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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Too Much Is Enough


"Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday ... The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production."
- Ayn Rand.

Every year, when the time comes for me to move all my stuff out of my room at home and up to Buffalo or from my room at UB back home, I'm amazed at the sheer quantity of what I own.

It doesn't look like much, especially when it somehow gets squeezed into my cereal box of a dorm room, and yet it takes me two or three car trips to lug everything to where it's supposed to be.

Why do I have so much stuff? It's not like I've been around 30 years, working to furnish a house or an apartment or anything of the like. I live off a $7-an-hour salary that I earn only when I'm at home and all I really have to worry about is clothing, car maintenance stuff and the occasional splurge.

Some of it comes from necessity. I really do need a computer and a printer for schoolwork, no questions asked. And the telephone, that's obvious. But everything else? My television/VCR combo might as well be a tabletop ornament, as often as I get the chance to use it. Then there are all the little things, like my personal CD player and my cell phone (it's for when I'm driving home, in case I break down. Really.) and so on.

We're a spoiled nation. It's hard to remember sometimes, as we sit in our air-conditioned, technologically sophisticated houses and play with our toys, that most of the world is a completely different place.

Take the CD player for an example. In Europe, buying a CD player will cost probably twice as much as what Walmart here would charge you. Even in Japan, industrious leader in electronic production, technology is not cheap. Families in other nations don't have stereos lying around. In my family, we have at the very least four full CD/tape/radio players, not to mention alarm radios or walkmans or what have you.

Internet access, something college students accept as a necessity - right up there with breathing - is the same kind of thing. Lots of American families are starting to either sign up for something like DSL service or getting another phone line to ease restrictions on Internet time, while people across the world seem to survive just fine with minimal or more likely no home access to the Net.

Is it bad? No, not really. As a capitalist society, we offer citizens the right to earn their own money and with that goes the right to spend on what they will. If I want to work twenty extra hours a week so I can go on a shopping spree, then that's my business and I've earned what I buy.

One of my friends once compared America's place in the world to a piece of lined paper.

"You see this big space here at the top?" he said, pointing. You can picture the paper. "Well, America's poor people may be at the bottom of this part, but they're still way above all these other lines."

Imagine you're in kindergarten again. You've got a decent backpack, probably a hand-me-down from your older brother, and decent clothes to wear, nothing fancy. And then a kid comes in, carrying a whole bag of fancy toys, wearing fancy clothes, carrying a brand new backpack straight off the shelves. You're going to be a little resentful.

We work hard for what we have and we deserve what we earn. At the same time, maybe we should all try to be a little more understanding of the way other people and other cultures feel about Americans and American culture.




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