Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

John de Graaf first developed this concept in 1996 when he produced a documentary on PBS with the aid of ViVia Boe, a fellow producer. They had recorded most of the material, but still hadn't created a cohesive concept to tie together the ideas they had compiled on this subject. In a passing article, John found it, affluenza. It became the "single word that not only would make a catchy (pun intended) TV title, but suggested a disease resulting from overconsumption." (Affluenza, preface) The term fits perfectly.

The concept of affluenza has been one which has been developing in society since the 1960's. Prior to 1960, Americans were generally content with their lifestyles, the unity of family and community, and the open pursuit of their faith and its ethical foundations within individual citizens and the groups they affiliated themselves with on a daily basis. However, the uncontrollable passion of "keeping up with the Joneses" began to set itself as the coveted norm amongst nearly everyone in America.

Over the past 50 years, the mass production of goods and services has fueled the dogged pursuit of the "American Dream".  Now everyone can own the trendiest vehicle or wear the most popular clothing  -contingent, of course, on the fact that you have enough money to do so. Well, no problem. Beginning in the 1980's, credit has been stretched out and given to pretty much anyone who asks. Herein lies the fundamental problem to the affluenza illness - living outside of one's means.

Reading through John's book has revealed a huge amount of material for consideration. I have decided, since this issue is of great interest to me, to begin writing a series of blogs about Mr. de Graaf's concept and the myriad of ideas affiliated with affluenza. It may well be a lengthy series, but I promise to bring some very interesting and many times alarming concepts to light. The American people need to snap out of their material daze. It is destroying them and their families. It is eating them alive very much like a cancer. And yes, it has all the traits of influenza. I leave you for now with this thought:

     "[Affluenza is] rooted in the idea that every generation will be materially wealthier than its predecessor, and that somehow, each of us can pursue that single-minded end without damaging the countless other things we hold dear." (Affluenza, pg. 3)

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