wasn't always the land of blue-light specials and Barbie
dolls. In fact, we started the century with a rather austere
ethic, partly Puritan and partly capitalist, which stressed
moral qualities: hard work, honesty, sacrifice, character.
Rewards came from contributing or producing.
in the '20s and '30s, a new way of thinking began to emerge,
nourished by a surge of breakthrough discoveries and inventions
such as electricity, telephones, automobiles, household
appliances, radio, television, movies, and air travel.
These dazzling developments understandably caused a lot
of excitement--after all, people had been relying on horse-drawn
transportation and oil lamps for thousands of years...
we're bombarded from infancy with images of all the wonderful
things we can buy to transform our lives into bliss and
perfection. (By one estimate, American kids have seen
an average of 360,000 ads by the time they graduate from
high school.) Once we decide to get something, ownership
can be ours with a quick trip to a nearby store, or we
can order even more easily by phone from a catalog or
TV shopping show.
created a culture which not only fosters overspending,
but which makes it almost impossible to kick the habit.
Like eating, spending is often the solace we learn to
turn to when we're feeling lonely, sad, frightened, helpless,
unfulfilled, or unlovable. Maybe it's not really love
or happiness, we may admit to ourselves, but it's better
than nothing. .
with permission from
, Fall 1995.
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