Affluenza: The Epidemic With No Vaccine

ColumnGot Affluenza?

Affluenza is an affliction that is characterized by the relentless pursuit of material goods and luxury services. This condition is about keeping up with the Joneses, even if the upscale lifestyle comes with debt, stress and no real or lasting happiness. While some may think of this syndrome as just another pop-culture cliche, others consider it to be a real affliction. I happen to be an accomplished hypochondriac, and generally think there is a decent chance that I have every possible ailment that exists, whether it is physical, spiritual or emotional (in fact, at this very minute I’m trying to decide if the pain radiating across in my left shoulder is a muscle pull or a heart attack). But affluenza is one condition from which I do not suffer – my aging inner hippie, coupled with a lack of disposable income, keep me fairly immune from rampant consumerism.

Also, for the last 20 years I have been a middle class person living in an extremely affluent suburb, and this has lent me an aggressive form of reverse snobbery. I like to think of myself as a latter day Beverly Hillbilly, clanking around Mercedes country in a rusty Toyota with a failing muffler. I wear my relative poverty as if it were a sign of groundedness and moral superiority, when it’s really just the result of laziness and half-assed financial planning. But living as I do in a town known for movie stars, former presidents, and investment bankers, I am familiar with affluenza, and its sufferers.

If any of the following symptoms apply to you, you may have contracted a bad case of affluenza:
-You have no idea where the toilet brush, rubber gloves or cleaning supplies in your home are kept.

-When you hear that Kim Kardashian is planning a wedding that will cost ten million dollars, it strikes you as something to aspire to, as opposed to the end of all hope, reason, and laughter.

-You have a nutritionist and an acupuncturist. For your dog

-You use the word “summer” as a verb, as in “We summer in our cottage in Maine.”

-You have, at least once, bought something so extravagant, that you had to divide the purchase between two credit cards, a fistful of cash and some traveler’s checks.

-You paid someone else to teach your child how to ride a bike.

-You are unaware that there are cars manufactured in the United States, not to mention Korea.

-Your engagement ring can be seen from space.

-You think of Depression as something to be treated with Prozac, as opposed to government job initiatives and tax breaks for small businesses.

-You are unaware that drinkable water is available right out of the sink.

-The thought of spending $56,000 a year on college does not immediately give you chest pains (although I guess that could just be a muscle pull…)

-Two words: life coach.

Susan Goldberg is a slightly lapsed treehugger. Although known to overuse paper products, she has the best of intentions – and a really small SUV. Catch her column, The Goldberg Variations, each week here at EcoSalon.

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