The Cadillac Karma

According to Douglas and Isherwood (summarized in "Not Buying It" by Levine), "consumption is an instrument that both confers social privilege and effects social exclusion." It was the year of the Cadillac Seville that opened my eyes to the social influence of goods. In line at the local coffee drive-thru I realized that I felt pity for the cars around me. Rusted, emitting smoke, dented. Nothing like my well-used but pristine Cadillac. Somehow I'd also managed to dredge up a sense of disdain for anyone driving a larger, more expensive car (SUV syndrome). Driving a better car surely had no impact on being a better, or worse person, yet I detected an undercurrent of judgment based on the hulking metal shells we chose as our facade. Here it was an undercurrent. That's only because I'm somewhat removed from the screaming ads on popular media, having no television. We aren't much better than hermit crabs taking up residence in ever shinier beach combings. It made me sick to realize that I actually felt superior because of my ride. So some of us come to these realizations later in life. Since that time I've worked to reduce my dependence on status trappings for self-esteem. It is not easy--probably impossible as I sit here realizing I'm one of the world's richest .59% of inhabitants (http://www.globalrichlist.com). This year will be a great time to evaluate how I put that privilege to use.

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