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Draper - Affluenza


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Draper - Affluenza

  1. 1. Running head: AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 1 An Exacerbation of Affluenza Edward J Draper Siena Heights University
  2. 2. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 2 An Exacerbation of Affluenza Introduction Have you ever wondered why the bar society uses to measure one’s quality of their standard of living is scaled by their possessions and monetary wealth? I believe it has to do with societal standards and the culture set forth by the people who follow these standards. So, who determined which position of the scale to be ideal? At what point in the growth of humankind was this determined? Some relate this to television and other media, where we see Musicians, Athletes, and other entertainers, flaunt large homes, fancy cars, and what seems like an endless supply of money. People see this and yearn to have these same luxuries. Why is this? The answer to this is simple; these luxuries have in them symbolism; symbolism that equates to a separation of them and the lack of their basic needs. With each of these “things” comes the basis for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: sustenance, safety/security, the feeling of being accepted, and approval/recognition (Huitt, 2007). I relate it to earlier times; times when one had to work hard for everything they had and that a stockpile meant you could survive in tough times. Another way to define standard of living is the individuals chance to survive; the more “things” one had meant that the individual could survive longer in times of drought or long periods of inclement weather. This stockpile also gave this person power. Power to influence people because they held something the others needed for the above-mentioned basic survival. Under this same principle, being over-weight in many cultures is a status and power symbol. Those who can over-provide for themselves can provide for others, if they so choose.
  3. 3. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 3 My Standard of Living and From Where I Came It is not easy for people to look at themselves objectively. Perception plays a large role in the reality and Howell (1982) describes it best when he describes unconscious incompetence in his book The Empathic Communicator, he says, “you do not know what you do not know”. My outlook on my position may differ than others and I may be bias. Ultimately, I view my standard of living today as comfortable. We are not struggling; my family has more than I did as a child growing up. We drive newer vehicles, we live in a nice safe home, we always have clothes on our back, food to eat, and we go out to eat more often than we should. We are able to care for our pets who never go without. We have the ability to be present when our children are participating in extra-curricular activities and they always have the gear or gadgets they want while doing these activities. In addition, for the most part, we travel at least once a year. Our children have swam with dolphins in the Bahamas, snorkeled with sea turtles in St. Thomas, watched planes land over Maho Beach in Sint Maarten, cruised on the world’s largest cruise ship, as well as been able to visit a hand-full of States around the United States. Growing up, my basic needs were met; however, not with as much luxury. We had reliable transportation, but both of my parents drove used vehicles. We lived in a nice safe home and had clothes on our back. We had plenty of food; I have my waistline to prove it. I always participated in extra-curricular activities; however, there were many times that only one of my parents attended as the other was commonly working. One major difference was our ability to travel. My parents took us on the common Northern Michigan trips: Mackinaw Island, the Soo (Sault) Locks, and camping once in the
  4. 4. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 4 Upper Peninsula; however, only twice in my childhood did my family travel out-of-state. Not that this is too uncommon, especially for the era. My parents did take my sister and me to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, as well as a trip to Disney World. With this, I am not saying we somehow had a horrible childhood because we did not travel the world, I am simply suggesting that our abilities differed at that time. A Different Standard of Living Today, society has set a culture that requires a person to live more affluently than in days past. With the advancement of technology, it would be much more difficult to live without certain luxuries, such as the internet, a cellular phone, or reliable transportation. Each of these amenities cost money and yet, without these luxuries, a family can be held hostage by their inability to “keep up with the Jones’”, resulting in an influencing and revolving effect on the family’s earning potential. Furthermore, without the right clothes, haircut, car, or electronic devices, an individual’s social status is at risk. They can be subject to bullying, rejection, and they run the risk of being labeled as a “have-not”. These conditions are not only tough on the individual’s self-esteem, but can drastically alter their opportunities from the beginning. When looking at these dangers, it makes me ask a few questions. What if there was a drastic change in my family’s financial situation? What would we do if our income were significantly reduced? Would we be able to adjust accordingly or is our stability in jeopardy as we fall into a condition of exacerbated “affluenza” (Simon, n.d.)? I can say, though we are not perfect or fully prepared, my wife and I have worked hard and continue to work at reducing our risk, even though we live in this acquisitive culture. At one
  5. 5. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 5 point in time, we suffered from affluenza. We had a camper, an ATV, a time-share condominium, and many other “things”. This preparation began when my wife received an acceptance letter to nursing school, which was the initial motivator for our life-style modification. We sold the “toys”, had our cable television disconnected, and began paying off as much debt as possible. We knew that, as part of taking on the endeavor of nursing school would require my wife to minimize her employment to a casual or per diem status, subsequently cutting our family income in half. We made the life- style changes work; and after a couple of years, my wife graduated, and became a licensed registered nurse. After she began working again, we added back some of the amenities. We bought my wife a new car; however, we did not add back items such as cable television, as we found that we truly did not miss it. Instead, we used the money saved to start taking family trips, which we found to be more enjoyable. Conclusion Day-to-day, we each are attempting to fulfill our own our needs, based on our own perception of these needs. At times, we Americans base this perception on what others have, rather than the actual physiologic and social needs. When exploring my own condition, beginning with past and traveling through until today, I have a better understanding that, though the life I am giving my children differs from the life my parents gave me, we each put weight into the areas we feel are important. We estimate and calculate how much time and money we put into different items.
  6. 6. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 6 Affluence affects each of us differently and to varying degrees. We each have a different perception of what is a need and what is excessive. Ultimately, treating an exacerbation of affluenza comes down to a balancing act of our financial condition, cultural standards, and the choices the people feel they can or cannot live. We need to keep at bay, the urge to live outside of our means to simply, “keep up with the Jones’”.
  7. 7. AN EXACERBATION OF AFFLUENZA 7 References Howell, W.S. (1982). The empathic communicator (pg. 30). University of Minnesota: Wadsworth Publishing Company Huitt, W. (2007). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from, Simon, S. (n.d.). Affluenza. PBS. Retrieved from