Have you ever heard the term “Affluenza” before? It is a play on words referring to a social sickness. It has to do with the way we view and understand our resources, particularly here in the Western world.
Affluenza is a painful, contagious STD (socially transmitted disease) of overload, disregard, waste, and debt anxiety resulting from the dogged pursuit of always wanting more without counting the cost of getting it.
Not a bad description for much of the sickness in the world, is it? Can you detect the sickness in yourself? It’s okay to admit it—most of us are already infected, always wanting more achievement, more to spend, more stuff, more more more. Left unchecked, these pursuits are self-destructive.
I spent some time looking for research that concluded, “If you’re more successful/wealthy/accomplished, you are statistically happier.” Sadly, I couldn’t find anything. In fact, I found quite the opposite. It appears that the more we have, the more we’re left wanting. We’re beginning to recognize that the earth’s resources are not infinite and that they’re insufficient to withstand the strength and scope of our hunger and need…and that ought to bother us.
I’d like for us to be bothered productively by considering the following responses:
Investing vs. Spending
Once something is gone, it really is gone. Are there ways we can invest our resources so they don’t eventually vanish?
Reusability vs. Usability
What are the ways in which we can use things over and over again? How can we be creative about finding new uses for old things?
World-Service vs. Self-Service
Is there a way to share what you have with someone else? This is a great question to ask before even simple home purchases. Why are you doing buying this? Is it just for you? Is it for you and someone else? Is it for you and a bunch of other people?
Adding Value vs. Reducing Harm
Much of our environmental initiatives have to do with reducing harm (reuse, reduce and recycle). Those are reductionist methods of dealing with an ecological problem. Every single day in the United States we use so much energy that it takes the earth twenty-seven years to naturally replenish it. If all we think about is harm reduction, then we could say we were successful if it took the earth only five years to fix the mess we made in a day. Isn’t that ridiculous?
We’ve got to think instead about what we’re doing to add value to the world, to culture, to society, to family, and to faith.
Excerpt from Almighty Dollar.