"Americans have been on an acquisition binge for decades," Quindlen writes. "I suspect television advertising, which made me want a Chatty Cathy doll so much as a kid that when I saw her under the tree my head almost exploded." Quindlen notes: "A person in the United States replaces a cell phone every 16 months, not because the cell phone is old, but because it is oldish." And yet? "Homelessness, which had fallen in recent years, may rebound as people lose their jobs and their houses. For the first time this month, the number of people on food stamps will exceed the 30 million mark."
Right after the go-go, me-me, buy-buy '80s came the bling-bling '90s and Marc Jacobs-handbag early aughts. The nation is coming down from a long spending high, and the purchases we made while we were all cranked up aren't looking so smart. Now, writes Quindlen:
Hard times offer the opportunity to ask hard questions, and one of them is the one my friend asked, staring at sweaters and shoes: why did we buy all this stuff? […] Because things are dire, many people have become hesitant to spend money on trifles. And in the process they began to realize that it's all trifles. Here I go, stating the obvious: stuff does not bring salvation. But if it's so obvious, how come for so long people have not realized it?"
Do we blame TV? Do we blame magazines? Do we blame celebrity culture and the desire to imitate their posh lifestyles? Quindlen says, "My father will be happy to tell you about the excitement of getting an orange in his stocking during the Depression. The depression before this one." Can you picture any modern American kid having the same reaction?
Stuff Is Not Salvation [Newsweek]
Material World, by Peter Menzel" />