Materialism in America

December 12, 2011
American society differs from most other societies. Our beliefs, values, and morals seem very abnormal to other cultures. One value in particular that most other countries lack is materialism. America is a very materialistic society. Robert Kohls points out that “Foreigners generally consider Americans much more materialistic than Americans are likely to consider themselves. Americans would like to think that their material objects are just the natural benefits that always result from hard work and serious intent—a reward, they think, that all people could enjoy were they as industrious and hard-working as Americans.” (Kohls) I agree with Kohls’ quote. There are many things, in my personal opinion that prove this quote to be true. America has lost its traditional morals and values that it once had; it has become a society that is based on what you have and how successful you are.

Most holidays are celebrated as a religious belief or as an American tradition. Thanksgiving used to be the celebration of the first dinner that the pilgrims had with Native Americans to show their friendship with one another. Today Thanksgiving has come to be about Black Friday. Holidays have lost their traditional meanings and have conformed to ones based on shopping and holiday sale (Duke). Americans tend to have this idea that money can buy you happiness. They believe if you have money you’ll have security, be happy, have good friends, and have good sex (Bigg). I believe that money can only buy you happiness for a moment. If someone was dying of an incurable disease what would money do for them then? Or you’re car, is that going to help cure you? (Clark) What good is your money if in the long run it has absolutely no meaning to it? This past Thanksgiving, consumers spent on average 13% more than they have in previous years on Black Friday (Newcomb). This is a prime example of how much materialism effects our society. Christmas is another example of how materialistic American society actually is. The true meaning of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The traditional beliefs of Christmas was that Saint Nicholas was a toy maker who brought toys to children. Today Saint Nicholas is referred to as Santa Claus and is only known for bringing toys to children and his magic, flying reindeer. Holidays have come to be about shopping and the good deals on your purchases. To businesses, holidays are about making money and luring consumers to buy their products by lowering their prices. To the rest of society, holidays are about finding those deals and buying new things. Society has become corrupted with the idea that you need to buy things to be happy. “Happy Holidays” has taken on a whole new meaning. Do Americans really celebrate holidays anymore? Or is it about material things?
Other evidence of a materialistic American society is the “American Dream.” William Clark states that "the opportunity to save, invest [in the future] and own is the foundation of the American dream.” (Clark) The American dream is another example of how Americans believe you need to buy things to be happy. If you have the perfect house with blue shutters, and a white picket fence surrounding it with a beautiful family to fill it, then you would theoretically be happy. This would seem like it would make you happy but in reality only half of American families have this luxury. 50% of marriages today end in divorce (Divorce Statistics). Who’s happy then? In a survey that studied the top ten reasons for divorce, financial issues was ranked fourth (Divorce Guide). Americans have gotten to the point where we let money get in the way of the ones we love. The question is what has gotten us to that point? Are Americans just selfish, or is there more to it? Materialism has caused Americans to think more about what they want rather than what they need.
Materialistic habits start off as early as childhood. One study shows that materialism is linked with ones self esteem (Crown Financial Ministries). Adolescents in particular struggle with self esteem. As kids, we all just want to fit in with everybody else to avoid being harassed and picked on. As early as two years old children are asking for things by brand. A study that was done by Crown Financial Ministries shows that more children in America than in any other country believe that their clothes define who they are and their social status. Why should material items define who we are? Shouldn't someone be known and judged for who they are, and not what they wear? Why should someone who shops at the thrift store be thought any less of than a person who shops at expensive department stores? Money shouldn’t define someone. What defines a person is who they are and what they believe in, not what they wear or how much money they have.
Materialism has corrupted the American mind. Life shouldn’t be lived worrying about how much money you can save up or what car you drive. What good is any material thing when you pass away? I respect countries who take the time to enjoy their families and who appreciate what they have. Americans have demoralized themselves. Materialism in my opinion is evil to American society. It has made Americans selfish, ungrateful, greedy people. In other words, materialism has made Americans miserable and does nothing but bring them happiness for a moment.

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