Here is the discussion post for the second installment of the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club. Next Tuesday, I'll start posting the discussion questions for the In Defense of Food book club.
"Two book clubs?" you say? "That's crazy!" Yes, it is.
So, you can look forward to dueling book club posts with each book getting a discussion post every other Tuesday. Got it?
Chapter 6. Family convulsions: In this chapter, the authors suggest that affluenza breeds a certain type of discontent in family relationships, especially marriages that start off with a huge spending spree (wedding and honeymoon), producing large debt right at the outset and expectations for lots of acquisitions (wedding presents and purchases to set up house).
Family time is spent on shopping trips and people get into the mindset of buying the next, new improved item to make themselves feel better. This sort of mentality can bleed into personal relationships where one starts looking into "upgrading" their spouse for a better, newer, more flashy version.
Do you feel like you are always on the hunt for the new improved product or clothes? Do you ever consider that you could do better in your relationships with others?
I'd also like to take a look at the inverse of this problem, since I don't think too many readers of my blog or this book fall into this category. At least, I hope not. It's the problem where your spouse wants to spend a lot and you have all of a sudden become anti-consumerist (or maybe you always have been). What kind of strain does this have on your relationship with your significant other and how do you handle their desire for the latest gadget or whatever their interests are?
Chapter 7. Dilated pupils: Manufacturers have been direct marketing to kids for years now, but the increase in advertising where the negative portrayal of parents is a relatively new phenomena. Instead of the "listen to your parents, for they are wise" message many of us grew up with, kids are now bombarded by this smug, "we [the product manufacturers] really know what you need, your parents are schmucks" message. It's totally subversive and blatantly corruptive.
For those of you with older kids, or even younger ones, do you get any of this message repeated to you from your kids? If so, do you explain to them that they are being manipulated by people who just want their money (just not so directly)? Does it work or is the advertising message too powerful?
Chapter 8. Community chills: With suburban sprawl and big box chain stores pushing out independent stores, the concept of community is going extinct. There are fewer and fewer community gathering places and the culture of driving home, parking in your garage and closing the door is becoming commonplace.
For many of us, it is a trade-off. We choose to live in areas with more vibrant communities and cultural centers in spite of poorer schools, crime and other safety issues. So, in spite of having great public libraries and parks, we don't trust sending our kids there on their own because of the perceived risk.
How do you decide? Would you rather live in a suburb that lacks personality but has the benefits of newer, larger homes and better schools. Or would you pick the older, urban neighborhoods with shady safety, but with more cultural opportunities, independent stores and community areas?
Chapter 9. An ache for meaning: From a study quoted in the book they found that "middle-income people [are] deeply unhappy because they hunger to serve the common good and to contribute something with their talents and energies, yet find that their actual work gives them little opportunity to do so. They often turn to demands for more money as a compensation for a life that otherwise feels frustrating and empty."
If you don't have a job that is fulfilling (and most of us don't because, alas, those types of jobs generally don't provide a living wage), what do you do to stop the ache? Do you volunteer, donate your time in other ways, etc.?
Chapter 10. Social scars: In this chapter, the authors argue that pushing the ideals of affluenza on the masses creates an upper class that keeps on consuming and a lower class that can't possibly afford to obtain that lifestyle so they resort to crime because it's too difficult to live with dissatisfaction and feelings of worthlessness.
Is there merit to this assumption and, if so, how do we turn off this message being fed to the poor?