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Old 06-21-2007, 05:24 PM
Location: Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
30,196 posts, read 67,339,144 times
Reputation: 15835


I just recently pored over the thread "I've Had Enough" in the Wisconsin forum, in which a resident of suburban Milwaukee expressed her distaste for issues she thought was unique to her own area. She was saddened by how far her surroundings had deteriorated over the past generation or so in particular. She commented on how shallow, materialistic, cold-hearted, etc. most people near her had become. This was followed by a slew of replies in agreement with her assessment on a national scale.

I notice this myself as well. As a 20-year-old, I feel totally socially-isolated. When I pass between classes on campus, half of my peers have their ears glued to razor phones or blue tooths, and the other half are split evenly between those chillin' out to iPods and those either sending text messages or wearing sunglasses on cloudy days with their noses so far up in the air that you'd swear they were trying to sniff heaven! I was most stunned this past semester when a friend and I began to have a conversation in the student center and were chastised by another student for distracting her from her internet activities.

My own Scranton suburb is home to people who think "bling-bling" is the most important thing in life. Everywhere you go here are BMWs, Audis, Lexuses, Range Rovers, etc. that pull into the driveways of ostentatious McMansions while their owners are glued to OnStar or Garmin. Kids in the backseat are pacified by DVD players when they could instead be interacted with by their parents, who are too busy chatting on their cell phones to pay any attention to them. Just today I snapped a new photo tour of Scranton's trendy "Hill" neighborhood, and I was saddened that my greetings of "Good Morning" were returned by nobody as I walked past them. I'm sure just even a decade ago people would have been more inclined to at least acknowledge my presence. Snobs!

When did Americans become so self-centered and so out-of-touch with the needs of others? All I know is that I'm not happy living in a place where everyone puts more emphasis on "outdoing the Jones's" than they do upon getting to know the Jones's. I always thought our wholesome area would emulate Mayberry forever, but it appears as if everywhere has now changed for the worse. In my area we have upper-middle-class whites who have fled to suburban enclaves and gated communities and couldn't care less about the plight of the poorer minorities remaining in the cities who have little hope for vertical socioeconomic mobility. We've become a nation so divided on so many issues that I just don't think we'll ever again be that "melting pot" of folklore.

Opinions on how we can change this?
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Old 06-21-2007, 05:45 PM
Location: Wi for the summer--Vegas in the winter
653 posts, read 3,132,844 times
Reputation: 259
WELCOME TO AMERICA!!! Will these traits you speak of ever change??? Probably. Problem is it''ll take a Nuclear Armageddon. That and that only would put us all on an equal playing field~~
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Old 06-21-2007, 05:49 PM
450 posts, read 1,717,826 times
Reputation: 150
Interesting comments. On another thread, we're discussing attire in restaurants/bars, etc., and it's amazing how many people seem to judge people and a restaurant by the clothes people wear! Unbelievable, I thought we got past this stuff when things became more casual (clothing wise and socially) in the 90s. But we seem to be going back to classism, not a good thing.
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Old 06-21-2007, 05:55 PM
8,862 posts, read 14,838,142 times
Reputation: 2280
Wink Another good post, SWB

I always enjoy reading your posts--hope you save them for the forthcoming book--lol. You could be the next Bill Bryson or Peter Mayle. And there's nothing wrong with that...

I live in the urban sprawl of Atlanta, GA--need I say more.

At times it is truly discouraging.

Last night I had the door open --after I returned from walking my dog--to let some fresh, if humid air in.

There is a MacMansion being built next door--infill housing in intown neighborhoods--that is what 'They' want.

My puppy, 6 mo old lhasa apso is very sensitive to the street noises--used to be a very quiet neighborhood. Lots of big trucks and hammering and men speaking loudly on cell phones during the day...he gets tense.

All of sudden Josh started barking and wouldn't calm down--around 9:30 PM --a guy in a jeep --talking on a cell phone had stopped to look at the house or something. No reason for that--none at all.

Today I returned to find a notice that even more construction will be taking place--the neighboring church has chosen to begin construction of a new facility and sent a letter advising us to 'Be Patient'. I will try--to be even more patient...

We just have too many people who want what they want when they want it.

Can't convince them to leave--take the cell phones and the bazillion expensive cars/vehicles with them.

shrug--Fortunately there are a few of us who have other ideas about what is Good and Meaningful in life.

take care

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Old 06-21-2007, 07:44 PM
Location: Bay View, Milwaukee
2,169 posts, read 4,196,286 times
Reputation: 2707
This hyperconsumerism and uber-materialism isn't unique to the States, and it isn't particularly new (Veblen wrote about it about 100 years ago), but it is pervasive here nonetheless. This is particularly the case as more and more people have easy access to credit and easy access to esteem-enhancing or class-enhancing goods and services.

Some of the most recent treatments in the media about this situation include PBS's look at "Affluenza" (connected to a book on the topic) and various studies of the "upscaling" of America (such as Judith Schorr's books).

It seems that "upper middle class" has become the benchmark for desirable living in the States, even when aspirants to upper-middle trappings do not have the income or wealth or cash flow to handle such trappings. From what I remember reading recently, the average square footage in housing in the US has at least doubled since 1950; I think the average house is now something like 2500 square feet. That's a lot for a family of 2.5 people!

Another trend is the "upscaling" in products and services. It's no longer okay just to brew your own coffee, or buy a humble cup of joe at the Kwikie-mart; one must pay $2-4 for a specialty "gourmet" concoction that connotes status and taste. In food services, the "upscale casual" niche has gained the most market share recently, with places like Panera and Cheesecake Factory becoming standard fare even for people who are struggling with money.

It's no wonder there's a negative savings rate in the U.S.; many people go into debt in order to have the latest gadgets and in order to eat out at special places. I believe a lot of these people feel a sense of belonging and worth when they consume like this, but it's not really a healthy situation. People are living above their means so that they can buy things and experiences which, to a large degree, come from corporate offices, often from other countries. Official economic reports already talk about consumer spending in the U.S., giving a sigh of relief when it goes up, or going into a tailspin when it goes down. Our current version of good ol' American consumerism is headed toward some kind of crisis, sooner or later.

It's going to take a major shift in the economy or culture to bring things around, and I believe that shift is happening at this very moment. My guess is that within 100 years, with the ascent of China and with the erosion of entire industries in the States, we will start to expect fewer things in our lives, and we will understand that not everyone can aspire to an upper-middle existence (whether truly upper-middle or not). With increased global competition for scarce resources, many people will be knocked off of the high-consuming treadmill, and future generations will accept that they may have to be less well off (materially, at least) than their ancestors. We're already seeing signs of this with the current cohort of 18-30 years-olds. Also, many retirees who have spent and not saved over the years will increasingly have tough times as public assistance dries up; many will have to keep working, and many will have to adjust their standard of living in a downward direction. Maybe life was gravy for many in the 1950s, but it's very different now.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:26 PM
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
4,486 posts, read 15,282,966 times
Reputation: 3936
America is a very materialistic nation, we constantly want to one-up our neighbors even if we cannot afford to and the media doesn't help much. It could be the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive, or the area in which you live; I think each of us (whether you admit it or not) wants to feel like they're succesful and that they have made something of themselves. While this may not always be true, we surround ourselves with material goods that make us feel that we have more money than we actually do. This is one of the reasons why certain car models are such great sellers, look at the BMW 3 Series for example. This is what most of us would consider a luxury item and a new one would probably run you around $45,000 whilst a brand new Toyota Camry XLE which is fairly similiar to the 3 Series in terms of the features and level of comfort it offers would cost you a much more affordable sum of $30,000 ($15,000 less for those non-math gurus). Why would someone pay MORE for a vehicle that offers NEARLY the same level of comfort as a much less expensive vehicle which is much more reliable to boot? Why would someone buy a $60,000 Cadillac Escalade when a $30,000 Tahoe could do the same job for 1/2 the price?

One word- Exclusiveness. Not everyone can afford a BMW but most people can afford a Camry. We want to seperate ourselves from others that we feel are less successful or less important than we feel that we are. If we didn't feel that way, I'm sure most of us would buy the Camry and pocket the extra $15K. Of course this is only an example. It can also be said for a certain clothing brand or some other "exclusive" item. I bought myself a Rolex a while back and it cost me...well it wasn't cheap lets just say. Now do I need an expensive watch when a $300 Seiko will do just fine? Of course not but I wanted an item that had a factor of exclusivity and that not everyone else could afford.

We all like to feel "special" and in order to obtain that feeling we surround ourselves with items that give us that feeling. We try to out-do our neighbor's because when they have something that we don't, it takes away from our feeling of success. Now I know that this doesn't go for everyone but I'm talking in general. I also tend to find that those that truly have big $$$$ don't feel the need to compete with others. At home in Iowa, my father drives a Ford F-150 and you'd could never tell by looking at him that he is completely loaded. Whenever people think of wealthy areas they think of Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, Malibu, etc etc but they usually won't think of places like rural Iowa and Nebraska. That's because people in these areas don't feel the need to flaunt their wealth or try to one-up their neighbors. When someone looks at a person driving a Bentley or Ferrari usually thinks that this person is probably rolling in dough but what about if they look at a farmer driving a combine? One of those will set you back around $300K and many large farms might have 2 or 3! When my father was still farming full-time, he spent nearly a million bucks on farm machinery one year (2 combines, 2 tractors, and a couple other various items). But people don't think of these areas as having the wealthy folks just because they don't live in a mansion or drive a BMW; trust me you'd be suprised at the kind of $$ these farmers have.

I guess it all boils down to how you feel about yourself. Those that usually feel no need to compete with all the other "wannabe's" usually will come out ahead in the long run. I think most of us are guilty of this to an extent but I also feel that most people on this forum have the common sense to not let the general population dictate the way they live.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:26 PM
Location: Ohio
138 posts, read 890,614 times
Reputation: 190
Consider that today's consumers have so many more things to spend money on, then our parents and predecessors did, in the 1950's, 60's, 70's and even 1980's. Just a few decades ago, families could live comfortably on a single breadwinner. It's getting tougher these days.

If you look at the older neighborhoods, a lot of people lived in 900 to 1500 square ft. homes. Today's newer homes, are much..much bigger, with a lot more features. 2,000...2,500...3,000 sq ft and more. $1,500 refridgerators. Bigger homes = bigger loan = bigger payments = people paying forever

Today a lot of people are paying for things people didn't pay for years ago.

1. cell phone
2. cable bill + HBO and other extra channels
3. cable modem
4. monthly health club membership (when they never go anyway)
5. Car or SUV payments + interest charges on $20K to...$30K vehicles
6. interest + monthly payments on student loans
7. interest + payments on MULTIPLE credit cards.
8. Ladies today go to tanning salons.
9. Entire generation of kids, wasting $50 a pop for dozens of video games
10 Plasma TV
11 Botox
12 Medications...that a lot of kids & young people shouldn't even be on.
13 Women dropping $70 to $100 to get their colored & styled -My barber $ 7
14 contact lenses (when people used to just be happy with glasses)
15 Massage therapy for dogs
16 Women taking trips to get manicure or pedicure
17 Kids paying $120 for sneakers (tennis shoes)
18 Newest iPod
19 New computer every 3 to 4 years
20 The newest X-Box
21 Satellite radio payment every month
22 Blackberry

Plus a lot more ways to spend too much money.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:44 PM
Location: Denver
692 posts, read 2,420,345 times
Reputation: 365
Personal happiness > useless crap
Intimacy > pride
Nurture > acquisition
Sex > pursuit of sex
It's like Maslows Pyramid has been distorted.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:46 PM
Location: Bay View, Milwaukee
2,169 posts, read 4,196,286 times
Reputation: 2707
Originally Posted by SpeedyAZ View Post
I also tend to find that those that truly have big $$$$ don't feel the need to compete with others.
This reminds me of the book "The Millionaire Next Door," whose thesis is that for the most part, the wealthiest people actually live rather modest lives--they drive modest cars, they wear modest clothes, and they tend to live in unassuming houses in unassuming towns and neighborhoods. The authors (Stanley and Danko) found that many people confuse income with wealth, and that many people with high incomes are so caught up in consumerism that they don't realize how little they really have.
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Old 06-21-2007, 08:53 PM
117 posts, read 468,786 times
Reputation: 35
Post You are definitely not alone!

As an educator, one of the things that I notice about status-competition is that it is routinely practiced among young children. I teach at an elementary school where some of the children are allowed to have a cell phone(with their parent's permission). I do have some mixed feelings about children having a phone. The only plausible reason that I can see for having one is if the child needs to contact his/her parent in an emergency. However, what I see being commonly practiced are children pulling out the phones primarily to impress their peers.

But are adults any different? In some instances, not really. There is an overwhelming need for people to "put on airs" in certain communities across the county. This is nothing new but, for many reasons, it seems as if this practice has become more prevalent over the last couple of decades. Yet, for whatever reason, I feel that there is a growing number of people in America who are deeply concerned. Some are so concerned that they willing relocate their families from areas where status-competition is the norm to areas that place emphasis on having more of a work-life balance.

Is relocation the answer? Not always. The irony is that as I have read through various posts in this forum,many people move to a place that eventually becomes like the place that they were trying to get away from. Why? I have seen people move from large urban areas complain about their new location not having the amenities of their former city. Yet, some wanted to be in a locale that was smaller,less stressful and etc. And, I have known some who choose to stay in larger areas for the amenities, even though they seldom have the time to take advantage of them.

I think that people have to be clear as to what is really important in their lives. For myself,as long as I have my basic needs met, I am content. My only vice is that I want money to travel the world . I think it is when people start going beyond their basic needs that you start seeing some of the effects of the "Keeping Up With The Joneses" syndrome.

Last edited by chitown68; 06-21-2007 at 08:55 PM.. Reason: change wording
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