Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Affluenza book discussion (chapters 6 - 10)

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicHere 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?


Susan M.B. Sullivan said...

I should be in bed but I can't sleep.
Ch 6. Since I'm single financially, but in a LTR, I don't have the same issues with being anti-consumerism and having a consumer spouse. But my partner and I are vastly different in this area. I handle it by not participating in things that aren't a priority, not getting too hung up on small things (so what if he wants to put snacks on the grocery list?) and trying to remember that not everyone was blessed/cursed with the super-cheap gene. Thanks alot Dad! It is much better now that I've found my backbone and say what I do and don't want to do.

Ch7: We don't watch TV, only movies, but the kids watch a fair amount at Dad's house (more's the pity). I can't tell how much of "Mom's a schmuck" comes from society and advertising and how much from being thirteen. We do sometimes talk about advertising. I don't think they believe me, and I do see some affluenza but I'm trying to plant a seed. My 13 yo was talking about how we need to work a lot and make a lot of money in case something bad happens and to get a bigger house. I asked "How much do you need to be secure if something bad happens? How big does your house need to be?" and he couldn't answer.

Ch 8: I have chosen a small town suburban neighborhood, as opposed to a larger, more transient, more cultural, less safe town. I have more community here. I see my neighbors on the bike trail, at City Council, at community gatherings, the grocery store, church, etc. I see other people's kids walking around all the time who don't remember that I know their mother. I'm just a crazy lady on a bike to them. I'm watching, and I hope that when my kids are out others are watching.

Ch 9: I'm so hopped up on working to better the world, I can't sleep at night. My new venture is completely exciting and fulfilling, and my day job, if done well, can and has changed lives. It also has a lot of tedium and bureaucratic nonsense, and when it gets me down, I remember that that's what I have to do to make a difference with this job. But I can't slow down enough to relax what with having to save the world and all. It's the opposite problem.

Ch 10: I don't know. I don't have enough experience. But I do know that often when I am with poor people, I wish I had the peace that I can tell they have. It's rare to find that sense of peace among the people in my workaday world. We have more goods but are less content.

Thanks for the book club! Best wishes to all.

DC said...

Aggressively marketing things to kids is really what keeps affluenza going. When you are bombarded with pro-consumer messages from a very young age, it's very difficult to overcome this mindset as an adult. It's nearly impossible to explain to young children that the flashy ads they see for new toys are poisoning their minds and screwing up the world. We try to limit our son's exposure to these types of things, but it's tough.

Even the elementary schools are trying to turn our kids into happy little big box shoppers. Every year, our son's school has a fundraiser where the kids are encouraged to sell as much crap as possible. The school allows sales representatives from the fundraising company to come into the classroom and give the kiddies a big marketing spiel about all the super duper fun prizes they'll win if they sell a enough. This starts in kindergarten. Then they hang up fundraising posters all over the school halls that constantly remind the kids of all the neat-o stuff they can GET, GET, GET. The PTA even has a special party for the class that ends up selling the most stuff. The two things they sell are gift wrap (that contains no recycled paper) and chocolate (that isn't fair trade). Just lovely.

I thought about making a pitch to end this type of fundraiser, but when I went to a PTA meeting, I saw what I was up against. The meeting was half Amway convention, half Wal-mart shareholders' meeting. The parents were sooooooooo reved up about making money for the school, and they all really wanted their kids to be the junior capitalist of the year. The school is not hurting for money. Last year, they used a big chunk of the fundraising money to buy a $10,000 sign.

P.S.-at my son's school, you have to pay money to join the PTA.

Good grief.

Tara said...

A comment to dc: I'm not a fan of those fundraisers myself. My daughter doesn't participate and we don't buy from the kids who come around. Instead I give them a couple of bucks as a donation directly to their school. Of course, this doesn't put them in the running for the neat-o "prizes" they can win but my daughter has learned that these are usually pieces of garbage that fall apart in two days anyway...
and then end up in the landfill.

Jennifer said...

Chapter 6:
I have to say our relationship started out similar to this... on a much smaller scale. We had a small (but extravagant for us) wedding, with money given to us ONLY for a wedding... no debt. However, we did spend a lot... $5000 (national average is $25,000 in comparison) for US, as poor college students. We also recieved many gifts to set up house... and bought a small cottage.

We spent many weekends looking for things to buy and glorying in consumerism... luckily, we are somehwat smart and were only consumers in our very small budget. Which means, we didn't actually BUY hardly anything. However, the mindset is there.

We have slowly been weaning ourselves off of that. It's been an easier journey for us than for many, as we already had some of the values in place (such as suggesting to our mortgage broker and real estate that NO, we didn't want to spend $20,000 more. We wanted this tiny cottage because we could COMFORTABLY afford it.) We realized that the HUNT was what we were after with our shopping and consumerism... and that we could still fufill that in better ways.

Now, we still shop... but it is at our local Habitat ReStore for energy efficient doors and windows and all sorts of used building supplies. Not a perfect, non-consumer approach... but it fills that "need", and gets us things we want for our house remodle in socially responsible ways.

Chapter 8:

Right now, we live in an older, sort of run down neighborhood right by downtown and across form the library. I LOVE it. LOVE it. I have no children yet, though. My neighborhood is safe enough... but I don't know if I could move to a bigger city and find the same neighborhood and feel safe for my children.
On another point, there are mixed development communities like Stapleton in Denver that are new developments in the city that have strived to CREATE a community, with LOTS of walking paths connecting houses and small stores (no big boxes) and parks. I've read lots of interviews with the occupants who love it for the community.

Chapter 10:
I am VERY lucky that I am able to feel I make a difference with my work; as does my husband. We both teach music, and I perform.

HOwever, we have made lots of sacrifices and concessions to NOT having everthing in order to be happy in our jobs. Our friends are buying huge new (or old) houess, driving new cars, buying cute clothes, etc. We are so happy in life with our 800 sf cottage and goodwill clothes and 10 year old cars. Some of our happiness has come from deciding that we DON"T care and SHOULDN"t care what others have.

I agree that those jobs don't usually have a living wage. My husband is a public school orchestra teacher, and DOES make a living wage at $30,000. He is very lucky to be paid as well for doing the one thing he wants to do. He loves it.

I, however, am lucky that I am partnered with someone who makes a living wage, as my job pays very little.... $12,000 a year. It's truly rewarding in many ways... I teach early childhood musicthrough a non-profit, and many of my students are lower income or disadvantaged children who wouldn't get to have this experience otherwise (as music is cut out of the schools). I also get to be a performing musician, and play wonderful music with other great musicians. Lucky me!

But together we are able to live comfortably.

Deb G said...

Chapter 6: Nope, not on the hunt for new and improved. When it comes to stuff, I like it old and used. I've seen this attitude in roommates though. And sadly, in friendships. I have one friend from college that drifted away. I suspect I wasn't "yuppie" enough as she became more and more successful.

No spouse to have conflicts about how money is spent.

Chapter 7: No kids to have the marketing issues with. I don't think it's possible to take a trip to the grocery store during prime shopping hours without seeing this in action though.

Chapter 8: I was miserable the one year I lived in suburbia. Much happier with older neighborhoods. I am very, very lucky in the community that I live in. It is relatively safe and has lots of community events. It's an area that really works to build community (free concerts in the park during the summer, farmer's market, buy local....). I do know most of my neighbors, walking the dog helps with that a lot. Would I turn a child loose to play in the way my parents did when my brothers and I were young? I don't know....

Chapter 9: I'm lucky, my job is fulfilling. But it is a sacrifice in pay (wasn't a living wage until I sold my car). I have enough to get by, but can't travel the way I would love to. Ah well, then I'd feel guilty about emissions.

Chapter 10: Not sure about this.

Jennifer said...

A comment on Fundraisers:

My mother, too, was of the "donate instead of sell" camp. I am so thankful to her. Every year she would call the school, and find out EXACTLY how much the school got from my "required" sales (usually 25% to 40%), and send a check off for that amount. She did this even as a struggling single mother and grad student.

I plan on doing the same for OUR future children.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the book.
CH 6-I am on the hunt for any pruduct that will help my sustainability, but I don't find too much really worth buying. I don't need new clothes in fact I have taken a pledge to only wear clothes I find from dumpsters. I started blogging about it here-
CH-7, My kids only watch PBS and videos. This really helps a lot. Alos talking to them about how much they *really* need is important.
CH 8 We have chosen to live in a neighborhood in a large town. It is safe and things aren't too far away. Biking distance.
CH 9 I quit work 7 years ago and don't really want to return. I have recently started volunteering and find it *very* rewarding. My husband only works 24 hrs/week with part time benifits. I feel lucky and we have lots of family time.
CH 10-Not sure, it seems it would have to be a huge flip to really change things.

Lisa Zahn said...

ch. 6--my husband and I are trying hard to work as a "team" where it comes to our finances. We have had a spendthrift past (not too much, but plenty considering our income), but we are getting much better at wise spending and getting out of debt. Environmental and economic concerns have helped here a lot.

ch. 7--we talk to our kids a lot about media and advertising. They seem to get it but they still want what their friends have. We try to get them some of those things (as do their grandparents in a much bigger way), but they definitely have modest amounts of toys and clothes compared to others we know.

ch. 8--we choose to live in an older, urban area for exactly the reasons you stated. Our kids are safe on our block but that's as far as they go without an adult. That makes me sad as I had a childhood with much more freedom, but even in the "supposedly safe" suburbs these days kids are in the house all the time. I feel this is an area of our current society where we are doing a great deal of harm to our kids. However, we do love our neighborhood and our neighbors and the walkability to our small city's downtown, library, parks, etc. What more can we do?

That's all I'm going to write for now! Ch. 9 and 10 didn't strike me as personally.


Anonymous said...

I'm on CH 10. This poor library is dogeared!

I've taken it everywhere to read. The woman who did my hair inquired about what I was reading and it started a great conversation!

Since beginning Affluenza, I've been dreaming (nightmare) about the subjects in this book. I need to close it for good so I can get some sleep!

Anonymous said...

Ch 6. I'm all about making stuff vs buying stuff. I've always been of the mindset - gee I'd like to have X how can I make that? My husband (and kids) are pretty good about their wants and keeping whatever in check (for the most part). My husband will go a long time and then all of a sudden "needs" something, but I don't really make that much of a stink about it 'cause there's such a long time between wants. And my kids have pretty simple desires - they like to go places (swimming, hiking etc) and do craft projects more than anything.
Ch7.Just the other day my 10 year old saw a commercial for some supersonic pest control device, and said "wow that looks realy neat" I said "too bad it doesn't work" and she asked how I knew. I told her that if there was a device such as that that Did work and didn't drive other beings away (dogs, birds, and people specifically) did she really think they'd sell it for $20? Wouldn't it rather be some proprietary thing that only certified pest control specialists could use or cost hundreds of dollars?
This is an example of commercial training. Just because a child doesn't watch TV doesn't mean they won't be exposed to commercials. They're everywhere, in magazines, on the computer, on their friend's clothes, on the side of the darn road for crying out loud! There's no escaping them so better to educate the family to recognise when they're being sold and gve them critical thinking skills to deal with it.
Ch8 We chose neither. We chose to buy an old house rather than build new. we live in the country. There isn't much around. True there aren't many places you can walk to, and since it's mountainous biking isn't terribly practical either, but we border a state park and can walk right out our back door and be on vacation.
ch9. I wouldn't say that my job is fulfilling - I drive a school bus. But It's necessary, and I love children and do want them to get to school safely, and being an on again off again kind of job I can fit it into my Mom lifestyle. The Mom job is where I find meaning. There is no more important task than rearing self sufficient, kind, thoughtful(like critical thinking and also thinking of others) people. When my kids are finally all grown I hope to transition that into a fulfilling Grammy role (there are 17 years between #1 and #3 so it may come sooner than that).
Ch 10. I think it can be like that. Think about it, Cribs and Pimp my ride those are like million dollar projects, they sell it so magnificently. All though history the poorer classes have wanted what the upper classes had. In a local museum there is a house from the 18th century where this is clearly evident. The Man wanted fancy moldings and high end details in his half-house that the more well to do merchants had and went into terrible debt because of it (the house is still a half-house today too 'cause he never did afford to add the other half). But I'm an optimist, and I think that there are some lower income people who are content to be where they are. I'm not rich by any means. I have what I need and am happy with that.

~mel said...

Ch 6. We haven't ever been spend crazy, but we've been in a little debt. We have no debt other than our mortgage and car--car paid off in a year--now. I'm working harder this year to save more. My husband is on board, but would probably not do it on his own.

Ch 7. I really hate the messages that kids are getting. I limit TV with my kids, only PBS--a small amount, and DVDs. Unfortunately advertising is everywhere. I do not give in to my children's every whim though. They are young, 4 and 2, so I haven't yet started talking to them about the brainwashing from advertisers. My 4 year old may be getting old enough to start understanding though, so I think we'll start talking about this soon.

Ch 8. I would like to live in a smaller town where people know each other and hopefully care about each other. Walkability would be great too. We don't have that where we are now.

I would love to live in some of the towns I've seen and heard about that have kept chain and big box stores from coming in, but I don't think that will happen for us. I would like to have local shops to purchase from though, as I don't have much right now, living on the outskirts of a large city with chain/big box stores up the wazoo!

Ch 9. Right now I stay home with my children. I will work outside the home again once they are in school. It will most likely be part time, around their school schedule. I would love to have a meaningful job, but I'll have to wait and see what the opportunities are when the time comes. Right now I do volunteer, and I plan to continue that once I am working outside the home again.

Ch 10. I think there is probably some truth to that. Unfortunately, unless we stop our consumeristic ways, I don't know that it will change.

Catherine said...

6-My husband has always been pretty frugal except when it comes to buying toys for our kids. It's the old story of not feeling like he had much when he was a kid and wanting our kids to have everything. It gets so that by the time birthdays come around there isn't anything left to get the kids because he buys them things as they want it. Fortunately, they don't have a lot of wants yet they're 5 and 2. My weakness is buying new books but I'm heading to the library more often these days. Other than that I think we do pretty well.

7-We're another no tv family. Just videos. My kids are young and so far it's working out.

8-I think we have the best of both worlds, housing wise. We're close to a big city, but we're in a suburb. We chose our house based on safety and schools and got lucky that it's a very culturally diverse neighborhood with an active community center and all that. What peeves me is that we did have to stretch our budget to buy in here. If we hadn't saved like maniacs and been completely debt free for several years beforehand there would have been no way we could have lived here. We're lucky, though, that our home is so close to my husband's work that he bikes or jogs most days.

9-Ok, I know the children are the future and I love my kids crazy and all, but staying at home with them drains my soul. I'm looking for work currently but finding that when the added expense of daycare is considered it's super hard to find something fulfilling and profitable.

Anonymous said...

I have dual issues with my partner - I'm the one pushing for spending (Honey, your pants have a hole in them. You have to get another pair. "But the thrift shop raised their price to $9! I don't need another pair yet.") and he's the one pushing for both of us to do more wage work.

I don't know what to do about it. I was a stay at home mom for a year and a half, then worked at home for 6 months, but that didn't make enough money (didn't cover child care costs). So I looked for a part time job but none of them paid enough. I'm working full time and it's a big strain on our family but my partner is really worried about money and when I wasn' working he was driving me *crazy* and we were starting to fight about it.

Anonymous said...

Let's just say affluenza burns my bum. Not the book, but the concept.
As DC mentioned I remember the school fundraisers where they showed you all the "cool" stuff you could get for selling $10 worth or $50 worth or$100 worth...
I think I was in the fifth or sixth grade when our school started those things. Or maybe that's when we moved to a city where they did those things.

My Dad's a Marine and we lived on base, but went to school off. You can't sell things on base unless they're military approved, so us Marine brats were already at a disadvantage over the other kids.
Add to it that my Hippie mother was AGAINST the whole concept. She just donated to the school.
What really got me though was that the kids who didn't sell anything or as much were made to feel rotten by the school and the marketers.
Now, as a parent, I'm fighting marketing with a three year old. (She's way too young to believe stuff will make her happy, but don't let the corporate world know!)
We won't buy her things with logos, even fruit snacks and she doesn't get T.V. She does have movies, but spends most of her time playing. I think when school starts for her I'm going to have to take the same stance as my Mother.
Teaching kids that happiness is bought it atrocious and those people should be called to account.

Anonymous said...

Chapter Six:
After sixteen years of marriage my former wife and I parted ways. I can still hear the echoes of one of her parting comments. "I want to be rich! Really rich! And you're not getting me there."

I suppose that's an indication of the strain introduced by our divergent values. (When our relationship began, I was struggling to be accepted in the mainstream and do the "right thing," while my ex was trying on some liberal thinking. For many years it seemed as if we'd found middle ground, but in the end I went back to my non-conformist ways while she found a multi-millionaire for marriage number two.

Chapter Seven:
I face a triple challenge. 1) teenage sons, 2) marketing influence, and, 3) the comparison between the millionaire lifestyle on one side and "dad's shack" (without a TV, god forbid) on the other side.

All three are powerful enough on their own. In combination, well, time will tell . . .

Chapter Eight:
Neither. Never been a fan of suburbia, but I recognize the downsides to the urban environments as well.

Chapter Nine:
I've opted for the meaningful work at the expense of income (in addition to equal amounts of volunteer work). The downside has been the lack of medical insurance. I hope to some day figure out a way to insure myself for potentially expensive health care expenses in the event of an accident or illness, but I won't do it at the expense of those things that I value most in my life's work.

All the best,

crstn85 said...

I teach high school in a low income city so my pay is not so high, but the rewards are limitless. I also find some time to volunteer on the weekends, partly because I like an excuse to swing a hammer. I don't feel like I'm making huge sacrifices to live life this way, but of course I'm not a big spender in the first place.

My students all have ipods, fancy cell phones and some even have the iphone! These same students are on free and reduced lunch (it only costs $1.25 to start with too). Priorities are really skewed, and most of them have no concept of how very expensive the toys they have are. I try to teach them about this, but there is a lot to overcome.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 6: I'm lucky in that my spouse and I are pretty even in our levels of consumption. I splurge more often, but he splurges bigger, so we have the same "allowance." Lately, all of my splurges have been related to green living, so I can at least feel morally superior to his archery equipment.

While neither of us fit the affluenza profile in the book, we are still living just below our means. And our means are better than the local average, so the fact that we have no savings, disturbs me. I think it's our fondness for restaurants that is kicking our butts, so I am working to change this. And *that* is where the marital conflict begins -- he likes to go out, just for the change of scene and to have someone wait on him "hand and foot." So we keep spending more money on restaurants than on our mortgage payment and I am quite unhappy about it.

Chapter 7: No kids. I do have frequent contact with my 5 month old cousin. I'll be reading up on kids and consumerism soon, so I can be prepared, and so I can recommend the best books to his busy parents.

Channel One, menioned in the book, began when I was in junior high. We had vending machines in our halls, and we were allowed to drink sodas and eat food in class. My high schoo didn't even have a cafeteria; we were encouraged to drive out to restaurants during our lunch hour. I KNOW what the book is talking about!

Chapter 8: I live in the suburbs, in a 20-year-old development. When it was first built, the neighborhood was a typical way-out-on-the-edge-of-town suburb, but the city grew around it, so now it's like living in town. Most of our neighbors are "blue collar" workers who became successful enough to buy their own homes. Almost every house has a truck or van with a business-name painted on the doors. My neighbors may be suburbanites, but they don't care about keeping up with the joneses any more than I do. There is a sense of pride in being blue-collar, and that pride leads to open scorn for conspicuous consumption.

We know most of our neighbors at least by name. We want to focus more on building community, so in the next year I will: give away some veggies to my neighbors, help one neighbor start her own veggie garden, have a summer barbeque and invite everyone on the block, spend several hours working in my front yard during the times of day when most people jog or walk their dogs, and when I pull into my driveway the same time as one of my neighbors I won't just wave and yell hello, I will *walk over* and have a *conversation*. Maybe in a few years, we'll be one of those tool and ride sharing communities!

Chapter 9: I went through a lot of soul-sucking jobs before I discovered that I could be a gardener and get paid for it. No, I don't earn enough to live on (I rely on Sweetienookums's job and health insurance). Actually, when I subtract out the money I no longer spend on therapy to help me deal with the soul-sucking jobs, and the money I don't spend on toys to make my feel good about my soul-sucking jobs, I have the same real hourly wage as I used to have. And I could, with more effort, in a couple of years, make my business more profitable. But the amount of money I earn now is enough for me, provided Sweetienookums doesn't ever get laid off. *crossed fingers*

Anonymous said...

Not reading the book, but...
Our biggest issue is that I want the debt gone and my husband wants the newest gadget. What makes it difficult is that he needs a lot of the gadgets to keep up his knowledge and experience to help with his job. His knowledge and experience help him advance, etc. Ugh!

We don't watch tv. The kids understand that dad works to buy the things they want and need. The haven't made the connection that if they didn't have any wants and needs, they would get to spend more time with Dad.

I was brought up to be active in the community. My kids want to help as well. I have to keep my daughter from giving away all of her toys.

I am a leader in a local mom support club. I plan to be active on the PTA when the club doesn't take all my time. I would REALLY like to do foster care and environmental education. I need to do more to help the community. Trying to figure out the best way to work around family needs.

We live in suburbia, but I shop at stores where people know/recognize me. I have enough connections that it feels like a small town, even though it isn't.

Christy said...

I really just want to talk about chapter 7. We own a TV, we watched the tv quite a bit and I have an 8 year old son. He used to watch a lot of cartoons and see a lot of commercials. Starting at the age of 4 he got an allowance every week that he could spend anyway he wanted. At first he wanted many of the things he saw in the commercials. We talked about the things we saw in the commercials and which things were true and which were made up. He bought many of the things he saw in commercials and he discovered they usually weren't as fun or as well made as claimed in the commercials. It took him maybe 2-3years of buying things he saw on commercials when he had the money for them, but he did realize commercials lie and exaggerate. He still gets a weekly allowance but hasn't spent it in over 6 months. He no longer wants things he sees in commercials. They have no power over him.

Personally, I think it is better for a child to realize on their own at a young age that commercials are meant to manipulate us, than to shelter them from commercials until they are older. Not seeing them when you are young doens't make you immune to them when you are older. I know at the age of 8 that my son is immune to commercials.

Anonymous said...


Man you're really lucky. You're son must really infer about his world more than most kids.
We don't keep Smidgeon away from the TV to keep her "uncontaminated", but because we don't want the bills. We have an antennae and on a Blue Moon when the stars are aligned we get three channels, otherwise we get two (Public Television and the local station) it's just not worth the fuss. Movies also commercialize kids and they're actually sneakier about it. Disney's the worst!
Most kids don't figure out commericalism at 8, actually I have a 32 year old brother who still hasn't figured it out. *Grin*. Basically it's person to person and you just have to watch your family and see how they react.
What we've figured out it that if you forbid it, it becomes desireable. So Smidgeon is allowed movies and TV when we're somewhere where there is a TV, but we don't emphasize it so it's not important.

Anonymous said...

I set up a salon at my place a month from now in the spirit of Affluenza!

Affluenza shall be the topic of discussion & there is a diverse group of liberals, conservatives, libertarians,cops, & treehuggers participating!

Some are already suggesting future topics & activities.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 6:
Okay, I'm a single gal but this issue is still important in my mind because I am looking and I do want to get married at some point. Sometimes I worry in this culture about commitment... like, can I stay committed to that person? Will he stay committed to me? Also, I know that discussing financial things will be a big part of preparing for that future... I'd like to live frugally enough to work fewer hours and/or stay home with any kids. Maybe it's silly to think about now, as a single woman, but it's important to me.

Chapter 7:
We were just talking about this issue at work recently. Me and some of the other gals in the museum have noticed kids that are eating the entire time they're in the museum. Lunch, snacks, juice. It's such a fight to keep people from eating around the exhibits. Kids are pressuring their parents into buying them all kinds of snacks and candy. My parents weren't perfect about the food they gave us as kids, but they knew how to say no for our own good.
Also, a recent newspaper article about the economic stimulus plan said that there were many people planning on using the money to buy toys. Wasn't Christmas just a few weeks ago? Between that and the madness over things like Hannah Montana tickets and I have to say that kids (and parents) are really slaves to the marketing machine.

Chapter 8
Man, I wish I'd been in Portugal longer to be part of the cafe culture. I have lots of little groups of friends and I'm always trying to arrange get-togethers, but my friends are from all over the place. The only time I see my neighbors is when something bad happens, like a house fire or a car crash. This has become even more severe than when I was a kid. I used to hang out with the neighbor kids. Now I never see neighborhood kids playing together. It's really sad.

Chapter 9:
As a Christian I am to always find fulfillment in the Lord. And I do, but it's a constant struggle against the desires of the world. It's so sad that people--including myself, a person who is supposed to have fulfillment--wander around, searching for meaning, for connection, for real community. I often find the desire to buy things, to get more stuff instead of doing things for others. I do love that I can be creative and I can help others in the community through my job, but I know I want more of that.

Chapter 10:
I taught last year in the inner city. I think I will end up teaching in the inner city again. That said, it was always appalling to me to see that the same students who couldn't afford basic school supplies had expensive phones and hairdos. Talk about messed up priorities! These are kids living on junk food and having to move to another apartment (or worse, shelters) because of this desire toward entertainment and image.

I don't think it will change until more people in America start caring about the issue. I'm not holding my breath. It really is depressing. The only way to motivate many of my students to learn was to talk about how college educations would help them have more money. Isn't that sad? It takes money to motivate. Forget about learning for the joy of learning. I think it will take a real social revolution for people to start taking steps to truly help those in poverty.

Anonymous said...

Chapter 6

In our family, my husband was the original anti-consumer. I grew up learning truly horrid financial habits--not even so much consumerist, as just BAD BAD BAD. Many of the early years of our marriage (and a few of the later years of our "courtship") were spent trying to negotiate our spending and financial habits. I am proud to say that I believe I've unlearned a lot of my bad habits, and replaced them with better ones. Our family is vastly more financially stable than I think either of us ever expected, and we're both increasingly happy pushing the anti-consumerist envelope.

Chapter 7

I was *stunned* when I saw a discussion of this years ago in Morgan Spurlock's "Don't Eat This Book". Once you've seen the argument, it's hard to deny, too. Manufacturers will do anything to sell their product, up to and including destroying the parent-child relationship. This is one of the many reasons we've rejected tv in our house--I just didn't feel that I could compete with the advertising (and was angered that I was even being put in this position).

Of course, our children are exposed to commercials anyway, even if not at the rate as most kids in our culture. When they see commercials on tv, we try and use them as teaching moments. I got this idea from "Unplugging the Christmas Machine." When tv ads come on, we ask questions like, "Is this a tv show or a commercial?" "What are they selling?" "How are they making the product look good?" and "How are the people behaving? Do you like these people?" Our kids are still pretty young, and these questions are really hard for them, but I hope we're giving them some of the training they'll need to disambiguate the medium from the message.

Chapter 8

We live, both by preference and necessity, in a smallish midwestern town that's not really a suburb of anything. Really, I'm now living exactly where I've always wanted to live--on a city street with lots of old houses, old-growth trees, a big yard for my garden, friendly neighbors, etc. We can walk to school, and bike just about anywhere (our part of the midwest is FLAT--why more people don't bike around here, I'll never understand!). I am primarily concerned not with violence or crime (although our car does keep getting broken into and we've got a raging meth problem), but mostly worried about my kids getting hit by cars. If we didn't let our kids go somewhere by themselves, it would be the car-safety issue driving it, not the violence/crime issue.

Chapter 9

I have a job that is very fulfilling, in that I'm a stay-at-home mom, homemaker, and rabid community organizer/volunteer. My husband is a philosophy professor at our local university. I know that he often struggles with value in his job. It's a shame, since he used to derive so much satisfaction from teaching philosophy, but the combination of increasingly poor students with increasingly irrelevant work duties wears on him. I believe he does find value in making enough money to secure our living, and giving me the time to pursue various projects like cowshares and beginning a community cooperative market. I hope these things add value to his life, as his work is essential to them happening.

Chapter 10

I'm at a loss here. I have no suggestions for how to help the poor turn off the consumer message--the "I'm inadequate" message. The problems of class and class perception in our society are so complex that any potential solution will admit so many problems that the cure might be worse than the disease. My only hope is that strengthening community ties can start to chip away at this problem.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add to Kevin (gypsy) Rose that it just hurts my heart to read what your ex said to you. I am grateful every day that my husband and I were able, with difficulty, to finally get on the same page on our financial goals (well, more or less anyway). I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

My fiance and I are on different pages with consumerism. He definitely likes flashy, luxurious cars, eating out, and fancy gadgets like plasma T.V.s and "RockBand" (Xbox Game), and fun electronics. My anti-consumerism has been growing steadily since I was young when I was captivated by LL Bean ads. Granted, their pocketknives, snowpants, and boots last forever, and I still have them now, 10 years later. Back to my fiance, I don't push what I believe on him. I think a lot of times, it's a process to figure out what's genuine in your life, and what's fluff. It's my own challenge not to act all holier-than-thou because I BIKE to work, and I REMEMBERED the reusable bags. That would be pretty crappy of me. He's recently made some of his own discoveries- like, hey, I like RC cars (expensive, gas-running ones). But then I suggested a work-bench to work on it. (I LOVE WORKBENCHES!) Now, we spend more time together, working at the workbench. Sure, he's working on an RC car, and I'm working on my xtracycle, but it doesn't matter. He's learning that real time together feels a lot better than watching a movie. It's a process to become anti-consumer, and it won't happen overnight. I'm learning to teach my values without becoming all righteous and snide about it. We'll both be better people, and better parents someday for it. The trick is, before you teach someone, you have to understand them. His love of technology comes from a fascination with it. Lately? That fancy plasma has been tuned into a lot of engineering shows. Bad: I don't think I really like dam building. Good: we have a conversation about it. National Geographic does a pretty good job covering the pros and cons. Fancy plasma has also been tuned into climate change specials, and polar bear tracking teams. There's a silver lining to the process, in my case, I just have to look for it.