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Affluenza, Prozac and Pavlov’s dog

Kenneth Zammit Tabona, The Times (Malta)
How classically commonplace it is for parents to fulfil their own lives through their children. In today’s ultra-competitive world, wherein one must excel even within the family circle, this pressure is causing untold harm.

A horrifying article about depressed children in the magazine of last week’s Sunday Times caught my attention. Did you know that this summer the influential European Medicines Agency (EMEA) officially advocated the prescription of the antidepressant Prozac within the EU for children from the age of eight? When one reads on one will be even more horrified to discover that Prozac is not only given to children with serious, diagnosed disorders but to those who are suffering of affluenza.

What is affluenza one may ask? Obsessive materialism? The consequences of too much of a good thing? The need to sustain and continually improve one’s lifestyle and status? Overexposure to the media and its impossible image? The need to prove oneself every minute of the day? The need to have a better house, a better car, take more holidays, dress better, look amazing, dine in better restaurants? Is our society that insecure? This inbuilt ambition that has transcended the generations has, even in Maltese society, been the cause of many marital break-ups and children “gone to the bad”.

So desperate are we to sustain and improve our status in society that the pressures we put on our children to excel is causing more harm than good.
(21 Nov 2006)
Tabona argues that ‘today’s children grow up too fast’ but I don’t know if ‘growing up’ is the best way of labeling the process of immersion into competitive and corporate media cultures he describes (Tabona presumably didn’t really mean this either). John Taylor Gatto, former NYC teacher of the year, argues that the forced school system is actually designed to stunt maturation. He describes some of his former students’ personalities as fragile because they are borrowed from pop culture rather than earned, making, among other things, intimacy frightening.

Conspicuous consumption comes out of the closet

Mickey Z., Alternative Press Review.
My wife and I moved into a new apartment earlier this year. Just a few blocks from our old place, it’s been a major quality of life improvement in almost every possible way. One unexpected adjustment, however, was closet space. This moderately sized one-bedroom apartment has only two narrow closets. (You couldn’t fit a scandalous skeleton in them if you tried.) Keeping in mind that the building is more than 78 years old, how might we explain this egregious “oversight”?

a) The architects were idiots
b) The architects callously cut corners
c) Americans had far less “stuff” in 1928
d) All of the above

Accepting as a given that all humans are idiots that callously cut corners, the can’t-miss answer is, of course, D. However, in this particular case, I believe C is far more accurate. In fact, I’ll bet the original tenants here considered themselves mighty lucky to even have two closets. They may have believed that whatever didn’t fit inside was superfluous. Imagine that: A two-closet existence.

Long before shopping became hardwired into human biology, Voltaire said, “When it’s a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.” That said, it might appear sacrilegious to suggest the two-closet lifestyle during Christmas shopping season. However, we all share the blame for the global costs of our commodity culture. Multi-national corporations may be most obvious villains but shopping malls only survive if they can attract
(29 Nov 2006)

Asian affluence: going, going, going up

Tom Mitchell, The Australian
IN a region where a Chinese bank looking to raise $US22 billion ($27.8 billion) can attract $US500 billion in an initial public offering of share orders, $US19.4 million does not seem that much for a piece of porcelain.

The price paid for an 18th-century imperial Chinese “swallows” bowl at Christie’s Hong Kong auctions this week – a world record for a Qing dynasty ceramic – is a reminder that Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s mega-IPO in October was just one facet of an investment craze that is sweeping Asia.

“What’s happening to us is symptomatic of what’s happening to the world,” says Edward Dolman, Christie’s chief executive. “It’s being driven by the extraordinary amounts of cash that are around. It’s a great time to be selling art.”

…Mr Dolman adds: “We’ve never seen so much money coming in from China, Russia, Wall Street, the City (and) India”
(5 Dec 2006)
There’s more money, yes, but is there any real wealth? Bank shares, and puting a higher price on something that already existed really don’t add up to anything physical added to the economy. As long as all that excess money in the system stays tied up in bank shares and art relics we’re relatively ok. When confidence is lost and that money comes looking for more secure sources of value that we’re in trouble. Then the money we use to buy our groceries becomes of far less value.

The Rich Vs. The Filthy Rich

Dick Meyer, CBS News
The New York Times is doing a terrific job covering the brewing economic civil war in this country between the “haves and the have mores,” as one of its recent headlines put it. It appears that American Midas has struck twice in a row, via the Internet Boom and the Hedge Fund Boom. The combined effect has been historically large gaps between the fortunes of the rich and the filthy rich. And the merely rich aren’t happy about it.
(30 Nov 2006)

Dare to consume less

Edward Flattau, Baltimore Sun
There is something unseemly about our nation’s obsessive preoccupation with holiday shopping when our troops are dying and being maimed in Iraq. Should our indulgence be tempered by thoughts of the thousands of Iraqis who have also perished in the conflict as well as the billions of people around the globe lacking adequate drinking water and sanitation?

Do we need to take stock when the valuable natural resources used in many of the products we buy are being drained from the earth at an unsustainable rate and are not being recycled? After all, the United States and other developed countries constitute only 20 percent of the world’s population, yet they consume more than 80 percent of its natural resources.
(4 Dec 2006)