Happiness is an enigma, an ever fleeting ideal that is nearly impossible to catch. For millennia humans have been attempting to reach American societies’ standard of “happiness”. We live in a high end consumer society where people are constantly purchasing the hottest new product to hit the shelf, only in the hope to flaunt their “wealth” or overall happiness to other people. However to their dismay, that feeling is only momentary. It takes real life experiences, simple daily occurrences that make one appreciate what they have, honest happiness. There are people that will never have this realization; they are the ones who are wasteful. They are the ones that will never be able to fully appreciate the things that they have, and will never fully understand because they are caught in capitalism’s pathetic rat race.
Material possessions directly affect the perception of wealth and status. This means that the more fancy cars or the bigger and better the house, the higher ranked you are in your community. This ideal gives many people a reason to pursue the image of wealth even though they do not really have the money to “keep up with the Joneses.” This overwhelming competition to be on top is what drives these people to destroy their lives. Materialistic views are drilled into the minds of the population by the media from early childhood. The author of Is everybody happy? By John Ciardi agrees with the idea that media creates the problem when he says “Advertising is one of our major industries, and advertising exists not to satisfy desires but create them”(38).
The population of America is constantly offered help to buy things; there is credit, loans, and even grants to be able to upgrade to a standard of living that even the government looks at as a normal standard. Because of these seemingly kind gestures there has been a clear drop in the economy, because of people spending money they do not have. When the economy plummeted, foreclosures, unemployment, and bankruptcy skyrocketed.
The wealthy continue to produce income while the poor have no way to get back on their feet. It is ironic because it seems as though there is a large quantity of people that can no longer pay for their home and yet they go out and buy designer clothing, all just to keep up appearances. On the other hand the rich are constantly dropping tons of money on things they will never need for these are the people that get caught up in the rat race. They are the people that define capitalism at its best. The standard that the wealthiest people create is the level that the poor or middle class will always attempt to keep up with.
Americans purchase things in surplus. They buy more than they will ever use in the time span before it will spoil. The fact that people throw away good food because it is a day past the sell by or has a little piece of mold is heart breaking because there are millions of starving people in the world that go days without food. There are approximately 50 million people starving that would do nearly anything for the food people so nonchalantly toss. That 50 million are real people living in the United States right now. That count is not even adding farther third world countries whose numbers by far surpass ours. 1 in every 6 Americans is starving and 1 in every 5 is a child. (feedingamerica.org ) When Lars Eighner became part of the statistics he experienced the struggles of living without any possessions or means to survive; he then wrote “On Dumpster Diving” a story of how he managed to get through it while explaining some of the experiences that he went through to teach others.
Eighner explains that people are overly wasteful when he says that “People throw away perfectly good stuff, a lot of perfectly good stuff.”(22) He goes on to explain how people’s trash shows that not only are they wasteful but they do not know how to appreciate what they already have. Someone like the author had all of the material goods that people crave, and then lost it all. He has an unbiased opinion of both sides of the coin. Being a consumer he knew that he wanted the best of everything but then when he became a scavenger he realized that the life he was living was not true happiness. Material goods give people that are normally out casted a way to fit in.
Humans are naturally self-conscious and have low self-image and when people see that someone has the wealth to purchase something like a garment that is brand new, hot off the line, spring fashion, they see that they are getting attention and love from their peers. Love and acceptance are natural human desires. These are undeniable necessities just like food, water, shelter, and security. However, since our world has become less socially equal and individuals are more isolated, the appeal and obtainment of brand items has helped to fill the void of that need to belong, be loved and have higher self-esteem. But that is no excuse to go and spend 70 dollars on a pair of Abercrombie ; Fitch jeans.
True happiness is a feeling that can only be achieved when people know what they desire most. Though there is a direct correlation between happiness and merchandise, there is no direct link between the two. The fact is that though money can buy for example purposes, a sparkling new vacation home with all the trimmings. The house will not give happiness directly; however, it is the experiences that family has at that beach house that creates happiness. The more positive experiences, the happier the person. Americans should make the most out of their born right to the pursuit of happiness because not many people have that opportunity.