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Affluenza: A Product of the American Dream

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Affluenza: A Product of the American Dream

Wait....what is Affluenza? Don't you mean Influenza? Well no, actually many people haven't heard of the disease known as Affluenza. It's more common than you might think. In fact there is a good chance that you might be showing some symptoms of the disease; many Americans are. Everywhere you look you get bombarded by the promoter of this evil. Affluenza has been described as an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.( It is, in a sense, synonymous with the American Dream but with an added intensity. We have taken the pursuit of happiness to another level. Many now are not satisfied with their current commodities and feel as if "more is better." This new interpretation of the American Dream may end up being the downfall of our society, economy, and eventually environment. We now have a new epidemic on our hands; the need for bigger, better, nicer, and pricier. In this vigorous chase for economic success many are left feeling unfulfilled, and wishing for yet more wealth.

"There will presently be no room in the world for things; it will be filled up with the advertisements of things." ( We live in a commercial culture where we are constantly being attacked by advertisements. As you walk down the street you see buses spammed with 10 foot long ads. If you turn on the television you can fully expect to see a flood of commercials and as you flip the page in your local newspaper you will likely find more ads than you will news. Everywhere you look you are told to consume more, and if you don't you will be left behind. It is difficult not to give into the temptations of material goods, but as many of us have been told "money is not the key to happiness." Affluenza is becoming more rampant and needs to be deterred by learning to live a more simple life. Although living a simple life may be difficult it can be a creative and satisfying process.

It is somewhat ironic that in our pursuit of economic wealth we often lose sight of the things that truly matter and in turn become less happy. Many often are so determined to have the best that they put aside the things that truly matter. We send our children to the most expensive schools, yet we hardly see them. We have the bigger houses, yet we are hardly there to enjoy them. We have more money, yet we are in more debt than ever before. In order to stop this disease we must make a decision to change the way we live. There is no detailed remedy for Affluenza. The cure is different from person to person.

Many become addicted to splurging at the spur of the moment. Americans may fulfill their urge to splurge, but in the end they are only hurting themselves. People all across our nation are falling victims to this disease. Most people can recall a time when they purchased something on the spur of the moment. The truth is that we all love the smell of a new car, and the shine of a new shoe. And there is nothing wrong with that, it is only human nature. The key is for you to determine the real value of the product to you.

I may be able to offer a different perspective on the impulse buy. I was once a promoter of Affluenza as many salesmen in our society are. I can recall many times when I "sold" a customer on buying a product that they didn't necessarily need. I was only out to attain my prerogative and often times the customer fell victim to my sales tactics. Consumers are put in position like this everyday but on a much larger scale. Today it is almost impossible to go a day without seeing an advertisement. Many find it completely normal and even necessary to purchase luxury items. This problem is a bi-product of the culture that we live in. It is becoming a race to the top but what consumers may not realize that they are racing on a very slippery slope.

There are many reasons that affluenza and over-consumption are rampant in our society and only getting worse. You can look to many things like the constant bombardment of advertisements, the rising use of credit cards, thee association of material wealth with happiness, and our society's capitalistic mindset. Many would describe affluenza as a race to the top, but I would describe it as a race to the bottom. The fear being that we will all become overwhelmed with the desire to keep up with the Joneses and lose sight of family, friends, and helping our community. The importance is clearly shifting to materialism. Our generation is working harder and longer, spending less time with family in order to buy better things.

Advertisements are a major part of any American's day. Think about how many ads you've seen today. You are bombarded day after day with advertisements; in fact it has become so regular that many people hardly bat an eye. According to a recent article in Business Week, the average American is exposed to 3,000 commercial messages per day, from television and newspaper advertisements to billboards, signs and logos on clothing (Masci, 1999). Western civilization and in particular the United States is often best described as a Consumer culture where focus is on materialism. Advertisements are all over; they are on your friend's shirt, in your local newspapers, on your family's TV screen, and now more than ever on you're computer monitor. With the advancement in technologies it has become much easier for corporations to reach consumers.

Today, many of use have switched over to plastic. After all, it is much easier to swipe a card than pull the money out of your wallet. Credit cards have revolutionized the way that American's spend their income. Many Americans don't even see a dollar of the money that they earn. Credit cards have given consumers a new mentality. Instead of waiting until they have the money to spend they are buying now and worrying later. The average consumer is now in more debt than ever and the use of the credit card is a major contributor. US consumer debt has reached staggering levels after more than doubling over the past 10 years. According to the most recent figures from the Federal Reserve Board, consumer debt hit $1.98 trillion in October 2003, up from $1.5 trillion three years ago (Laurier, 2004) This is an average of about $18,700 per household. Americans now owe more money than they make. The ratio of household debt to personal disposable income first breached 100 percent in 2001 and has since climbed to 131 (Mantel, 2007). The facts show that as Americans, we are overspending and it has reached a point that it is hurting our lifestyles. We are now more worried about getting out of debt than ever before.

As consumers in America we believe that the more we have



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