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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Affluenza book discussion (chapters 19 - 21)

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicHere is the discussion post for the fifth installment of the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club.

Don't forget! Next week starts the Ask Dave Wann giveaway contest. Submit your interview questions starting Monday, March 24th, for Dave to answer and I'll select six questions. From those six, I'll be drawing two winners of his new book, Simple Prosperity.

For those of you who want to prep a little more than just reading Affluenza, here's an interview with Dave on Sustainable World Radio and an article he wrote, Fabric of America is Fraying, for you to check out.

Chapter 19. The age of affluenza - Even though advertising really hit its stride in the 1980s, one can see the seeds sown as far back as 1957 when the marketing director for the Chicago Tribune stated, "advertising's most important social function is to integrate the individual into our present-day American high-speed consumption economy." He also stated that, "the average individual doesn't make anything... he buys everything, and our economy is geared to the faster and faster tempo of his buying, based on wants which are created by advertising in large degree."

Over the average American's lifetime, one will watch nearly two years worth of TV commercials. The result of this is that the average American can identify fewer than ten types of plants but can recognize hundreds of corporate logos. If you read the paper, view websites (news or otherwise), watch TV or listen to the radio, you are being bombarded by media messaging. Unless you live a hermit's life, it's impossible to escape the billboards and bus advertising.

There's even an advertising campaign running right now about moonvertising. This really ground my crackers when I first saw the ads for it and y'all almost got an earful until I found out that it's a joke. Either way, the concept truly disturbs me.

Do you feel like you are manipulated by the barrage of advertising? Or do you believe you can shut it out? Would you be averse to something like moonvertising, where logos or commercials are projected onto the moon or do you think it's okay?

Chapter 20. Is there a (real) doctor in the house? - The underlying idea of this chapter is that PR (that's public relations for you hermits) equals covert culture shaping and opinion spinning. In other words, it sounds like they are the modern day mafia of misinformation.

A few examples of spin-doctoring include: funding and sponsoring environmental groups that have been hounding a company for years and, essentially, absorbing the enemy while green-washing the company; "book burning" or obtaining book tour itineraries and using a variety of tactics to sabotage the tours (one example included calling and cancelling appearances); campaigns to infiltrate actors (covert commercial agents) into ordinary situations to "talk up" a product to garner interest; front groups like the American Council on Science and Health that is funded by Burger King, Coca-Cola, NutraSweet, Monsanto, Dow, Exxon and others. The list of tactics is seemingly endless.

The issue at play here with all this "information" is its quality. How do you determine the validity of a product's assertion of health, success or whatever it's trying to promote? How can you tell if what they are promoting is accurate?

Part Three: Treatment
Chapter 21. The road to recovery - This chapter is comprised of a diagnostic quiz to see if you have affluenza or if you are susceptible to it. The real test includes 50 questions, but I've culled it down to ten to give those who didn't read the book a taste:

Answer 'Yes' or 'No'. For 'Yes' answers, give yourself two points. If you are uncertain or it's too close, give yourself one point.
1. Do you get bored unless you have something to consume (goods, food, media)?
2. Do you ever use shopping as "therapy"?
3. Do you sometimes go to the mall just to look around, with nothing specific to buy?
4. Given the choice between a slight pay raise and a shorter workweek, would you choose the money?
5. Do your conversations often gravitate toward things you want to buy?
6. Do you feel like you are always in a hurry?
7. Is the price of a product more important to you than how well it was made?
8. When you shop do you often feel a rush of euphoria followed by anxiety?
9. Do you have more stuff than you can store in your house?
10. Do you watch TV more than two hours a day?

If you scored:
0 - 5: You have no serious signs of affluenza
6 - 10: You are already infected
11 - 15: Your temperature is rising quickly
16 - 20: You've got affluenza big time!

How did you score?


ruchi said...

I scored a five, but I also haven't been buying new stuff for seven months. I'm sure if I had answered the poll last July I would have scored way higher! :)

Deb G said...

I took the whole test and am relieved to say that I am affluenza free. Not perfect, but mostly. :)

I really do think that not having a TV or listening to commercial radio helps a lot with that. And I like old things, I like what I'm comfortable with and don't feel a need to constantly re-do.

It is impossible to escape advertising completely. There is no way to shut it out completely if you go out in public, if you are a part of society. A lot of people even wear advertising....

I was disturbed by the idea that was brought up a couple years ago of advertising in public parks to fund repairs and clean up. I think that it is wrong that public places take on corporate names (ball fields that are public for example). There are some places that advertising just doesn't belong.

I feel that we are incredibly manipulated to keep buying products, to be "in fashion" especially. I'm usually suspicious about research that says replace something because it's not good after a certain amount of time (replace your walking shoes every 6 months, for example). I think it's really important to find out where information is coming from and what is motivating them.

Living takes a lot of research these days.

Jennifer said...

I am at 50% (5 yeses, an equivalent of a score of 25 in the original.) I based them all on gut reactions... I carefully keep myself AWAY from buying things to avoid most of those feelings... but the tendency is still there.

Rev. Peter Doodes said...

Hi CC,
Re your advertising comments, I thought of the following writing of Aldous Huxley in "BRAVE NEW WORLD"

In the nurseries, the Elementary Class Consciousness lesson was over, the voices were adapting future demand to future industrial supply. "I do love flying," they whispered, "I do love flying, I do love having new clothes, I do love …" "But old clothes are beastly," continued the untiring whisper. "We always throw away old clothes. Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches; the more stitches …"

I think that we may be there already?



DC said...

Chapter 19

No, I don't feel like I am being manipulated by advertisers, though I certainly was through my childhood and early adulthood.

"Moonvertising," huh? We'll have to make a few revisions to Romeo and Juliet (suggested changes in italics): "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief that the Gap is having its weekly 'Moon-day Madness' clearance sale."

Chapter 20

"How do you determine the validity of a product's assertion of health, success or whatever it's trying to promote?"

If it's a "new and improved" product that I've gotten along fine without for decades, it's probably something I don't need, so it's irrelevant to me who's promoting it/what's being promoted.

Chapter 21

I don't have Affluenza, but most everyone I come into contact with outside my immediate family does. I think people assume we're poor because we have older cars and don't buy new designer clothes. When our son was two, he grabbed a stuffed animal at a kiddie class he was taking and didn't want to give it back. The teacher, with a look of pity, asked me, "Does he have anything like that at home?" He actually had the exact same stuffed animal at home but didn't know it because it was buried underneath about 30 others that relatives had given him.

It's funny, and sad.

Unknown said...

Pssst. Your post says it is for Thursday.

Greenpa said...

I'm a 7- but- 4 of those points had to do with shopping, and the mall. I DO "shop" as "therapy" - and go to the mall- but I don't have to buy anything for it to be effective. Mostly I'm people and trend watching, which are plenty of entertainment for me- also the novelty of being in town. Really! Honest! I don't buy anything!

Can I have a special dispensation? :-)

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am struggling with this more than others, I see. I scored a 7. I'm already infected! Watching TV pushed me over the edge!

Yes, I admit it. I watch TV. Acknowledging the problem is the first step on the road to recovery! :)

I cannot stand advertising, be it commercials or billboards or radio ads, or worse, the thousands of flyers littering the sidewalk on a given day. But I do like certain TV shows, so several years ago (I am hesitant to tell this), my husband and I got a TiVo. And it's crazy, but I actually watch way less TV a day now than I did 3 years ago because of it. It cuts out all the commercial time and has weaned me of the habit of channel surfing. Plus, I can save movies and shows (like the Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel) on the TiVo's hard drive, which decreases our consumption of movies (in theatres) and DVDs that we might have purchased. It makes my TV-watching goal-oriented, so if there's nothing already recorded and ready to watch, I turn it off!

I realize I could be considered a hypocrite by buying a product that has helped me consume less, and I'm curious to see if anyone has had any similar experiences, or if the readers here think that a blanket moratorium on buying is better.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Peter - Alas, we are already there.

Megan - Thanks! I was just trying to get a jump start on spring :)

Sure, whatever Greasepa. I know you're there just for the babe-watching, er "trend watching".

heather - I think you've improved your TV watching habits tremendously! It's a huge upgrade from channel surfing and you have more time on your hands now as a result.

Wendy said...

I'm "infected" with a score of 6, but the truth is, that I'm on recovery, because not long ago, I would have answered yes to a bunch of questions that are now no, and the one's I answered yes to are the ones that are left for me to change. The t.v. one got me. I was doing okay until then, but the fact is that I am now conscious of advertising, and I'm paying attention to how it's making me feel. Most of the time, I just flip the channel when an ad comes on, but sometimes I recognize the underlying manipulative tactics, and it actually pisses me off.

Anonymous said...

I think most people don't realize how much they are unconsciously influenced by advertising. And that's not to insult people - but advertisers have spent more time studying the human psyche than the best-funded academic laboratories.

I do think I am now more or less immune to ads, but only because I've so radically shifted my view of money, lifestyle, etc that modern ads just don't "fit" with my image of self and what I value in life. They are as bizarre to me as my lifestyle choices are to our mainstream consumer society.

But this requires a good deal of maturity, wisdom, and self-knowing. My young children don't have that right now, so I take steps to shelter them from the barrage of ads aimed at their demographic. By the time I'm no longer able to effectively shelter them, I hope to have instilled some of my values into them as an immune boost against ads.

Anonymous said...

This book made me think about "consuming" vs. creative activity. Even reading a book or reading blogs are considered consuming. I'm not a shopper or even a browser, but my freetime is often taken up by passive activity such as reading or listening to the radio instead of, say, writing or creating art or music. It made me think about how little of my free time is about creating, besides cooking...

Anonymous said...

I scored in the mid-range with the quiz, but I noticed that the questions kind of assume that I a) earn more than the poverty line and b) already own everything I actually need.

Like #4. Given the choice between a slight pay raise and a shorter workweek, would you choose the money?

I'd take the money, because my husband and I are currently struggling to keep our collective head above water. And that's just with expenses like car insurance and child care.

And #5. Do your conversations often gravitate toward things you want to buy?

Hm. "Honey, do you think we can afford swimming lessons for Bean?"

7. Is the price of a product more important to you than how well it was made?

If I had the money to pay for either, the quality would be paramount. Since I don't, the price it has to be. I do make exceptions--I won't buy milk that isn't organic. I'd rather go even further into debt than expose my baby to cloned meat/milk.

8. When you shop do you often feel a rush of euphoria followed by anxiety?

"I got the lamb for Easter! Now how will we pay for it?"