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A Plastic Society: What this means and how it is hurting us

Updated on May 20, 2013

How plastic dominates us on a personal and financial level.

People today associate having a fulfilling life with achieving some goal. For a lot that translates to being rich and beautiful. To blame them would be ignorant, since our society has reared them from childhood to want to attain these. There is this perverse pattern of thinking that has lead us to see our environment as imperfect, and to just reach that perfection, whatever it may be, well then you have achieved your goal. Unfortunately most people will never be satisfied with what they have, regardless of how much they have worked on it. Their standards will always raise higher, because it’s fed to them that there is something always better out there. This is a massive issue for the simple fact that in our world to work on improving yourself to fit the standards, you need a job, and a lot of money. Both of these are hard to come by nowadays. So how do people feed their need for perfection? Plastic. They use plastic to be plastic. I began reflecting on this problem when I encountered a very interesting book in our schools library.

I was looking for something intriguing to read as I browsed the new books on the shelves. One caught my eye, “American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and Our Quest for Perfection” by Laurie Essig. Now originally I had no idea how the three subjects described in the title related, but reading further into the book it became apparent how intertwined they were with each other as well as how deeply rooted they were in our society. I’ve chosen this issue of perfection and loosely debt for this essay because society is swaying people to have a monomious look and lifestyle, undeniably ruining diversity. How are we supposed to embrace our differences if we are told those differences should be smothered at any cost to look like the next person?

Everyone is a byproduct of a multitude of different things. Their genetics and heritage play a major role in how they appear. In the 1930s a new form of marketing was born, beauty capitalism. Best said by Essig “As freakish bodies became increasingly reshaped, other bodies came under scrutiny, the fat, the aging, the not fully white. The modern body must look as if it is productive and “healthy,” but it also must look like it belongs to the dominant racial and economic groups, which is another way of saying “beautiful.” This basically means disregard how a personal naturally looks, they must look this certain way instead to be accepted. A wave of products came to achieve this: bras, concealers, lipsticks, hair relaxers, etc. The media fed upon this, and still does to this day. However, this has allowed the issue of feeling physically inadequate to push people into wanting body modification surgeries.

If you have small boobs, get bigger ones implanted. If you have wrinkles, get Botox. If you’re a bit heavier than some, get liposuction. If your stomach has ‘too much skin’, get a tummy tuck. If you don’t like the nose you were born with, get a new one. This is what our world sees as ways to fix the imperfections media has hammered into our brains. People look in the mirror and subconsciously compare themselves to those who’ve they’ve seen on TV or in movies and magazines. It shouldn’t be that way. The body a person is born with should be honored because it is melting pot of generations past. Their ancestors resembled them and to cover that up is downright disrespectful, and in the name of conforming to societies ideologies is sad. Yet it is done and people will go through any expense to have it done.

A few weeks ago I was in the process of checking my e-mail when a headline was being advertised in the header. “Child Makeover – Plastic Surgery for 7 year olds?” Of course I clicked on it and watched in awe as her parents simply smiled and calmly explained why they had chosen to get their seven year old daughter plastic surgery. Their daughter had what are known as Cup Ear and Lop Ear, where the ears protrude out and one folds over on the upper half. Her parents and the surgeon both made the argument having such ‘deformities’ will cause her to have issues with her self-identity and to be blunt, get bullied. So the procedure was covered by her insurance. But how much would it have cost if she hadn’t had insurance? The idea of plastic surgery as a solution to body abnormalities is very risky. These operations run thousands of dollars. So how do people with very little money pay for them? A little piece of plastic called credit cards. They’re essentially spending money they do not have. If they don’t pay the bills on time, they end up in even more debt. However, their use of credit cards transcends just body modification surgeries.

It is well known our economy is crumbling. People lose jobs every day and get paid less and less for more work. But, they still feel the need to emulate a rich lifestyle. They’re depressed or unsatisfied with what they have because the people they see on TV and advertised look so happy and nice in their expensive items. So they go out and buy whatever they can get their hands on, hoping they’ll look as nice and be as happy as the ones they saw with it. Mind you these are people with menial jobs or perhaps even no job at all. They simply just swipe their credit card, and presto what they wanted is theirs. Coincidentally these same people can’t afford to pay back the large sums they ‘borrowed’ and end up in major debt. The credit card companies are well aware of this, but just simply don’t do anything about it. Thousands of these situations occur every day and immensely contribute to the nations near recession.

Superficial ideals of our society are honestly the downfall of it. Emphasis on aesthetics and material objects cost us not only our diversity, but add an unnecessary financial burden upon it. So take a look in the mirror. Understand you are the creation of years upon years of rich heritage and ethnic diversity. Your characteristics were handed down to you and you should wear them with honor. After all, where’s the satisfaction in: suppressing your individuality, disgracing your ancestors, or putting yourself into debt?

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