Affluenza Documentary on Youtube
While on the subject of consumption, the wonderful hard-to-find PBS documentary Affluenza is now available on Youtube in six parts:
Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.
Affluenza is a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption.
Through revealing personal stories, expert commentary, hilarious old film clips, dramatized vignettes, and "anti-commercial" breaks, Affluenza examines the high cost of achieving the most extravagant lifestyle the world has ever seen.
Last year, Americans, who make up only five percent of the world's population, used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. Add overwork, personal stress, the erosion of family and community, skyrocketing debt, and the growing gap between rich and poor, and it's easy to understand why some people say that the American Dream is no bargain. Many are opting out of the consumer chase, redefining the Dream, and making "voluntary simplicity" one of the top 10 trends of the '90s.
One of the things I found most interesting in this documentary was the strange mix of hard-core Religious Right folks and left-wing environmental and social justice types. For example, one of the featured speakers in this movie is good old anti-gay evangelical superstar and "family man" Ted Haggard--before he got busted for, uh, consuming crystal meth and man-on-man "massages." Haggard extolls the virtue of spending time with your wife and working on your marriage instead of shopping and wasting money. Focus on the Family (shudder) also figures.
But the movie also features speakers who are more my flavor, such as one of my favorite left-wing economists, Juliet Schor. Prof. Schor was my freshman women's studies adviser at Harvard, and taught a wonderful class called "Shop Til You Drop: Gender and Class in Consumer Culture." She's the author of three books I highly recommend: The Overworked American, The Overspent American and Born to Buy.