Extravagance Displacement

The bath tub likely brings back one’s happy memories of a simpler time, when tiny bodies were immersed in warm water with an assortment of buoyant toys. It was of little consequence to the soaking child that there was an interesting display of physics at work, when the human body being lowered into the water caused the waterline to rise, a process know as displacement. If more children are added to the water, the line continues to rise as the water works its way upwards, making room for the mass being added.

Likewise, the bodies in the bathtub of western civilization have caused a rise in the line of extravagance. A society built on the backs of people who work long hours for low wages has evolved into one dependent on credit cards, strip malls and large automobiles with heated seats. No longer is extravagance the reward of hard work and diligent saving, it is standard that everyone must have. We are in the generation of have-it-nows, were the latest unnecessary purchase is only available one credit purchase away.

Too often it seems the public is given a reprieve from its behavior. All manner of experts are presented in the media with charts and graphs, explaining the trends in the economy. Pundits see fit to blame particular people or political ideologies on the failures of social responsibility. And perhaps this is understandable, for it is difficult to criticize the behaviors of a society without facing repercussion or dismissal.

The problem seems to extend past the scope of punditry or economics; rather it is a type of mass delusion. Statistically, Americans have a house full of electronic devices and don’t have a dime in savings. The lifestyle of privilege is a town filled with large corporate stores, restaurants and other merchants that deliver luxuries with a smile. When times get tough, Americans are told by officials to consume more to help these businesses maintain profitability. And Americans gladly comply, because pursuing a dream tomorrow takes time and effort, and the skills of savings and hard work are virtues that grandparents had to endure prior to the tools of easy credit. People seem to believe that their dreams can be secured today with an easy payment plan, an easy deal with financial institutions in which one volunteers a economic slavery for the fancy things to occupy space in your house.

Now that the country is overextended on credit, the reality of a debt economy will finally be visiting the pocketbooks of Joe Average. The toys in the bathtub were spilling out of the tub along with the overflowing water. And now the drain has been pulled, leaving our bodies cold and naked in an empty tub with some sudsy rubber duckies. Regardless of how this situation is dealt with, the question remains: will people have learned anything from it?

See related article Damnation: The Psychology of the Consumerist Age of Debt