American Consumerism at an All Time High
One of the definitions of consumerism from Dictionary.com is: “The concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy.” This definitely describes a lot of America. Consumerism and materialism have grown in the country to the point that people are never satisfied. They always need more. Maybe consumerism is good for the economy, but it is not good for people.
Many people probably view life today as superior to life fifty or one hundred years ago. In some ways, that is true. It is nice to have luxuries like indoor plumbing, access to electricity, better medical care, and information about anything at the tips of our fingers. However, some of the changes that have happened over the years are not so beneficial to the overall health of this culture. People communicate through screens until they feel awkward saying really feeling face to face with other people. There is now a mentality that one should do as little as possible to get the most benefits. Convenience is valued over hard work and getting the job done well. Money drives companies to sacrifice quality in their products for the sake of efficiency and financial growth. People feel entitled to good things, to luxuries. They deserve whatever it is that they want. They need more, more, more.
As Thanksgiving approaches, so does the onslaught of Black Friday commercials. Everyone wants your dollar. Stores are opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day with crazy sales to pull people out of their family dinners and holiday traditions to spend more. Christmas commercials begin as soon as Halloween is over. Everything has to be about buying something. Even holidays like Memorial Day and Presidents’ Day have sales for cars and furniture. Why? That’s not what they are about at all.
Someone might argue that Americans are generous with their money, though. But it seems that people often want an incentive to donate their money to others. What’s in it for me? Is it tax exempt? Do I get some sort of prize for giving the most? Or, at least put my name on something. If nothing else, I get the satisfaction of knowing I did something good; I can call myself a good person now.
Parents sometimes like to tell their kids (especially if they are teens asking for a raise on allowance), “Money can’t buy happiness.” The American Psychological Association did a study of families with more than $25 million. These people do not have perfect lives. They worry about their children finding meaning in life because everything is given to them. They found that, “You can’t buy your way out of the human condition” (Novotney 2012). There is the problem of after enjoying whatever one wants, finding something to look forward to, to work for. There has to be some sort of meaning to life besides getting what you want. There is the fear that people will associate with you because you are rich. And overall, the study found that people with this much money felt isolated. “But what you often lose when you have all this money is the friendships that support you through the difficult times” (Novotney 2012).
I would guess that a lot of people would probably respond to, “Money can’t buy happiness,” with, “I know.” They would probably say that they know that. But our lives as Americans reflect the opposite. Let’s stop doing anything to get ahead. Let’s value people over money, the welfare of others over whatever is in it for me.