Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic: A Book Review and Life Review

Do you suffer from Affluenza? Do you feel overloaded with stuff? Do you feel as if you have to work harder just to keep with payments on what you’ve already bought while seeing something new every day that you want? Are you lost in hopeless debt? Are you anxious about whether you’ll be able to afford retirement? Do you just feel as if there is way too much emphasis on having you want rather than wanting what you have? If you answered yes, then you, my friend, caught a case of Affluenza.

Affluenza was originally the name of a PBS show but spunoff into a book and other related media. It has become one of the bibles of the burgeoning anti-consumerism movement. Ever notice how when people say Americans are so much better off than they used to be that the evidence they use to support this fact is that so many Americans now have cable TV, video game consoles, DVD players, iPods and computers? The fact that most of those people are also in debt, or that that in order to pay for a $1000 computer they’ve paid over $500 in credit card interest by the time it’s paid off doesn’t appear to concern them.

Affluenza was eye-opening when I read it. We all know the standard 40 hour work week is the only way to do business, right? And we all know that most of us work far more than 40 hours. But there’s no other way to be productive, is there? Did you know that in the 1930 Kellogg’s offered its workers 35 hours of pay for a 30 hour work week? This couldn’t possibly have worked, right? Guess what, productivity rose so much that in two years that workers were getting paid for thirty hours of work what they had previously been paid for forty hours of work.

The system in America has been naturalized. We accept it as the natural way of doing things and don’t question it. After all, why should we, without DVDs and iPods and internet? Let me ask you this: Do you feel as though you are working longer hours than your parents did at the same age? And yet you’re being told that you have to work harder to keep up production levels. Well here’s a little secret that I came across in Affluenza and then looked up to make sure it was on the level.

Workers today could put in a twenty hour week – in most cases – and the company would be at the same productivity level they were at twenty years ago. In other words, you’re working twice as hard not to keep up, but to charge ahead. But workers aren’t getting paid double what they were twenty years ago. In fact, once you add in unpaid overtime, inflationary expenses for daily living, time and money spent during commuting and everything else that makes daily living so much more expensive, the average worker is this unenviable position: He is working twice as much as necessary, keeping anywhere from 10 to 25 percent less of his paycheck, is in up to three times more debt and losing benefits to boot. On the other hand, corporate profits have risen in some case well over 100% from twenty years.

Affluenza is not just a book, it’s a real condition. Everybody is working longer in order to make more money to buy things that are gong to be obsolete or at least out of date within five years. In the meantime, actual leisure time is down. Consider these startling statistics from the book: The time that parents spend with children has declined by as much as 40 percent in just the last generation, and one study concluded that the average family members spend only 12 minutes a day in conversation with each other.

There are far too many shocking real life cases and statistics included in Affluenza to detail here. My suggestion for you if you are beginning to question the whole process of working longer to enjoy life less is to start with the web site and start on the path toward a cure.

After reading Affluenza you may decide that doing with less is the path to happiness. There’s certainly nothing wrong with owning things. But you need to make sure that you buy something not because you think it’s going to make you happy, but rather because it is something that enhance your enjoyment of life. There’s an added benefit to buying less: It gives you control over the corporations that have been telling you how you should look and what you should wear and what you need in your life to make you content. Buy less and piss them off!

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