Below are excerpts from Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, by John DeGraaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002). See also Affluenza at PBS.
"We hear the same refrain all the time from people: I have no life. I get up in the morning, daycare, eldercare, a 40 minute commute to work. I have to work late. I get home at night, there's laundry, bills to pay, jam something into the microwave oven. I'm exhausted, I go to sleep, I wake up and the routine begins all over again. This is what life has become in America."
-- Gerald Celente
"We are a nation that shouts at a microwave oven to hurry up."
-- Joan Ryan, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Today's unfettered celebration of wealth and the things money can buy has created an in-your-face, 'I'm rich and you're not' attitude that pigeonholes people as winners or losers, princes or paupers."
-- Gerald Celente
"I go to Bloomingdale's, to the fourth floor, and I buy 2,000 of the black bras, 2,000 of the beige, 2,000 of the white. And I ship them around between the homes and the boat and that's the end of it for maybe half a year when I have to do it all over again."
-- Ivana Trump
"The only chance of satisfaction we can imagine is getting more of what we have now. But what we have now makes everybody dissatisfied. So what will more of it do -- make us more satisfied, or more dissatisfied?"
-- Jeremy Seabrook
"More than ever, we have big houses and broken homes, high incomes and low morale, secured rights and diminished civility. We excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose. We cherish our freedoms but long for connection. In an age of plenty, we feel spiritual hunger."
-- David Meyer
Henry David Thoreau in Life Without Principle: "Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives. The world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle...There is no sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work. I cannot easily buy a blank book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for dollars and cents...I think there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business."
Donella Meadows in Beyond Limits: "People don't need enormous cars, they need respect. They don't need closets full of clothes, they need to feel attractive and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don't need electronic equipment; they need something worthwhile to do with their lives. People need identity, community, challenge, acknowledgement, love, and joy. To try to fill these needs with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to real and never-satisfied problems. The resulting psychological emptiness is one of the major forces behind the desire for material growth."
Karl Marx, Economic And Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: "The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation to the increase in value of the world of things."
Benjamin Barber, A Place For Us: "Markets flatter our solitary egos but leave our yearnings for community unsatisfied. They advance individualistic, not social, goals, and they encourage us to speak the language of 'I want' not the language of 'we need.' "
James Kuntsler, The Geography of Nowhere: "The trouble with being consumers is that consumers have no duties or responsibilities or obligations to their fellow consumers. Citizens do. They have the obligations to care about their fellow citizens, and about the integrity of the town's environment and history."
The following is referenced in the text and footnoted:
-- 46 acres of prime American farmland are lost to "development" every hour. (p.13)
-- 1957 was the year the percentage of Americans describing themselves as "very happy" reached a peak never to be exceeded for the rest of the 20th century. (p.24)
-- The kinds of goods in the 1970s considered luxuries that are today thought to be necessities: dishwashers, clothes dryers, central heating and air conditioning, color and cable TV. In 1970 there were no microwave ovens, VCRs, CD players, cell phones, fax machines, compact discs, leaf blowers, Pokemon, or personal computers. (p.28)
-- America's 102 million households currently contain and consume more stuff than all other households throughout history, put together. (p. 36)
-- The average size of new homes is now more than double what it was in the 1950s, while families are smaller. (p. 24)
-- Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($80 billion) than on higher education ($65 billion). (p. 13)
-- Since 1950, the amount of land in American communities devoted to public uses -- parks, civic buildings, schools, churches, and so on -- decreased by a fifth, while the percentage of income spent for house mortgages and rental payments increased from a fifth to a full half, according to the American Planning Association. (p. 66)
1. The film American Beauty. An unsparing, unabashed look at American suburbia which raises all sorts of questions about meaning, freedom, beauty and truth.
2. Books touching upon some aspect or other of the themes above:
Alfred Adler, What Life Should Mean To You.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
Thomas Frank, One Market Under God. (Frank is the editor of The Baffler.)
Erich Fromm, The Sane Society; To Have Or To Be?
Lewis Lapham, Hotel America; Waiting for the Barbarians.
Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine (2 volumes.)
Jacob Needelman, Money and the Meaning of Life.
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death.
Jeremy Rifkin, The End of Work.
Clifford Stoll, Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway.