As an EU immigrant to the United States, I can’t help but balk at America’s obsession with money.
While it’d be disingenuous to pretend money doesn’t matter — we all need it to live— those who crow constantly about it fox me. Then again, when I was studying civics in preparation for naturalization, it was drilled into me that the US was a market economy. One of the things I had to memorize was the exact date of Tax Day, and some of the questions designed to test English proficiency had to do with paying.
The costs of immigration and naturalization should have given me a clue but I refused to see greed as a state-sponsored pursuit. Instead, I believed greed was the preserve of those with enormous egos who believe money granted them some kind of superior status. Materialism, I reasoned, was how the unloved compensated for the absence of deep, meaningful bonds in their lives. As they do in Europe; when your life is empty of people, you fill it with things to feel grounded and palliate for the absence of human warmth.
Material trappings is how hoarders create a safe space and a sense of belonging, always accumulating more and more things. Clutter is a comfort zone of sorts, sometimes with disastrous consequences as it becomes a health hazard.
And yet, more is never enough in America, and the more money people get, the more they want, regardless of how much they need to meet their needs.
But instead of being shunned, grabbiness is has been elevated to a virtue, especially online where “paycheck porn” has become a trend.