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Materialism in America
America is constantly changing. It is easy to say and easy to believe that almost the second something is made, produced, or invented, it becomes obsolete. This same object obsessed over and coveted by many will soon be replaced by something bigger and better. Materialism is a growing obsession in America for always wanting what is in the now. Materialism is quickly overcoming our nation and turning it into a greedy population. I agree with Mr. Kohls statement that Americans are far too concerned about materialistic items and the biggest newest things on the market. It is my belief that as Americans we need to step away from the materialistic view of things and re-evaluate our lives.
Materialism can take shape in many forms and is caused by many things. Advertising plays a large role in materialism. Commercials in between shows on television, posters and billboards all show how fun new toys are, and how glamorous models look in this seasons newest fashions, all of these factors contribute to why people feel they need the best of everything. Advertisements are often targeted toward children, for children often feel the most inclined towards new toys and clothes. For example a few years ago, a woman sued the McDonald’s chain for targeting children in their advertisements with free toys in their famous happy meals. “A mother of two from Sacramento, Calif., says that McDonald’s uses toys as bait to induce her kids to clamor to go to McDonald’s and to develop a preference for nutritionally poor Happy Meals.”(CSPI) This shows how we create materialistic problems and fall for them at the same time. If small plastic toys can create an uproar of this magnitude at such a young age, then imagine how bad materialistic tendencies are going to be when these children grow up!
The article American Values by Robert Kohls, states “Americans are materialistic. This means that they value and collect more material objects than most people would ever dream of owning. It also means they give higher priority to obtaining, maintaining and protecting their material objects than they do in developing and enjoying interpersonal relationships.”(Kohls) This statement is very true, in today’s American Society; people are way more obsessed with having new and better things than necessary. It is a typical “keeping up with the Jones’s” situation, everyone wants to outdo everyone else and when they do that, they try to outdo themselves. As Americans we want the best of the best, we work hard every day and believe we deserve to have comfortable easy lives. Though we work for what we want the majority of desirable items are high priced. A new 2012 Ford Explorer costs about 35,000 dollars and upwards, even a used car can cost more than 10,000 dollars. The constant need for the best drives us to spend money we don’t have, and steers us towards debt. It is true that many people work hard so they can get what they want, and that isn’t a problem. An engaged couple working overtime so they can afford an apartment together is not an example of over excessive materialism. An engaged couple working overtime so they can afford to have a 1,500 dollar cake and 10,000 butterflies swarm around them as they share their first kiss as man and wife is. The line between necessity and un-neccessary, frivolous wants has been obscured through materialism.
Also supported by Robert Kohl, is that materialism is consuming so many people’s lives and mind’s, that we are losing ourselves in it. Relationships come second to working for some people, the drive in many around the world to work, to earn money so they can buy the newest things are so high that people are losing socialization abilities. Studies have recently shown that children and especially teens between the ages of 12-17 are losing the ability to socialize due to an increase in social networking. “Social networking sites entice people to spend more time online and less time interacting face-to-face. Teens spend an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites.”(Procon.org). Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and gaming sites allow people to “keep up with friends” “set statuses”, blog and re-blog, and share how you are feeling all in 140 characters or less. It comes down to asking yourself, when was the last time I spent any time with one of my 1765 friends on Facebook? Do I really need to share “Going to the store to get some milk #iwantcereal” with my 400 followers on twitter? Or saying to one self “hey it’s a beautiful day out why don’t I sit in my room and re-blog pictures of cats and hipster-chic girls I don’t even know!”
Comparing materialism from today to another time easily proves how out of control materialism has gotten. Let’s take the 50’s for example; things in the fifties were much more highly appreciated than they are now. Now it is common for households to have more than one television set and even one in every room. In the fifties, televisions were just invented and were a rare occurrence. Those who did own them were considered rich and very lucky. Christmas can also be used as a main example to show how materialism has changed so drastically. For Christmas children from the average working class family asked for on average less than 5 items and were lucky to get a few of them. Commonly asked for items were Mr. Potatoe Head, Doctor and nurse play kits and bicycles. (Pearson). Today Christmas is seen more as a gift giving holiday, instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus. Now children and teens ask for tens upon tens of expensive gifts, ranging from designer clothes and shoes to the newest item from Apple. The meaning of Christmas has been distorted to a gift giving holiday and the celebration of the birth of Jesus has been forgotten.
Materialism in America has a profound effect on everyone. We all get so caught up in what we want that we forget about what we have.
“If you woke up this morning healthy... you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the fear of loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pain of starvation you are better off than 500 million people in the world. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back and a roof over your head and a place to sleep, then you are more comfortable than 75% of the people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, then you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy. If you can even read this, then you are more blessed than over 2 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.” (Eardley).
The following information was found on the internet and has also been circulated via e-mails to make people really open their eyes about being so lucky. People always seem to forget the simple things and we begin to assume that everyone has the same things; this obviously shows how lucky many of us really are. By having the opportunities like we do, we can become better people and make something out of ourselves. We are all guilty of taking things for granted and forgetting how fortunate many of us really are.
In conclusion Materialism in America is a problem. The only way to get a handle on our materialistic problems is to always remember that we are all blessed to have what we do. It is our job to make the most of what we are given and to keep a steady head when presented with things we want. We must make clear the line between wants and needs and adhere to that line
CSPI. “Class Action Lawsuit Targets McDonald’s Use of Toys to Market to Children.” Editorial. Center of Science for the public Interest. N.p., 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.cspinet.org/?new/?201012151.html>.
Eardley, Stephen. “BLessing .” Health Living News. N.p., 2003. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.healthe-livingnews.com/?articles/?blessings.html>.
Kohls, Robert. “Values Americans Live By.” 1988. Noodletools.com. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <http://cmc.edu/?pages/?faculty/?alee/?extra/?American_values.html>.
“Popular kid toys from the 1950’s.” the people history. N.p., 2004. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/?toys.html>.
Procon.org. N.p., 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <http://socialnetworking.procon.org/?#Background>.