I received a catalog in the mail yesterday, and on the front was the caption "happiness delivered." That really bothered me and caused me to think about the American consumerist society. Why do we think that having more stuff will make us happy? Sure, if you don't have the essentials that you need then getting those essentials will make someone happier. But once you have what you really need does having more make you happier? I guess that I have thought about this over the last year or two as I've read some on recent studies and books about happiness. Happiness doesn't come from material possessions, at least not lasting happiness. But especially at the holidays there is this expectation to buy for friends and family to show that we love them. My mother seems to believe this. She got tired of having me return most of what she bought for me when I was a teen, so one year she asked me to give her a list of things that I would like for the holidays. I did, and every year since she calls or emails in the fall and asks for my list. I'm 46, not a six year old with a list for Santa. I don't need more stuff!
I see this "more is better" mentality when I go to a shopping mall, which isn't often. I see store after store filled with stuff and I wonder if we need most of this, and does having it make people happier? Our former President encouraged Americans to go shopping at the beginning of the last minor recession about 10 years ago - he made it sound like our patriotic duty. That was great - rack up credit card debt to buy stuff you don't need. Even now the newspapers cheer on excessive spending at the holidays as a sign that consumer spending is up and therefore the economy is improving. Why not suggest that people cut back on spending and pay down debt?
After the holidays I plan to contact my family and suggest that we only buy gifts for the kids next year. I really don't need my family to buy me gifts to know that they love me.
Sorry for the rant. I just feel that our priorities about buying for others and accumulating more possessions is misplaced.
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