The United States of Excess and the hunger for more
America is a nation of excess. From supersize food portions to supercharged cars, it appears as if most Americans are striving for the ‘go big or go home' lifestyle.
We live in a time of ad-driven consumption, unbridled greed, and a ‘need it now' mentality. This excessive mindset can be found in all areas of life, and especially in the amount of food we eat.
Travel the world and compare portion sizes to a typical meal in the states. Chances are Americans will expect more on their plates. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organizationof the United Nations, portion sizes in the United States not only exceed those in less-developed countries, but also in the developed world. In fact, Americans have the highest per capita daily consumption in the world, eating 3,770 calories a day.
In addition to eating large, Americans like to drive large. Driving a luxury vehicle has become a distinguishing status symbol. People are instantly judged on how well off they are financially by the type of car they drive. The difference in America is that when it comes to cars, the roomier and the bigger, the better.
According to fueleconomy.gov, the standard size of an American compact car is 100-109 cubic feet while the standard size of a European car is considerably smaller. American models are bigger even than vehicles from the same manufacturer in other nations.
In European countries it is very common to see small streets filled with tiny Smart Cars, Mini Coopers and in most locales, mopeds. In America, however, those same mini-vehicles that happily cruise European roads are seen as an annoyance. America is home of the Escalade, the Hummer and the Denali. While other countries view their cars as simply a means of getting around (imagine that), Americans drive to be seen.
In order to acquire luxury vehicles and other extravagant goods, many Americans have fallen in the snare of credit card debt. According to federalreserve.gov, while most households that carry balances owe at least $2,000, about one in 20 Americans owes $8,000 or more in credit card debt.
One visit to usdebtclock.org and you get an overwhelming sense of the nation's debt. Numbers fill the screen, rapidly rising in all categories of debt. According to this government site, the total US debt is over $54 trillion.
Undergraduates are also carrying record-high credit card balances. The average balance for undergrads grew to $3,173, which is the highest it's been in five years.
So who's to blame for America's self-induced societal disorder? Hollywood? Advertisers? Schools? In actuality, the answer lies within each and every one of us. In order to stop excessive consumption, one must be inwardly content with their lot in life. Instead of feeling anxiety over the thought of paying off credit card bills or the stress of living above one's means, we as a people need to redefine our definition of success.
The secret to true contentment lies in loving people, not money and possessions. Resist the urge to compare yourself with others, maintain an appreciative attitude and find friends that encourage you to be content, not to compete. Many satisfy their spiritual need and have their spirituality as a focus, instead of money. America may be a nation of excess, but as Benjamin Franklin said, "Contentment makes poor men rich and discontent makes rich men poor."