Need vs. Want in America

fast food

africa kids

Dear America,

You are a world of different meanings.  “America” is a term that has a different meaning for everyone.  Each explanation or description of America has been influenced by an individual’s personal history with how the term affects them.  Pop culture, media, politics, history, etc. can all affect an individual’s definition of the term “America,” but the fact is, is that everyone’s definition is different.  What some people do not realize is the reality of the American lifestyle.  As I have lived in the United States of America for my entire life, I have first handedly witnessed the lifestyle and culture of America.  The American way of life is so over the top and filled with unnecessary things that Americans take the things they have for granted.  A few main things that Americans take for granted are fresh water, unlimited electrical power, a supply of food, the Internet, the retail market, and ready when you need it medicines.  There are so many things that Americans have in their everyday lives that many people in other countries do not have.  What really needs to be analyzed is the concept of need versus want.  Obviously there are things that Americans need in order to survive, but there are so many other things that Americans have that they would be able to live without.

One need versus want concept in America is the issue of food.  This concept was explained in my description of my two images, but I will reiterate the idea again here.  The main idea is that Americans have an unnecessary intake of food.  In the 21st century, the food intake of Americans has far surpassed the intake of food of Americans in the 1950s and even the 1970s.  Americans have passed the basic needs of food, and demand food that is both unnecessary and bad for them.  The main difference between the intake of food in the 21st century and the intake of food in the 20th century is how Americans are eating.  In the past, Americans spent time preparing their food and eating together as a family.  Now, the option of fast food has become very common.  When Americans eat fast food they consume a lot more because it is quick, easy, and cheap.  This eating habit leads to obesity among children and adults. When you see the amount of people in America that are obese and you compare that to other countries, such as Africa who do not have a steady supply of food, you can clearly see the need versus want issue.

The Internet is another aspect of the American lifestyle that is unnecessary.  Americans have come to rely on the Internet so much that they cannot seem to go one day without it.  Sure, it is very useful and helps with searching for information quickly, but it not a necessary need in order to survive.  Compare the use of Internet to people in other countries who do not have basic needs and you see how unnecessary it actually is.  In America, we have so many things that we take for granted and it is not until we step outside our comfort zones that we begin to realize them.  I’m sure that people in third world countries would love to have the use of the Internet as Americans do, but the basic fact is that they have actual needs that come before that.  The Internet is a want for them.  For Americans, it has become a need.

The retail market is another unnecessary thing that we as Americans take for granted. Really the only necessity from the retail market that we need is clothing, but that concept has been far surpassed.  As Andy Warhol stated in his America article, “Buying things in America today is just unbelievable.”  As a consumer in America, there are so many varieties and options for just one single item.  It is definitely not necessary to have this many options, but Americans have gotten used to it.  The different kinds of drinks in America that Andy Warhol talks about, is a perfect example of this concept.  We, as consumers, do not need this many varieties.  However, we have become so used to it that anything different would seem completely strange.  This qualifies as a “want” in American culture.  The only need for a drink is water and Americans really take advantage of that fact.  Similar to the section about intake of food, there are many other countries that go days without water because they are unable to get it and that is how they are used to living.  They do not have a steady supply of water so their basic need is getting water when they can rather than any of the other varieties of drinks.

America, I’m hoping this letter to you makes you realize the unnecessary lifestyle of Americans.  There are so many things that we as Americans can live without, but we have gotten so used to them that that just does not seem like an option.  We really need to re-analyze the things we have and not take them for granted, because there are others that are living in worse conditions than we are.


Melanie Russell

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One Response to Need vs. Want in America

  1. melbelle15 says:

    The first image portrays junk food in America. The second image was created James Michira on December 23, 2002. The image was created in Africa and portrays starving kids. I chose these two images for my manifesto to show need versus want. The American way of life is so over the top and filled with unnecessary things that American citizens take for granted the things they have. For example, the majority of Americans have a roof over their head, running water, clothes, and enough food. The rest of the world, especially third world countries, can’t even compare to that. Most people living in third world countries don’t have even the basic things for their needs. This concept is what the two pictures portray.
    The first image depicts the unnecessary intake of food in the consumer society of American life. Americans have passed the basic needs of food and demand food that is both unnecessary and bad for them. The food that Americans are now used to is food that is quick and easy to make. As in the past, Americans don’t spend time preparing their food; rather they opt for fast food or take out. This option has led to unhealthy eating habits among Americans. For example, since 1980, studies that measure BMIs (Body Mass Index, the percentage of weight to height) have been conducted on Americans where a BMI of 25 is considered normal weight or skinny. The first study showed that six percent of men and eight percent of women were obese (above a BMI of 25). Since 1980, that number has only increased. In 1993 that percent increased to 13 percent for men and 16 percent for women. In 2005, that number increased to 23 percent for men and 25 percent for women. One study suggests that the causes of obesity are portion sizes, lack of exercise, and the increased use of electronics. All these things come from a consumer based society. In Andy Warhol’s “America” reading, he talks about the things that make the United States a consumer society. One of these is the image of all the candy bars. This relates to the concept of repetition, standardization and impermanence in the United States. Americans celebrate a consumer society, but its effects can be very harmful. The consumer society has gotten used to having many different options and varieties in the items they live with every day. An example of this that connects back to Andy Warhol’s “America” article is the many different varieties of drinks that are available to Americans. Water is the healthiest option, but many of the drinks available on the market today are high in sugar and very unhealthy. However, this is the style of living that America is used to so they don’t really see anything wrong with it.
    I chose to use the second image because it contradicts the lifestyle of Americans. Many people in Africa do not have a reliable food source. Whereas Americans are over the top with the food they consume, people in Africa are minimalist, just hoping to get enough food to feed them for a day. Africa is the largest continent in the world, but unfortunately it is also the poorest and least developed. As one source says, Africa is characterized by “primeval irrationality, tribal anarchy, civil war, political instability, flagrant corruption, incompetent leadership and managerial ineptitude, hunger, famine and starvation as well as rampant diseases, especially AIDS.” Africa is nowhere near the consumer society that the United States is.

    Works Cited

    American Junk Food. Digital image. Modern World: Current Living Style in America. N.p., 4 May 2012. Web. 1 May 2013. .
    “February 2012 “The Problem”.” Africa Is Done Suffering. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. .
    Hossain, Imran. “Modern World.” Current Living Style in America. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. .
    Michira, James. Images of Africa in the Western Media. Digital image. February 2012 “The Problem”. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. .
    Warhol, Andy. America. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985. 8-33.

    Wiley, Suzanne S. “Obesity History in America.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., 18 Jan.
    2011. Web. 1 May 2013. .

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