Affluenza - video questions
What is affluenza?
- The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results
from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
- An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused
by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
- An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
What are its symptoms?
- swollen expectations
- shopping fever
- chronic stress
- material girls (and boys)
- a rash of bankruptcies
- fractured families
- social scars
- global infection
Is there a cure?
- Describe the treadmill of chronic stress.
- What role has the shopping mall come to play in our society?
- What does it mean to be materialistic?
- What effect does materialism have on relationships between
Background information from the online
- In the 1800s, the word "consumption" meant to exhaust,
pillage, or destroy. Even in the early 1900s, the disease tuberculosis
was known as consumption.
- In 1958, only 4 percent of American homes had dishwashers.
Now more than half do.
Less than 1 percent had color televisions. Now 97 percent do.
In addition, in the '50s there were no microwave ovens, VCRs,
or personal computers.
- Families were encouraged to buy a new car every year, not
because the cars don't work anymore, but because they go out
of style. This is known as "planned obsolescence."
Today, many new homes have three-car garages and are nearly 900
square feet (the same as an entire house in the 1950s).
- Americans fly 25 times as may passenger miles as they did
in the 1950s.
- Although Americans had fewer material goods, the number of
Americans who say they are very happy peaked back in 1957.
- Seventy percent of Americans visit malls each week, more
than attend churches or synagogues.
- On average, Americans shop six hours a week and spend only
40 minutes playing with their children.
- Not long ago, some experts predicted that by the year 2000,
Americans would only work 14 hours a week. Labor-saving devices
were supposed to make this possible. Instead, business executives
feared a lag in consumer demand. They worried that the economy
would come crashing down, and looked for new ways to stimulate
- By the age of 20, the average American has seen some one
million commercial messages.
- Advertising accounts for 2/3 of the space in newspapers,
and 40 percent of our mail.
- The average American spends one year of their lives watching
- Children are the fastest growing segment of the consumer
market. In 1995 alone, companies spent $1 billion marketing their
products to young people.
- Each year advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to
convince people to buy products.
- Most people don't know that advertising is not free to the
buyers of products. This business expense is added to the cost
of the product so that we pay more at the store. In fact, you
are paying for products you don't buy!
- There are other, less obvious ways we "pay" for
advertising. Ads play on our feelings of envy and anxiety. Ads
often suggest that a person could be more successful, attractive,
even lovable if they use "Brand X." People, both young
and old, need tools to separate the message from the advertiser's
intention to make a sale.
- We are all cynical about the above, because it seems so obvious...but
we are bombarded with advertising daily. If we hear something
often enough, we start to believe it, and this can affect our
self esteem. Sometimes when people don't feel good about themselves,
they want to do a little "shopping therapy"-- buying
things because they think it will make them feel better. This
is a symptom of Affluenza.
- Advertising is moving into American schools in corporate-sponsored
curriculum, in school busses and hallways, and during television
programs shown in classrooms.
- Some educators believe that accepting advertising benefits
students. In exchange for showing Channel One, an in-school broadcast
service that includes advertisements, schools get to use video
equipment for free. Others feel that advertising will give schools
additional funding. In Affluenza, the superintendent of a school
district decides to accept advertising to increase school funding
because voters haven't approved a levy in his district since
- Others say schools should be ad-free zones. Requiring students
to view advertising is unfair, they say, because students are
a captive audience, and because advertising messages may get
more credibility from the school setting. Students have been
taught to trust what they learn in school, they say and they
worry that advertising distracts from education.
- Eleven percent of teenagers own their own credit cards and
40 percent use their parents' cards.
Americans have more than one billion credit cards.
- Fewer than one-third of all Americans pay off their credit
card balances each month. In fact, the average cardholder is
$2,700 in debt and is paying 16 percent interest.
- More Americans declared bankruptcy in 1996 than graduated
- The gap between rich and poor Americans is now the widest
of any industrial nation.
One-fifth of the world's population lives in dire poverty, slowly
dying of hunger and disease. Millions of others desperately need
more material goods. Yet, were they to consume as Americans do,
the result would be an environmental disaster.
- Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic
bottles every hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make
6,000 DC-10 airliners.
- In Mexico, more than 60 percent of the land is severely degraded,
and soil erosion leaves 100,000 square miles of grazing and cropland
unproductive each year.
- According to figures from the Natural Heritage Institute
in San Francisco, unsustainable farming practices--and increasingly,
desertification caused by climate change--drive 900,000 people
off the land each year.