Materialism in America
Materialism, like capitalism, is a defining factor of the American way of life. As with all things, materialism has its good and bad points. It is a trend that paints the American picture. It gives a perception of wealth and prosperity. However, it is commonly a shallow depiction of reality.
The possession of things does not equate to financially stability. Regardless of how it is viewed, it defines us, motivates us, and moves our economy more than any other custom. In short I agree with Mr. Kohl’s. As with all things, materialism has its good and bad points.
It is a trend that paints the American picture. It gives a perception of wealth and prosperity. However, it is commonly a shallow depiction of reality. The possession of things does not equate to financially stability. Regardless of how it is viewed, it defines us, motivates us, and moves our economy more than any other custom. In short I agree with Mr.
Kohls. The American economy is fed by our materialistic desires. Even during the though financial struggles of a recession, many Americans continue to purchase that which is bigger and better. America is the top consumer of global products and resources. The day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed Black Friday in America. A day where prices are supposed to be the lowest of the season.
Many spend all of Thanksgiving day thinking about and preparing to go shopping that night, and many leave Thanksgiving dinner early. People rush into stores and fight over items; some even get trampled to death. This year, 2011, a woman sprayed people at point-blank range with pepper spray in order to get to items faster. “Fights broke out at other stores as well that year, and The Seattle Times provides this example: “At a Wal-Mart in Columbus, Ohio, Nikki Nicely, 19, jumped onto a man’s back and pounded his shoulders when he tried to take a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen TV to which she had laid claim. ‘That’s my TV!’ Nicely, 19, shouted.
‘That’s my TV!’ Such a story sounds like it belongs on TV, like the Seinfeld episode in which the Frank Costanza character spoke of what inspired him to create his own holiday and said, “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.” There certainly does have to be another way, but it doesn’t involve a departure from traditional holidays (and, more importantly, holy days) but, rather, a deeper understanding of why they exist.” (Selwyn Duke) We have grown as a society towards an intense materialistic desire for “things”. Things we can touch, feel, see.
This local and global buying obsession may be one of the pillars holding the economy out of a depression. Although the economy can benefit from materialism, it also weakens overall financial stability of the individuals that fall prey to it. Keeping up with the Jones’ is a classic way to describe the goal of the average American. The possession of the latest and greatest, the biggest and best, is how many believe they are measured in society. It is impossible for most Americans to maintain their status and still save for emergencies, the future, and retirement. A drive down many neighborhood streets will tell a tale of comfort and privilege.
However, a look at the savings accounts and credit reports of most will show a different story. Materialism leads to a false picture of wealth. This picture is what others want and go into debt in order to achieve. This causes a vicious cycle that has turned into the American way of life. In the late 1960s an annual survey of values, given to entering U.
S. college students showed that about 85% rated “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” as very important or essential, while only about 40% gave that rating to “being very well off financially.” But roughly 20-30 years later, the polls almost completely reversed (about 45% to 75% respectively) (Jefferson Fish). Showing that people have switched from developing close meaningful relationships to being so concerned on their future and earning as much money as possible. The healthy balance of work and play found in many other countries seems impossible to accomplish in America.
It takes more money to feed the need for more things. Therefore, life for many Americans is filled with long hours at work and less hours at play. Comfort and peace are not achieved through quality time with family and friends, but with a new electronic device and bigger home. Like drugs, materialism gives a short time high and leaves the user in a state worse than before. Materialism in America pushes and pulls at most of us. It pushes us to work harder and achieve more.
However, the achievements are thin and meaningless when compared to the great accomplishments life has to offer. Getting married and starting a family are two major life changes that many put on hold because the situation is not perfect. Owning a home was often a goal for young couples to achieve before having children. The increasing power of materialism has taken that simple plan and magnified it. Now that same young couple will keep waiting until they have the right house in a prestigious neighborhood. Those points in life that give it true meaning are held back by the desire to be measured against a ruler that is constantly changing.
Americans are guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The fullness of the American dream includes the belief that we all have these rights and should never be held back from achieving them. The pursuit of happiness does not mean the pursuit of the most current technology or an upgraded vehicle. It was the right to achieve the most basic and simple desires, regardless of where you stood in the social pecking order. However, materialism has changed that.
It has led us backwards on the path the great leaders of our country forged.