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Home > Blog > Hmmm. . .Really?
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, September 02, 2004 1:50 PM
Hmmm. . .Really?
Anita Sharpe on Culture

A group called The Center for a New American Dream just released interesting results from a poll of 1,269 U.S. adults. First, I applaud this group's mission to 'protect the environment, enhance quality of life and promote social justice.' I couldn't be more personally enthusiastic about all of those things.

But the results of the poll left me scratching my head. It found that 88% believe that Americans are too materialistic and four out of five believe U.S. society is too focused on shopping and spending. 'This Labor Day, they are more interested in being with loved ones rather than hitting the mall,' said Betsy Taylor, the Center's president.

Forgive me if I doubt that mall parking lots will be empty this weekend.

Consider what has been happening in the publishing world, where some media companies are turning into virtual catalog printers: Lucky, Cargo, Vitals. Even OPRAH, of all people, devotes the latest issue of her magazine to shopping.

So here's a question (or three): is it possible to be pro-quality of life and still go shopping? What's better -- a family outing to the mall or a family at home in separate rooms watching TV? Is it possible that much of our shopping mania simply represents another quest to add more beauty to our lives?


6 comments

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dillan - 9/3/2004 1:58:25 PM
ahhh, to over interpret, isn't it a lovely thing. i do find the topic interesting. i think people enjoy to shop for different reasons of course. For me, to shop and bit and have a nice lunch out with my family from time to time is a wonderful thing. it is indeed all about balance. There are now niche mags devoted to certain types of shopper and if you want to be baffled at the choices by all means you will. You take away what you can and as always these decisions are still your own.
Robert - 9/2/2004 9:33:22 PM
So in other words, perhaps 12% of us think we should have MORE stuff?? That's scary. What motivates consumption and over-consumption is complicated, latter can even be tied to manic depression. Perhaps we should consider continuing to go to our malls, but to do so in more environmentally-responsible hybrid cars. And then, hopefully, if we feel better about ourselves for doing that, it might be easier to reduce the time we feel we need to spend in malls.

Not that malls are inherently evil ...

Just recalled Lily Tomlin's observation (paraphrased): 'I went to the store today, and bought a wastebasket ... they put the wastebasket in a big plastic bag ... I came home, took the wastebasket out of the bag, and put the bag into the wastebasket.' Of course this has no direct relevance to your question, just came to mind ....
Matt - 9/2/2004 4:07:25 PM
I can see the shopping mania as 'another quest to add more beauty to our lives'. It's the analog to 'I don't feel well, I'll just take a pill', generally a short-sighted, short-term approach to fix a deeper problem.

Also, will that family that goes shopping (instead of staying in separate rooms in the house) shop together, or will they all end up in separate stores? Any wagers?
karen clay - 9/2/2004 3:26:18 PM
To answer your question, I would offer that it IS possible to be pro-quality of life and still go shopping. Yes, we Americans love to shop. But, like most things in life, temperance is wise – too much of a good thing is well, too much. Yet Americans are also some of the most benevolent people on the planet: nearly 90% of U.S. households give to charitable organizations and approximately 40% volunteer. So who says shopping and making a positive difference have to be mutually exclusive endeavors? In fact, a local group of socially conscious capitalists and nonprofit professionals whom I call my colleagues have built an innovative business concept around the notion that capitalism and consumption CAN count for more. Our company, Benevolink, links consumers with retailers and nonprofits, to help each reach its goals: buying nice things (consumers), building loyal customers (retailers) and raising needed funds (nonprofits). We were founded on the premise that American consumers are committed to giving back, and that through their shopping, every consumer can be a philanthropist, too. I encourage your readers to check us out. If you're going to shop, why not make it count for more? Even that $300 blouse could generate $20 or more for the charity of your choice!
Jory Des Jardins - 9/2/2004 2:34:25 PM
I find this interesting, too! I just finished this month's issue of O Magazine. I have to say I love that magazine and feel it's one of the most personal-development-oriented pubs out there. But I was shocked at the focus, which was 'Gotta Shop.' Suddenly my wardrobe felt a bit paltry and I remembered why I banned women's magazines from my home (O is the exception). There is an odd editorial by Oprah herself at the end saying, basically, 'Funny, I have all the money in the world right now, and yet I will only buy what I need...Don't forget your charge card.' The 'smart buys' features showed the 'must haves' any real woman should have in their wardrobe. I must not be much of a woman because I would never (never say never) blow $300 on a shirt.

I appreciate the sentiment--if you're gonna shop, do it right--but I'd just assume read something reminding me that I already have what I need.

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