Saturday, January 19, 2008


Ah to be young and tactless, like my new coworker Vicky. She is 16, so I should give her a break, but really. Yesterday I asked her innocently how her day was. She mentioned a bit of a shopping spree. I wasn't really interested, but she began to catalogue all her purchases. There was a time, perhaps I would've been excited to hear such things, but hearing some teen rattle on about blowing all her cash on trendy accessories while I spend all my money on "essential items" is a little annoying.

What was most cloying was her insistence on gabbing about cell phones. "What kind of phone do you have? I have two cell phones. One's from my boyfriend and the other is a brand new blah blah. I used to have a different one, but I 'walked into a wall' with it. Well that's what I told my dad. Actually I threw it at a friend, cause I was mad, and he stomped on it and cracked the screen, so I made my dad buy me a new one."

Of course this kind of chit chat is not endearing. Maybe when she grows up a bit she'll realize this. But an interesting article on the BBC yesterday (see below) talked about a greater danger of such a materialistic outlook. Apparently people living in "selfish capitalist" countries (as opposed to "unselfish capitalist") are at greater risk of mental illness. While Oliver James does not define "selfish capitalist" in the article, I think one can get his drift. Both America and England are countries where keeping up appearances through the guise of material possessions is often given much more weight than the kind of person you are.

And at a cost. " ...studies show that 23% of Americans, Britons, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians - all English-speaking "selfish capitalist" nations - suffered mental ill-health in the past 12 months. But only 11.5% of Germans, Italians, French, Belgians, Spaniards and Dutch experienced mental problems."

I also wonder at the promised cure-all in acquisition. Although we are skeptical about commercials and say to ourselves we know putting on an ipod won't make us dance around in musical glee, you can't doubt that these messages affect us. (i.e. I have all this stuff, why aren't I happier?)

Check out the article. What do you think? Why are Americans, Britons, and the like so depressed?

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