On Affluenza & Other Symptomatic Material Moments…

Stuff for SaleThis weekend, I went to the store to buy one book and left with another. Leaving a store with an item that I didn’t enter with the intention to purchase is not the “news story” here. If you’re anything like me, it probably happens to you all the time.

However, it’s the subject of one particular book which has me sheepishly explaining the incredibly obvious contradiction of the two books that I’m about to pay for at the check-out counter. Their titles are…”The Middle-Class Millionaire; The Rise of the New Rich and How They Are Changing America….and the book that somehow gripped me while browsing through the aisles. It is entitled…”Affluenza; The All-Consuming Epidemic.

The clerk glances at the two titles and then struck by the polar opposite nature of the purchases, picks them up and examines them more thoroughly. Finally he offers this explanation…”Well, M’am…when you’re rich, you’ll know how to avoid Affluenza.” I nod in muted agreement…doubtful.

However, it is this book…the one I didn’t go to the store to buy that consumes my attention throughout the weekend. Affluenza is defined as:

n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones.

2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the American Dream.

The book Affluenza is like a spirited conversation. An engaging and convicting look at what has transpired to us (and within us ) as we have doggedly pursued the American Dream…of more, more & more. It’s a wake-up call that brings into sharp focus the manner in which excessive consumerism has created a nightmare in which most of us are still sleepwalking.

Written with a wry wit and clear eyed analysis, this book offers a comprehensive diagnosis: Starting with Shopping Fever, the Rash of Bankruptcies, Swollen Expectation, Chronic Congestion, the Stress of Excess, Community Chills, An Ache for Meaning, Resource Exhaustion, Industrial Diarrhea and eventually Dissatisfaction Guaranteed, it gently prods us to see our over-drive efforts for improvement at all costs in an entirely new light.

I admit to being mesmerized and at the same time somewhat disheartened. Perhaps it is the sinking realization that one can be on the right path, yet in so many ways miss the reason for the journey in the first place. It is a sobering thing to recognize that the clothes we wear may have cost someone their life. Or that the fruit that is available all year round in the grocery store is cheap and plentiful because of exploitative labor.

As a real estate agent, our growing data-bank of millions of homes which remain unsold and are in foreclosure or shortsale remind us that this disease plays for keeps….Affluenza has real implications and disastrous results if left unchecked. It is literally destroying the financial welfare of millions of Americans even as it consumes their savings and now their personal homes.

But, the book is not a treatise on hopelessness. It seems that many of us are “waking up” to the fact that our priorities are out of whack. We’ve been focusing on the wrong things. In fact, things in and of themselves do not have the ability to provide meaning.

Many “rat-race” refugees are seeking refuge through a different route in life. An empowered path which starts by acknowledging that we’ve been living with a skewed framework of values. A path which seeks restoration within and revitalization in relationship without. An understanding which knows that when I am my brother’s keeper, I have not only gained a brother…I have indeed found myself again.

If you’d like to explore this condition further, check out this site where you can diagnosis, understand and find some proven methods to combat the disease. It’s guaranteed to change your perspective!

To Learn more about the Story of Stuff, click on the link or on the picture. It’s an incredible story!

Lola Audu

Picture is courtesy of: debaird’s photostream

5 Responses to “On Affluenza & Other Symptomatic Material Moments…”

  1. Cecily VanPuyvelde March 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    I really like your comment about being on the right path, yet missing the reason for the journey. I loved The Story of Stuff and I’m going to have to buy Affluenza. So much about my passion – the environment – has to do with this insatiable hunger for more and its destructive forces on all around it, not just personal finances.

  2. Lola March 31, 2008 at 4:11 pm #

    Cecily, I couldn’t put the book down. I’m more than half-way through. The insatiable hunger for more is like an addiction…never satsified, it delivers lower returns on investment every time it is indulged. But…very difficult to break the habit.

  3. Lewis Schiff April 1, 2008 at 7:23 am #


    I’m the author of “The Middle-Class Millionaire” and thought I’d throw my two cents in here. I, too, am a fan of Affluenza, and had it in my mind as I wrote about The Middle-Class Millionaire. The Middle-Class Millionaire that we write about does indeed live an expensive lifestyle. But what is notable about her is that she does it in the pursuit of a dream of a middle-class lifestyle. The book is not a “how-to,” it’s one that holds a mirror up to a group that can lay claim to being lifestyle leaders in society. And what they don’t want is more “stuff,” Instead, what they want is a more profound and productive experience in their own lives and that of their family.

    Enjoy both books!

  4. Lola April 1, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    Hi Lewis, Thanks for stopping by to read and engage in this discussion. I’m planning on reading “The Middle-Class Millionaire” next so I find your descriptive about the premisis of your book interesting. Maybe, my choices were not the polar opposites that I presumed from the titles after all.

  5. kelleyz April 8, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    Off to buy both books, of course I should ask to borrow yours since half of the issue here is the constant spending on things not necessary–but i was not aware of these books and it has touched a nerve over here.

    Good stuff Lola

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.