Americans are spoiled and envious of one another.
That’s a bold statement, but also quite astute if you take a closer look at the how we seem to have the need to have better things than one another. And this isn’t something new, it’s actually been written about by Shira Boss in her book “Green with Envy.”
Do the following questions sound familiar to you?
• How are you doing financially these days?
• Are you okay?
• Are you just getting by?
• Are you rather well off?
These are all legitimate questions, and they allude to a growing problem here in America…overspending to keep up with our neighbors and other family members.
American spending habits ... buying for the wrong reasons
Here is an example of what I’m talking about, and I’m not referring to anyone in particular, this could be anyone…it could even be you.
You’ve got a nice home. It has three bedrooms, two baths, an open floor plan, and a kitchen that Emeril would die for.
All is right with the world. You have a decent job; your wife is a stay at home mom, raising your two beautiful children...and then a new neighbor moves in next door.
They settle in, and then you show them how hospitable you are and welcome them to the neighborhood with a little gift basket. You get to know them a bit and become the “hello” type of neighbors where you wave and ask “how’s things going?” and they wave back to you and ask how you’re doing, it’s all very sugary and cordial. It’s the perfect non-committal friendship…and then you just start to notice “things.”
That little wind chime they put on their back porch, or the new flowers that they just planted near their front of their home. The flowers make the house look nice and the wind chimes are nice to hear when there is a slight breeze in spring and autumn…and then you think well I’d like to have a wind chime for our back deck…and that’s when it begins doesn’t it?
Isn’t that what it’s all about in the US, keeping up appearances at all costs? We so want to be able to keep up with what our neighbors, or our cousin or our brother or sister that we’ll do anything and everything to make it happen.
We’ll even get into credit card debt to do it won’t we? It starts out innocently enough, first with some new plants for the front yard, and then you notice that shiny new snow blower that they have. It only takes your neighbor “Bob” just two passes with his snow blower to move all of that snow. And you say to the wife, “honey we (meaning “you”) need a new snow blower that’s almost as big as Bob’s over there.
So you go to sears, max out your credit card and have them deliver that brand spanking new snow blower to your home, and have them assemble it for you and then you “ride” in it and you get your snow blowing done in just one pass…don’t you feel better and superior now?
Envy drives people to 'compete' with neighbors, friends, co-workers
And that ladies and gentlemen is one of the main causes of debt in the United States. Keeping up with our neighbors spending habits, and buying all of those fabulous Plasma TV’s with 3-d glasses, and that new surround sound system to enhance our viewing pleasure, a system that would blow Kiss off stage! All because we want to have what our neighbors have.
And then the other shoe drops…the economy begins to turn sour, and there goes your overtime, your hours are cut because of downsizing… or you find yourself suddenly unemployed, and you can’t make those enormous credit card payments.
One of the things we have to ask ourselves is “Are we just hardwired to do this?”
The answer to that is a little weird, if it comes from (of all places) the Bible, where God says that he made people on earth with a "spirit of envy", which is purportedly that all creation is under the curse of sin, after Adam and Eve's fall from the Garden of Eden.
So, are we hardwired to spend money like this? To gaze upon others with envy and even jealousy? It would explain a few things, such as the world of hip hop, high school cliques, and McMansions that just keep getting bigger.
Another question is “Are other countries just like us?” Do people in Europe have the same sort of attitude as far as “keeping up with their neighbors"? I’ve heard about the woes of the Greek economy, and the value of the Euro not doing so well, but I never hear about stories of people in Europe finding themselves in debt up to their eyeballs because they wanted to have better “stuff” then their neighbors!
No, sadly I think that’s a trait that only an American can hold their heads up proudly and admit to having after all, in the end… isn’t it just a competition? And aren’t we Americans competitive to a fault? Think really hard before you answer that question.