Volume 6, Issue 2 University of Houston
Remember the true meaning of the season
Merry Christmas! Terrible traffic and long lines have subsided, for the most part. The stress is all but over, but after that all that remains is family, food and fun. We can relax and enjoy the wonders of consumerism, but even while basking in the warm glow of conspicuous consumption, the holidays harbor a darker part of humanity's nature.
There's nothing wrong with spending several paychecks on superfluous presents --if you can still afford to pay rent. The holidays highlight people's penchant for acting like they have more money than they actually do. Sure, no one wants to turn to his or her kid brother without the newest Yu-Gi-Oh! action figure, but sometimes college tuition is more important.
Of course, it's rarely such a black-and-white decision. It's rarely a decision at all --it's more of a mentality. "Bling-bling" hip-hop has become the voice of a generation. The same kids who grow up in the squalor of government housing and food stamps return as men with platinum necklaces and diamond earrings.
Their actions are then mirrored by suburban youth trying to prove their own worth. The kids from the projects and the kids from the suburbs both end up reaching beyond their means to be --or appear to be --just like those in the top income bracket. Originality and creativity is lost in pursuit of whatever looks the most expensive. So goes the holiday season.
In an effort to give the "coolest" gift, many people just give gifts that reinforce the "bling-bling" mentality. The Hot Wheels versions of expensive cars are great gifts for little boys, and their sisters would most likely be happy to receive Bratz dolls, the more modern and trendy version of Barbie, decked out in doll-sized versions of the most exorbitant clothes imaginable. These same kids get older and chase after the sleekest electronics and video games.
If we have toy versions of the luxuries enjoyed by the wealthy, we just might forget that we aren't wealthy ourselves. The carrot dangled right in front of our faces takes our eyes off our surroundings, and we start to believe we can already taste it. Working-class Americans are taught to believe they are middle-class, and middle-class Americans are taught to believe they are upper-class Americans. The perfect slave believes he is free, and that is exactly what many Americans have become. Toiling away to buy things more wealthy people take for granted, they remain ignorant of the fact that the vast majority of Americans will never "ride on 20's" or wear "ice" on their wrist.
Living in a fantasy world has its benefits: it's easier to ignore personal shortcomings, and it's easier to blame problems on something or someone else. But the fact remains that, as college students, tuition should make it impossible for us to have all the "finer things in life." So what? There will always be someone with less money, and there will always be someone with more money. Our time is our most precious asset, and we all have around the same amount of it. We don't need to waste it trying to emulate someone else's lifestyle.
In this season of giving, it's not wrong to give 'til it hurts. Nor is it wrong to spend more than you planned on spending, but the line should be drawn somewhere. Draw it at the point that you proliferate the economic slavery of the ones you love, but don't forget to have a good time. Happy birthday, Santa!
Zach Lee, a sophomore English major,