Materialism, like capitalism, is a defining factor of the American way of life. As with all things, materialism has its good and bad points. It is a trend that paints the American picture. It gives a perception of wealth and prosperity. However, it is commonly a shallow depiction of reality. The possession of things does not equate to financially stability. Regardless of how it is viewed, it defines us, motivates us, and moves our economy more than any other custom.
The American economy is fed by our materialistic desires. Even during the tough financial struggles of a recession, many Americans continue to purchase that which is bigger and better. America is the top consumer of global products and resources. This local and global buying obsession may be one of the pillars holding the economy out of a depression. Although the economy can benefit from materialism, it also weakens overall financial stability of the individuals that fall prey to it.
Keeping up with the Jones’ is a classic way to describe the goal of the average American. The possession of the latest and greatest, the biggest and best, is how many believe they are measured in society. The constant struggle to be on top may build the economy, but it crushes an individual’s financially security. It is impossible for most Americans to maintain their status and still save for emergencies, the future, and retirement. A drive down many neighborhood streets will tell a tale of comfort and privilege. However, a look at the savings accounts and credit reports of most will show a different story. Materialism leads to a false picture of wealth. This picture is what others want and go into debt in order to achieve. This causes a vicious cycle that has turned into the American way of life.
The healthy balance of work and play found in many other countries seems impossible to accomplish in America. It takes more money to feed the need for more things. Therefore, life for many Americans is filled with long hours at work and less hours at play. Comfort and peace are not achieved through quality time with family and friends, but with a new electronic device and bigger home. Like drugs, materialism gives a short time high and leaves the user in a state worse than before.
Materialism in America pushes and pulls at most of us. It pushes us to work harder and achieve more. However, the achievements are thin and meaningless when compared to the great accomplishments life has to offer. Getting married and starting a family are two major life changes that many put on hold because the situation is not perfect. Owning a home was often a goal for young couples to achieve before having children. The increasing power of materialism has taken that simple plan and magnified it. Now that same young couple will keep waiting until they have the right house in a prestigious neighborhood. Those points in life that give it true meaning are held back by the desire to be measured against a ruler that is constantly changing.
Americans are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The fullness of the American dream includes the belief that we all have these rights and should never be held back from achieving them. The pursuit of happiness does not mean the pursuit of the most current technology or an upgraded vehicle. It was the right to achieve the most basic and simple desires, regardless of where you stood in the social pecking order. However, materialism has changed that. It has led us backwards on the path the great leaders of our country forged.
Filed Under: Capitalism, Social Issues, United States of America
This quote speaks for itself, but there is so much that could be said about this simple, true statement. We all live in a materialistic society where the majority of people are more worried about what we have than who we are. There is an emphasis on what brand you are wearing, what car you are driving, and just how many things you have in general.
People will look at someone with a lavish lifestyle filled with expensive things and think that they are living a much more blissful life than themselves. This is a view that society embeds into our brains to the point that people spend their whole lives striving for money over happiness. And this is a major flaw with our world.
There are people who spend a lifetime spending money they don’t have because of the belief that an object will bring them more gratification. A main problem with this concept is the perception people have. It’s a dangerous cycle of seeing others with something and thinking they need the same thing to be happy or to fit in.
Our society is constantly brainwashing us to buy more of this or that, because we live in a society that works if people are constantly spending. But if every person thinks about what they essentially need in life I think this cycle can stop.
Society wants people to strive to become so wealthy when, in reality, the wealth inequality is much more extreme than people realize. So, people are striving to be in a place that is virtually impossible. Though I’m not saying it’s bad to have nice things, but if these are where your priorities lie, I think it is time to reevaluate. Our society puts value into our money and materials rather than accomplishments or people. Our accomplishments are measured by what we have, but why? If all this energy was put into making the world a better place, I could not imagine what kind of peaceful world we would live in.
Unfortunately, people will always be chasing money and power, and if they already have it they will do anything to keep it or to gain more. “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
Things are replaceable; people are not. But, I am not going to tell you what exactly the best things in life are, that’s for you to decide.