Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Consumerism
















I was observing a fourth grade class today and we were talking about the problems associated with growing plants in space. One person said they thought we could breathe in space if only we could float some algae up there. Not quite. A moment later the conversation had shifted and I heard a young man say, "Yeah I want to be a millionaire. Then I'll be really rich and can do lots of things. I think I'm going to achieve it by inventing something in science and selling it to NASA because they have a lot of money." There are so many things wrong with that statement. It's really hard to decide where to start.

I think the first thing wrong with his statement is that he thinks NASA has a lot of money. It actually doesn't. They aren't even doing a space program right now. The politicians would like you to think they are funding science enough, but in my honest opinion they could generally be doing more.

Next, this boy thinks science is the best way to earn money. I certainly encourage young people to go into the sciences, but the actual best way to earn money is to be a doctor. Anesthesiologists get something like $234,000 every year. Natural sciences managers get something like $128,000. So go to med school ladies and gentlemen. It is still worth the crippling debt.

Perhaps the biggest problem was his misconception about the value of money. Is a million dollars that much money? Yes and no. You could certainly do a lot of things with it, but then it would be gone. If you want to never think about money again you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the American dollar isn't worth very much. This boy had a cultural misconception that he could buy more than he actually could. Why? Big businesses told him so.

I know this picture looks like an infinite regression that I created with Photoshop or a bunch of mirrors, but  it's not. Surprisingly, this is a photo I snapped while we were in the new Wegmans Food Market during a visit to my brother in Rochester. It's so big. The store is  shockingly, aggressively large. In my opinion, Wegmans falls into a category with Walmart as just an obscene store. Not only is it bigger than it needs to be (which I could forgive), but it is so unashamedly proud of its grotesque size that it markets itself in that disgusting Superstore way that almost makes you gag. Imagine if you were from Burundi (a generally pretty hungry country) and you just strolled into a store like Wegmans. You'd be nauseated by the richness that capitalism provides.

I know Wegmans is a good company to work for (unlike Walmart) and I almost feel bad bashing them because they do good things for the communities they exist in, but there is a Wegmans coming to the Fenway area of Boston and even though I want to endorse it I can't. On a microscopic level it will provide jobs and give new food options, but on a more macroscopic level it promotes unashamed consumerism that causes little boys to think once they have a million dollars they will be set for life and happy. I don't want our children to think that. It's simply not true.

1 comment:

Jeff Singer said...

So I'm a little late on this. This photo was taken at the East Ave Wegmans, which is actually one of the smallest Wegmans at only 87,000 square feet, a few of their stores are almost double that size at 140,000 square feet. This store, two separate dining areas, and 484 parking spaces, is their best attempt yet at fitting into a city environment. I can understand why you wouldn't be too excited for them to come to Fenway.


It's sad that the boy thinks that $1,000,000 will make him insanely rich. That would be enough to provide him with $35k a year, for the rest of his life.