August 3, 2010

Our Schizophrenic Economy

Sacrifice - [sak-ruh-fahys] noun, verb

  1. the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as hiving a higher or more pressing claim.
  2. to surrender or give up... for the sake of something else

This is a concept that I don't think we've quite mastered in our society. I read a Bloomberg report this week that analyzed how Americans are behaving during this recession. What they found was that our society is one that cuts back on brand name toothpaste and shampoo but still buys $3 lattes from Starbucks and the latest Apple gadget each quarter.

It got me thinking. Every day, we are inundated with stories of families struggling to make ends meet. And while it's certainly true that the number of unemployed and underemployed in our country is insane, I wonder how much people are really cutting back on their spending.

Sure, we all want to have nice things and be able to enjoy the luxuries of life (whether that be an overpriced cup of coffee or an oversized ipod), but at what cost? I think it's a bit hypocritical for people to their mortgages when they have homes filled with state of the art technology and closets full of the latest fashions. I think that some of us (no... I'm not talking about anyone in particular) need to get our priorities straight. The article points out blatant hypocrisy when interviewing shoppers about the recession. Time and again, people whine about how times are so tough during this recession, but then they turn around and admit to their own luxury purchases. Am I missing something here?

All of this thinking about spending got me thinking about status and image, and how the things we buy and the things we do, say something about who we are. Do we buy things to make ourselves feel better about ourselves? Maybe we have a hard time sacrificing some of life's luxuries because we (subconsciously) enjoy the status that come with having those things.

And the media certainly don't make it any easier on us. They want us to believe that we deserve that day at the spa, new gaming console, vacation, luxury car, or whatever you spend your money on... and maybe we do. But just because we want it, doesn't mean we should have it. I mean, the article talked about a man who celebrated his home going into foreclosure by taking his family to Disneyland. What's wrong with this picture?!

Do I think people should stop living because times are tough? No. But I do think we, as a society,could benefit from learning how to really sacrifice. When times are tough, I think it's time to reprioritize and be diligent about being responsible consumers.

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