The season of capitalism, love, materialism, and good tidings is almost upon us. In a matter of weeks the familiar bustle of the season will begin with the signature insanity of black Friday.The flow of advertising and materialism will continue until the New Year, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on more stuff the American people don’t need. According to the Center for a New American Dream, this sentiment is shared by more than 78 percent of Americans who wish that the holidays were less materialistic.
Even though the survey took place in 2005, retail sales during the holidays have continued to climb by an average of 3.4 percent each year.
This growth in sales doesn’t fit with the 87 percent of Americans that the CNAD says believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts. Somewhere there is a disconnect between the ideal holiday experience and the one we see in a mall on Christmas Eve.
Perhaps Americans find it difficult to escape from the materialistic culture that they are bombarded with daily, especially during the holiday season when advertising budgets reach ridiculous proportions. Or perhaps people responded to the CNAD’s survey with the answers they thought were “correct” rather then how they live.
Whatever the reason for this discrepancy, it has proven to be a force virtually immune to the public’s principles.
In 2009, the National Retail Federation reported that during the winter holidays Americans spent $446.8 billion. An enormous number when compared to the $93.2 billion donated to religious organizations. This amount spent also makes the $38.6 billion donated to education look like a pittance.
Suppose that this winter the 87 percent fed up with materialism decide to stand by their conviction and spend the holidays with friends and family. Suppose that they took the money that otherwise would have been spent on the latest fad or coolest techno-toy, and use it to help those that haven’t been given the opportunities they have.
The cost of sponsoring a child for a year is around $420.
The average amount each consumer is expected to spend this holiday season is around $750. The average consumer can change a child’s life forever and still have $300 to spend on their loved ones.
If the $446.8 billion spent on trivial objects, was instead dispersed in the form of scholarships, almost seven million children could be sent to a public college.
Granted these examples are utopian, but illuminating the potential for good allows people make that potential into a reality. Although a perfect world doesn’t exist, the money being spent does. The people whose lives could be changed by even the smallest fraction of that money are just as real as you and me.
Joshua Oberholtzer is a student at West Chester University. He can be reached at JO665014@wcupa.edu.