Affluenza refers to a condition in which we are confused about what it takes to live a worthwhile life. Part of this confusion is the failure to distinguish between what we want and what we need.
– ‘Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough’ by Clive Hamilton & Richard Denniss
Scenes – Seen and Heard
1. Toy Store Meltdown
Sam follows his mother and his baby sister (in pram) into a large toy store. The baby is turning 1 over the weekend and mom wants to buy all she would need for the First Birthday party.
2 hours into the store, mother with basket full of stuff, her nearly one-year-old girl who is now crying and shouting (it is almost their lunch time) and a 3-year-old boy on the loose, reach the cashier. As the mother struggles to quieten her baby, checks out the stuff from the basket and pays, Sam reaches for a fancy pack of candies, displayed behind the cashier. After knocking down a few packs Sam finally gets the pack he wants. He runs over to mother and puts the pack near the other stuff mother is buying.
‘You cannot have that, Sam. I’ve paid for the rest.’
‘But I want it.’
‘I’m sorry, not today.’
‘I want it now.’
Baby starts crying louder.
‘No Sam, I said NO.’8Sam starts to cry, ‘I want it.’
‘Shh Sam, everyone is watching. I’ll get that tomorrow. Now let us go from here.’ Mom hurries, picks up baby, puts shopping bags into the pram and walks out.
Sam stays back crying even louder. He rolls on the floor shouting ‘I want it.’
Mother runs to cashier, pays for the candy Sam wants, shoves it in his hands and exits the store, dragging Sam out with her.
It may look like an end of the trouble for the mother and child. But, it is only the beginning of a newer, bigger, series of trouble.
‘Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.’ – Dalai Lama
2 Collectible Craze
8-year-old Ria comes home running from school, demanding another pack of her favourite collectible toys.
‘Ella got the rare one,’ her reasoning, ‘I want one too.’
Ria, Ella and their friends are a part of the ever growing group of young girls and boys who are fascinated by the ‘surprise’ packs of collectible toys available at even a convenience store.
‘We just got one last week.’ Dad argues.
‘But that didn’t have the rare one that Ella got. I want that one.’
‘What’s the big deal about that one?’
‘That is the ‘special’est one. Whoever has that gets the most friends.’
Looking for the ‘rare’ one translates into buying multiple ‘blind’ packs of the toys with duplicates and triplicates of the ‘common’ ones and maybe (just maybe – the chances are like those of winning a prize in a lottery) find the rare one.
3. Entitled kids
3-year-old Sara comes to her best friend’s birthday party, holding tightly onto a neatly wrapped present. As she approaches to greet her friend, with her mom, she starts saying ‘No, this is mine.’ And refuses to hand over the present. Her mother repeatedly tries to convince her that the box is for the birthday girl and that she can have another one later. But Sara refuses to budge. The birthday girl and other friends move on. Sara and her mom leave the party midway as Sara starts to ‘act up.’
6-year-old Ahaan gets a present from his grandparents who are visiting. Ahaan impatiently tears apart the gift wrapper and the toy pack to find a wooden ‘build-it’ toy.
‘What do I do with this?’ he asks with a frown.
‘Play with it,’ grandma responds, sipping tea.
‘But I can’t,’ Ahaan replies disappointedly, throwing the toy aside. ‘This is not what I wanted. You should have just got me that car.’
6-year-old Z starts shouting and slamming the ‘Claw Arcade Machine’ if he does not get the toy he wants.
9-year-old Nina cannot come to terms with the fact that not everyone wins a prize in a game organized at a fair. She keeps asking the organizer for her prize even when she did not participate in the game.
Stella simply cannot believe her luck and feels miserable when her parents gift her a surprise top-end car on her 16th birthday. She is horrified that her parents chose an ‘ugly red’.
The examples do not intend to point out ‘a spoilt child’ or ‘a spoiling parent’. Such examples are commonplace in modern, developed societies and in pockets of the developing world. The sheer number of such examples hints more towards the kind of environment we are bringing up our children in and the kind of world our children are growing up in.
Children today are ‘economically ‘worthless’ but emotionally ‘priceless’’ – Sociologist Viviana Zelizer