"More than ever, we have big houses and broken homes, high
incomes and low morale, secured rights and diminished civility. We
excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We
celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose. We cherish our
freedoms but long for connection. In an age of plenty we feel
Affluenza (John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor) is one
of those rare books I can read more than once and gain valuable new
insights each time. I just perused it for the third or fourth time
since it was published in
2001. If, dear readers, you suspect that we're on an oldies but
goodies trek today...you couldn't be more correct.
The above quote seems to sum the book up perfectly. In America
in the twenty-first century we are participating in our own
objectification. Big business, media, and government are herding us
from active identities as citizen, neighbor, family member, and friend
to the passive one of consumer. Not only does this nearly guarantee
spiritual starvation by denying our real human needs in the pursuit of
artificial ones, it puts our species and every other on earth in
danger of extinction.
Affluenza compares our society's frenzied pursuit of material
wealth to the dreaded flu. The first chapters cover symptoms,
followed by sections on causes and treatment. We are given many ways
we can take meaningful actions on a personal and family level. We are
also mandated to be catalysts in our larger communities since such a
pervasive, contagious, and dangerous malaise needs to be combatted at
every level of society.
One of the worst aspects of affluenza is the widening gap
between the haves and have nots. This is cruel on so many levels.
Those legions here and abroad who are sacrificed in the pursuit of
wealth are not only condemned to live in poverty, but deprived of
intangible treasures. Let's say you have a vibrant working
neighborhood. A developer decides it's prime condo material. Those
who are displaced lose connections to community, extended family, and
often meaningful labor.
I recommend Affluenza to everyone who is a member of the human
On a personal note, on the affluenza self diagnosis test I scored a
quite respectable 6 (out of a possible 100). I was lucky enough to
gain immunity by both nature and nurture. Genetically I'm an
introvert. Our minority--prone to creative self-expression,
intellectual curiosity, and the need for meaning in life--is a hard
sell for Madison Avenue. I was also brought up by parents who
actively rejected keeping up with the Jonses (although Dad had his
weaknesses). We read, spent time at the beach, played checkers,
belonged to Audobon Society, baked Christmas cookies for friends and
family... That and living in a close knit working class community
growing up constituted my salvation.
A great big shout out goes out to my parents who gave me such a
priceless legacy. I wish, dear reader, you could have met them. I
guess in a way you do. I carry them with me in my heart and writing.
Also, since it's Labor Day, a shout out to the heroes who took huge
risks to abolish child labor, make working conditions safer... Sadly
big business Big Business and the pols they're in bed with are
striving to undo all they've achieved.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod