Thursday, April 16, 2009


Can't Keep Up with Those Joneses
article by
Liam Owen
photos by
Melissa Carugati

Stuff . So much stuff. I have to go to Best Buy, Macy's, Staples, and then go get a pile of useless crap from Walmart. Do you have a television in every room too? Don't forget about the ones in the cars. I have an xbox 360, but my son prefers his DS. My other son really enjoys the Wii. Personal preference, I suppose. I mean they all play the same games, really. I have four ipods, because, well, let's be honest, as the technology improves, why not have the best? What about those kids you see having the greatest time with a stick and a ball. Those are the ones to envy.

Do you want to hear something funny? I bought a Kitchen Aid and rarely used it. A spoon is far easier to clean, by the way. But when I moved into my new house with amazing hardwood floors and 1,214 extra square feet, I needed appliances that matched the new decor, you know?

We are born into this world with nothing. But in an instant we are tested on how we measure up. Following five years of drooling, crawling, and stumbling, we are thrust into an educational system that rates our potential for success on a daily basis. We stand beside our fellow man and accept judgment. Some are rewarded with Latin titles that tell them that they are more accomplished than those they stand beside. Then, we are thrown into the world in a programed state. Succeed or fail. Be the best or watch from the sidelines. But wherever you land and whatever you do, gather as many nuts as you can.
We know that it is expected that we set the pace, exceed expectation, and always do our best. We must be the best. We must have the best. The Capitalist dollar weighs heavy on our life decisions and in the process, it seems our relationships suffer. We are driven and obsessed to keep pace with the Joneses. Our priorities get a little off. Then in return, later down the road, some can't keep up with those Joneses.

But who are the Joneses? Who is this annoying, family that we resign ourselves to chase? Are they just like us? Are they in the same financial situation as us, just with different priorities?

It seems the more Ive researched, the more I found out the person with the ugly car that made funny noises and shopped at consignment stores, actually went on more vacations than the person with the expensive cool car and really good looking clothes.

Credit bureaus and banking institutions will concur the fact that the United States houses the most debt laden citizens in all the world. Or maybe they won't. Debt is backbone of our economy. Americans make a practice of living beyond their means. Not until the bottom falls out, like what is happening now, do most realize it. Knowing that the financial choices that we make are our own; what leads us down this path?
The have now mentality that plagues this nation tosses, not only its citizens into stressful turmoil, but the Nation as well. More loans were defaulted on in 2007 than ever before. Promises were not fulfilled and we Americans purchase far too much on promise. The lack of a cash based economy leads us to spend on plastic or phantom money. With each purchase we make, we are promising to pay at a later time with interest.

Living on cash is a thing of the past for most. But try placing a stack of hard earned dollars into a salesman's hands in lieu of that credit card next time. It stings a little more. A credit card, see, makes it easy. Its a third party buffer that eases the choice of spending. It's almost like not paying at all, initially.
Then the bill comes and buyers remorse sets in.
The en grained mentality that we must have things to find happiness is growing more common but is
in fact poison. Our excessive focus on the material leaves us lacking and empty. But we continually make the same mistakes over and over. We continue to put our truly valuable assets at risk.

My car is nicer than yours. My house is bigger than his. My job is better than hers. Quit being a narcissist and just be happy with yourself, not the things you have. And try to change feeling good about yourself at someone Else's misfortune, its not very attractive.

Our culture breeds competitors. We don't all handle a football or a baseball, but we compete on a daily basis. And we are programmed to feel a degree of shame if we come up shorter than our friends and neighbors.

Now, I say it's past time to run the obituary announcing that the Joneses are dead. We had no idea why they became the standard. But we have no need to keep pace with them ever again.

Let's focus on a new family moving into every neighborhood across the land. This family drives a moderate car, an expensive car, or even a n ugly older car. But the point is, they live well within their means. They focus on how they treat each other and their neighbors. This is a family that refuses to invest in the material, but places value in relationships. They care about the footprint they leave.

Domination, submission, and intimidation hold no value here. How we treat our fellow man defines who we are. Investing in each other builds a stronger society.

Say no more to," I need that". Because you don't. Do you really need posh jewelry when you are eating poorly, do you really need that huge house when you don't have the money to furnish it, or even to buy the latest electronics when yours works just fine. Think about it.

We live in an age of advantage laced with victimization. A time where trust is lost and faith is lacking. Mutual respect has just been placed on the endangered list.

But I plan to start changing all that.

Liam Owen

1 comment:

  1. I've decided the Joneses are aliens, sent to turn us into non-humans (-:

    On a serious note, however, when my kids were small and it became evident that there would be no husband to help out financially, we decided that we wanted .. a house of our own, instead of cable, to learn to do art, instead of TV, a car that was reliable, but not necessarily new. What resulted were two young people of immense self awareness and creativity. I think I got the better deal... how will the Joneses keep up with me, now?