There’s a new disease on the block, and apparently it is highly lethal, particularly for those who come in contact with a carrier of this disease. The bad news is that those who suffer from it are not likely to be cured any time soon. The good news is that most of us (99%) stand absolutely no chance of catching it. Not Ebola, not HIV, but a disease called “Affluenza”. Okay, I see the eyeroll and I see that you think I am making this up, but trust me, although the American Medical Association (AMA) has not yet recognized this disease, nor has the World Health Organization (WHO), the courts of the United States do recognize this disease as a legal defense for almost anything, including murder. The following news article in the New York Times caught my eye this morning:
“Two years ago, a Texas teenager who killed four people in a drunken-driving crash was given probation after a defense witness suggested he suffered from “affluenza,” a term used to describe psychological problems that can afflict children from wealthy families.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/17/us/ethan-couch-missing-texas-affluenza-case.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=1#story-continues-2
Unless you happen to be in the top 1% on the wealth spectrum, your reaction is likely similar to the one I had … disbelief, anger, disbelief, fury, and more disbelief. I re-checked the source … yep, The New York Times, not The Onion. So I went in search of … and here is just a sampling of the definitions I found for this affliction:
- “a portmanteau of affluence and influenza, is a term used by critics of consumerism. The 2001 book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic defines it as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” The term “affluenza” has also been used to refer to an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege … “ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affluenza
- the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence regarded especially as a widespread societal problem: such as a : feelings of guilt, lack of motivation, and social isolation experienced by wealthy b : extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships <Affluenza is particularly rampant in the United States, where we place a high priority on financial success and material possessions. — David Hawkins, Breaking Everyday Addictions, 2008> http://beta.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/affluenza
- A social condition arising from the desire to be more wealthy, successful or to “keep up with the Joneses”. Affluenza is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. People said to be affected by affluenza typically find that the very economic success they have been so vigorously chasing ends up leaving them feeling unfulfilled, and wishing for yet more wealth. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/affluenza.asp
Awwwww … I feel so sorry for the wealthy now, don’t you?
In the above case, the afflicted teen first stole two cases of beer from a store, then stole his father’s pickup truck, then with seven passengers in tow, driving 70mph in a 40mph zone, crashed into an SUV and a Volkswagen, killing four people. Ethan and all seven of his passengers, none of whom were wearing seat belts, walked away from the crash. Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed in the crash, said, “Had he not had money to have the defense there, to also have the experts testify, and also offer to pay for the treatment, I think the results would have been different.” No doubt, Mr. Boyles, no doubt.
I am not one to mock or deny mental illness. I have very good friends who suffer from various ailments, and while I don’t claim to understand, I accept that they are very real illnesses and I have compassion and empathy. I draw the line here, though. I do not accept that “affluenza” is a real illness! A better name for this so-called affliction, I believe, would be SBS … Spoiled Brat Syndrome … and the cure should be enforced living in a homeless shelter with no contact from family or friends for a period of no less than two years.
This is the “disease” that republicans are fighting to propagate! I have never been financially wealthy, am not presently financially wealthy, nor will I ever be financially wealthy, and I am GLAD! I am wealthy in the ways that matter … I have a wonderful and supportive family, I have a roof over my head, healthy food on my table and am able to pay my bills so I can have heat in the winter. I worked hard all my life to have what little I have, and for me, it has always been enough. Trump, Romney and their cohorts can keep the wealth if it only leads to “affluenza”. I will gladly continue to live my life of relative poverty, taking responsibility for my own actions, taking joy in small things like a warm cat in my lap, a chat with good friends, a hug …