From the Affluenza Viewer's Guide

Affluenza: an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from dogged pursuit of more.

Never has so much meant so little to so many.

Symptom: Swollen Expectations

We have twice as much stuff today as we did in 1958.

Dishwashers, color TV's, computers, VCRs...

"Can't have enough garage space!"

The average size of the garage in a new home today is 900 square feet -- the size of an entire modest house in the 1950's.

Symptom: Shopping Fever

On average, we shop an average of 6 hours a week and play with our children only 40 minutes a week.

In 1987, there were more malls than high schools in America.

The only way in which we increase consumption is that we save less and work more.

Symptom: Chronic Stress

Everything that I own owns me.

"We hear the same refrain all of the time from people. 'I have no life...I get up in the morning...get ready for work...there is day care, elder care, the commute.. I get home at night, there is laundry, bills to pay... I'm exhausted, I go to sleep I wake up and the routine begins the next day all over again.'"

Symptom: Hypercommercialism

By age 20, the average American has seen a million commercial messages.

2/3 of our newspapers and 40% of our mail is advertisements.

Advertisements attempt to "meet our non-material needs with material ends. If we buy a product, we are loved and accepted. The rest of the message is if we do NOT, we are not loveable or acceptable."

We have changed from citizens into consumers.

Symptom: Material Girl (and Boys)

Language from the "Kid Power"(!) Conference of Marketing Professionals:

"(There) is something to be said about branding kids early and owning them in that way."

"Antisocial behavior in the pursuit of a product is a good thing."

"Children are a cash crop to be harvested."

Symptom: Rash of Bankruptcies

Credit card debt is rising far faster than incomes. Over the past 10 years, credit card debt has increased 214 percent to $538 billion, while the median household income has risen only 36 percent. The average household now owes about $5,600 on plastic.

In 1998, more than 1.3 million Americans declared bankruptcy, more than graduated from college.

Symptom: Fractured Families

In 90% of divorce cases, arguments about money play a prominent role.

The Christian conservatives of "Focus on the Family" favor free market capitalism, but they fear we are creating a "throw-away" society. We always want something new and better. We throw away "used" spouses, friends, communities, and family members as well as used things.

Symptom: Social Scars

The gap between the rich and the poor in the US is the widest in any industrial country

Symptom: Resource Exhaustion

Since 1950, Americans have used more resources than everyone who ever lived before them.

The American tradition of frugality and self-reliance is being lost.

Symptom: Global Infection

At least 20% of the world's population lives in abject poverty, with hunger and disease.

People in developing countries see American TV, movies, etc. and would like to consume as much as Americans do.

Politicians urge that we double the size of the American economy every 15 years.

Prevention and Cure

Studies suggest the earth could sustain a standard of living nearly as comfortable as our own for every human being but that would demand social as well as personal change.

What personal changes would you be willing to make? What social changes would be required?

How can we encourage corporations to be more responsible to global human needs rather than profits?


Online resources

Sustainable Cities

Center for a New American Dream

PBS Affluenza Site

Voluntary Simplicity


Critiques of Affluenza

Critics Criticisms

Mental health professionals People feel "empty inside".

People feel they never have enough time to enjoy life.

Life seems meaningless.

Environmentalists Affluenza encourages waste.

Our planet can't support unlimited consumption.

Christians and other advocates of
strong families
Affluenza fractures families. It teaches kids to disrespect their parents.

Affluenza encourages lifestyle of debt and worry.

Affluenza causes people to neglect their neighbors and communities.

Moral philosophers Affluenza encourages the pursuit of worthless things.

Affluenza encourages satisfaction of desire at the expense of reason.

Marxists Mass consumption distributes wealth inequitably; only stockholders and bankers make big money.

Third World people end up worst off.

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