Opinions and Rants #13: A Word About Affluenza

Affluence Circa '79

I don’t mean to sound like a cranky geezer, but sometimes I’m just struck by the level of consumerism in the world today. “Affluenza” has reached pandemic proportions – it’s a runaway beer truck that cannot be stopped. Comparing the world of my youth to that of my children, I’m blown away by the contrast.

In elementary school I had probably less than 10 toys – a Stretch Armstrong, a Shogun warrior, a Six Million Dollar Man, plastic army men, etc… and that’s all I freaking owned! No cell phone, no Wii, no laptop, no iPod, no TV, no nothing except a few crummy toys. I wasn’t poor either – this was common among my age group.

Add to that, I had a rather cheap and pathetic wardrobe: a couple pairs of Wrangler Toughskins, maybe a Garanimal, a few cheapo shirts with numbers on them, a couple pairs of socks with nice wide stripes, and one pair of tennis shoes. Plus, we never did anything that cost much money. No big expensive birthday parties, and dinner at a sit-down restaurant was rare. So, what the hell happened?

A few years into the 1980’s there was an economic boom resulting in a tidal wave of consumerism. No more gas shortages and mortgages rates at 14%; this was a time to revel in our excesses. Within a few years, the dude next door who always sat on his porch smoking reefer strumming his guitar is now a day trader, driving a beemer, and listening to Taylor Dayne. Livin’ the dream, baby!

It didn’t take long for all that disposable income and available credit to find its way into corporate hands. All sorts of things were invented that everyone supposedly “needs”: cable, cell phones, credit cards, high speed internet, a computer, flat screen Hi Def TV’s, etc. Plus television (via HGTV, TLC, Martha Stewart, etc.) tells us that our homes need to be perfect in every detail.

Oddly enough, this sort of thing contributed to our current economic decline. The bubble burst. Wall Street got increasingly greedy and corrupt and everyday people bought way more than they could afford. The prosperity that began during the Reagan era would seem to be coming to an end.

Okay, so I’m not telling you anything new – everyone knows the Boomers sold out and we're on a downturn. A fluctuating economy is a fact of life – there’s always going to be highs and lows, and the highs are always punctuated with a rise in materialism. I guess what I'm wondering is where will we be on the graph in the upcoming years? Still on a slope going downward? And if so, how low will the trough be?

Only time will tell, but I'm optimistic. I don't think we'll fall into another Great Depression, but that doesn't mean I think we will necessarily still have all this credit and cash flow to buy all these so-called "necessities" either.... which is not such a bad thing. We had less in the 70's, but we weren't any less happy. I was content with my Stretch Armstrong - it wasn't much, but that was OK.


  1. Sadly '80's Director John Hughes is no longer with us.

    Now THAT'S a tragedy far greater than Michael Jackson's demise!

  2. I agree Gilligan! Also to blame for this excess of greed is the MTV reality train wreck known as My Super Sweet 16...where a spoiled debutante's parents pay well over $100,000 for a Sweet 16 party!

  3. What?!... You're not a Martha fan? I would've never guessed.

  4. In your first pic, who is that in the tuxedo holding the money...Chuck Norris?

  5. In response to your post on consumerism/ affluenza :

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

    "Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

    These are figures of "Ecocide".
    These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
    These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
    These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

    Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

    Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    Only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

    Industrial Society has been spreading blatant lies over the years.

    "Green Industry", "Green Technology", "Ethical Consumerism", "Sustainable Development".

    These are contradictory terms – these are oxymorons.

    Industrialization can never be green – it is impossible.

    You cannot save a person after you have killed him.
    You cannot save ecosystems after you have killed them for making consumer goods.

    When we make consumer goods we kill Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land - directly or indirectly.

    Industrial Society destroys ecosystems - all Industrial Societies destroy ecosystems.

    It hardly matters whether it is "Capitalist Industrial Society" - "Communist Industrial Society" - or "Socialist Industrial Society".

    Industrial Society destroys ecosystems at every stage of its functioning - when consumer goods are produced - when consumer goods are used - when consumer goods are discarded/ recycled.

    Raw material for industry is obtained by cutting up Forests. It is extracted by mining/ digging up the earth. It comes by destroying/ killing Trees, Animals and Land.

    Industries/ Factories use Water. The water that comes out of Factories is contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. What to speak of Rivers - entire Oceans have been polluted. Industry kills Water.

    Industries/ Factories burn millions of tonnes of fuel - and when raw material is melted/ heated up, hundreds of toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere. Industry kills Air.

    Industrial Society has covered millions of square miles of land with cement and concrete. Industry kills Land.

    When consumer goods are discarded/ thrown away in landfills it again leads to destruction of ecosystems.

    When consumer goods are recycled, hundreds of toxic chemicals are released into air, water and land.

    Consumer goods are sold/ marketed through a network of millions of kilometers of rail / road network and shipping routes which causes destruction of all ecosystems that come in the way.

    We have limited resources/ ecosystems on earth which is just 40,000 km in circumference.

    If we destroy ecosystems for fewer things [food, clothing, shelter] the ecosystems will last longer.

    If we destroy ecosystems for more things [consumer goods] the ecosystems will finish much sooner.

    The fewer things we make the more sustainable we are.

    This is common sense - plain common sense - which the so called smart, intelligent, advanced, civilized and developed Industrial Society does not possess.

    The collapse has already happened for millions of other species – most of them have been decimated.

    Very soon it will be the turn of man to go.


    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

  6. Great post. I couldn't have said it any better myself.

    Have a good weekend. I'm sad to hear of John Hughes passing. That's a death that really touches me. I loved his movies when I was growing up.

  7. Like the great Hall & Oates sang, "It's a case of possession obsession."

    I blame a lot of parents. They give their kids whatever the hell they want, don't make them work for it, instant gratification that carries over when they graduate from college and expect to be promoted within 6 months of a new job and earning a six figure salary. There's no saving and learning to be grateful anymore what for you have vs. keeping up with the Joneses. It's actually a miracle to me that the current recession didn't happen much sooner with people's attitudes about materialism and excess.

    And oh yeah, H&O also sang, "the more that you take, the less you get back." So true.

  8. P.S. Viva I totally agree...

  9. Sushil - Heavy, man. Thing is, I'm not all that excited about getting away from industrialization - I don't know about you but I don't like the idea of foraging for food and getting ticks. I kinda like my cable Internet and Mountain Dew.

  10. Well at our house we watch our 15 year-old 27-inch TV, no video games, no cable or satellite, a 5-year old computer, and if the kids want something they have to buy it or ask the grandparents to git it for a birthday (no parties) or Christmas.

    OK, we've had a few small birthday parties, but the rest is true.

  11. There's no saving and learning to be grateful anymore what for you have vs. keeping up with the Joneses. It's actually a miracle to me that the current recession didn't happen much sooner with people's attitudes about materialism and excess...
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