Prada Parade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     In 1993, Vladimir Ivanovich Shlyakov said this: “It’s not money that brings happiness, it’s lots of money.” People believe that with money, they can acquire extreme, undefeatable power through having stuff. I define stuff as useless and often pricey objects that serve no essential purpose, like electronics, designer clothes, etc. Materialism is a radiant hazard, shining through the deep darkness to our long-established morals. Materialists imply that they have no care for the essential things surrounding them and that owning worldly possessions can raise them a few notches on the social scale. Americans’ materialistic habits are destroying the nation’s values of honesty, kindness, hard work and generosity.

Advances in technology have people running to electronics stores just to get their hands on the new iPod or some other exciting item. Salesmen offer 36" plasma screen television sets while children live in poverty. While I am guilty of subtly supporting this new product splurge because of my desire for some of these items (for example, the iPod), I do not toss ridiculous amounts of money out the window as some do.

I have a friend who is exceptionally rich and she greedily takes advantage of it. When she notices something like a designer purse that appears pricey, stylish or both, one word comes to mind: Daddy. And the worst part is that her father is too weak to say no. Now, he has the special chance to say, “I can support my child with only the best,” but what is the best? Does he think being spoiled and ruining her chances of ever learning how to use money appropriately is the best way to bring her up? Sadly, she will always get her way and get what she “needs” with one childish phrase: “But I want it!”

I think that failure is the most dreaded word in our country today because of its intimidating and negative connotations. Teenagers would rather run through an archery field naked in winter than utter that word of shame to their parents. This torturing fear is so great that it leads young people to strive for unhealthy success. They do this to earn more money and then immediately spend it all to prove their wealth to the world. I have a news flash for these people: You are only proving your hard work to yourself.

Success, on the other hand, can give you a feeling of accomplishment, which is definitely not bad or unhealthy. But when this success turns into materialism, it just shoots the pride gained from your accomplishments straight to the sky, never to be seen again. Why not use your riches for something bigger and more important that can make a difference to another living being? Contributing to our world is a much greater gift than any $600 purse from Louis Vuitton because the money goes to a cause bigger than a store.

One of the main reasons people splurge is to impress others but those who believe in this ridiculous practice are cowards and insecure about their own worth. Humans are so wrapped up in what people think of them that they leave no time for spending time with family, reading or, God forbid, relaxing. People should have no time left to impress their fellow society with our already overscheduled lives. But, amazingly, parents squeeze in some room right next to getting their kids to soccer practice.

About three years ago, I went through a phase where all that occupied my mind was trying to impress my peers. I wore clothes that didn’t fit, talked back to my mother, experimented with make-up and was basically a sheep. I followed the herd wherever it went, even if that meant trouble. I could care less where I was headed as long as I was accepted. I grew out of this, but reflecting on those years, I wonder why I wanted to be like everyone else. Why couldn’t I just be different?

This is what reminds me of Americans today. I needed to fit in, so what did I do? I acted like someone else and urged my parents to buy me worthless things to gain others’ affection. So why do Americans buy precious jewelry or massive amounts of real estate? The desire to impress with fancy possessions will just increase until someone realizes the answer to this question. Then, hopefully, they will take their own path to success.

With his words on society, I think Vladimir Ivanovich Shlyakov will regretfully remain correct if we don’t take action. All we are concerned about is money. But if that’s all we are concerned about, who will worry about the environment and its inhabitants? Or abolishing hunger? No one will even offer a thought if we stop trying to impress everyone and take action to improve our nation. So, the next time you gaze at some “new and improved” gadget, stop and ask, “Is this essential to my life? Could I be spending money on something more valuable?” Think. Because if our materialistic habits continue, the values of honesty, generosity, hard work and kindness will disappear into the abyss of our rushed lives.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Ian B. said...
Sept. 11, 2009 at 7:54 am
I do agree with most of your statements. People have gone down the drain of materialism. They would rather throw money "out a window" then throw it at where it is most needed. I believe that this comes from a horrible derivation of the American dream; the dream to be able to live in freedom and have equal opportunity. The derivation that has come from that is "I now have MY money, I'm gonna make MYSELF happy." It all boils down to a sense of entitlement. I worked for thi... (more »)
 
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