselves feel good.
We have already seen a generation of human beings who have lived their lives in this fashion, and their lesson should not be lost on us, so badly have they paid its price. Too many of those elders who we might normally look to for leadership have become petty and mean, small-minded and miserable; and, moreover, confused at where their life has gone and why everyone has abandoned them. Look closely, lest their fate become your own!