“What is happiness to you?” We all have heard this question sometime throughout our life. Even the famous movie, “Vanilla Sky”, staring Tom Cruise, centers its entire theme on this topic. There are many forms of happiness that one may encounter on many levels, whether if it is either helping out a fellow colleague or simply doing a certain act of service that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. But our world today presents another path to the so-called happiness that we all desire. This is the path that has now evolved around materialistic values and consumerism that has made a large impact on our society. In Harry Crews’ essay “The Car” and James B. Twitchell’s “Two Cheers for Materialism”; we begin to take notice of the reality of materialism and how it is playing a major role in our lives. Many studies have been performed to try and discover an answer to the question on whether material possessions can lead to happiness; it seems that our society continues to fail at making a decision. However, the majority of tests prove that our society does believe that our lives are becoming too materialistic and money doesn’t essentially lead to a form of happiness in one’s life.
A recent study from UC Berkeley claims that their findings through various research, lend strong support for the idea that the way money impacts happiness, does indeed depend on the individual (Hyman 1). It was also stated that if money is what you value, than money, indeed, would make you happy. This article basically proves that it is the person’s self-opinion on whether he or she believes that money will lead to his or her happiness. There are thousands of people that long for that dream of success and riches. But are these studies found at UC Berkeley always true? Another article questioning money and materialism leading to happiness, by Jan Lundberg, is in blaring contrast to UC Berkeley’s findings. She states: “When one lacks love or experiences the pain of loss, it often becomes clear that money and property don’t mean much” (Lundberg 1). As we compare these two articles, we notice that money may lead to happiness, but when it disappears or when we lack it, we feel the pain of loss.
There is no dispute that our society is becoming more involved in materialistic and consumer values, now more than ever. We as consumers love to purchase various products of all types and forms. There are even those times when we as consumers get attached to a certain object, as witnessed is Harry Crews’ essay “The Car”. Harry explained his strong love that he had for his car and the care he gave to it. We realize that some of us have certain attractions to materials at one point in our lives as when he put twenty-seven coats of paint on his car, just due to his mere obsession with his car.
James B. Twitchell also gives us a fairly good viewpoint on materialism in our society today, in his essay “Two Cheers for Materialism”. He questions the idea of whether it is alright for our society to have these high materialistic values, and will they lead to happiness for us. James claims that we are living in a “Mallcondo” society where we expect to have things done and at ease for us. Why shouldn’t we have a smile on our face if we are presented this life?
This isn’t always the case though. Davis G. Myers released an article titled “The Third Cultural”, discussing our view of materialism, which is leading to a happier lifestyle. He said that three in four entering American collegians consider it very important or essential that they become very well off financially. David also stated that our society’s income increased by more than double since 1957, but the number of Americans who claimed that they were very happy dropped from thirty-five to thirty-three percent. Even the Forbes’ hundred wealthiest Americans surveyed, by the University of Illinois’ psychologist Ed Diener, claimed that they are only slightly happier that the average American (Third Cultural 1).
If time and time again, it is proven in our society through surveys or peoples opinions that money doesn’t lead to happiness then why do we still feel that it can? A Lexus ad once proclaimed the voice of the majority: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, isn’t spending it right.” Also, a Princeton study showed that eighty-nine percent of people said that our world today is to materialistic, but ironically eighty-four percent of them wished that they had more money. Materialism and consumerism sure do control a major part of our society today, and survey after survey can tell us that money doesn’t essentially lead to happiness, but that isn’t slowing us down. The smile and feeling after buying that new car we worked so long for, is a feeling that no one wants to live without. So, until then, we as Americans are going to still say “Two Cheers for Materialism.”
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