by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
February 7, 2002
ADDICTED TO LOVE - AND WHAT ELSE?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that my current addictions are to L'Occitane lavender scent from Provence, prime time television, anything sweet, and raw almonds. But after watching the Super Bowl, that veritable monument to American addiction, I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't anything that we, the American people, aren't addicted to.
Americans, who have almost everything, are addicted to almost everything.
Television itself is an addiction. When the U.S.A cable channel introduced a new game show a few months ago, it did so with the proud slogan: "The new late night game show addiction." Then there's "Must See TV." We pay twits like Katie Couric, Larry King and Kelsey Grammer millions of dollars to stay on the air. In a national poll on who should be our first female president, Oprah topped the list.
We're addicted to celebrities. Americans lap up stories about Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz. They wonder whether Whitney Houston is really on drugs. A glossy national magazine last week offered this story: "What the stars have for breakfast."
Many of us are addicted to alcohol. Did you know that nationally, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3.4 million bottles of beer were sold for the Super Bowl alone? The Post-Dispatch should know. St. Louis is not only the home of this year's losing Super Bowl team, but also of the largest brewery in the country. It is also the home of Tums, which is why I know that the day after Super Bowls, antacid sales rise 20 percent.
This brings us to America's addiction to food. It's no secret that Americans are overweight and undernourished. For us, sweets, fats and carbohydrates are food groups. On television on any given night, a remarkable array of fat-drenched pizzas, burritos, fried chicken, hamburgers ("Think outside the bun"), French fries, pasta dishes and deserts are dangled in front of our drooling eyes and thickening waistlines.
Food addiction plays itself out in a myriad of ways. For some of us, it's an addiction to snacking. For others, it's an addiction to gourmet dining and food snobbery. For others, it's a fear of adventurous dining - the reason that fast food emporiums took over the planet. For others, who take the opposite tack, it's about developing starvation diseases like anorexia.
Meanwhile, weight loss programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, plus a host of less reputable methods, regularly make millions of dollars trying to help people lose weight in the midst of all this plenty - a massive exercise in futility.
We're also a nation addicted to caffeine, as anyone who watched Brittany Spears shaking her lovely body for Pepsi during the Super Bowl can attest.
Of course we have sex addicts supporting our vast hard core and soft core pornography industries. We also have anti-sex addicts, who with knee-jerk regularity oppose condoms for teenagers, abortions, and safe sex information. Right now, for example, the Christian Right is furious over the fact that 12,000 condoms will be made available to athletes at the upcoming Olympics. The Olympic Committee is afraid that 12,000 won't be enough.
We can't forget cigarettes. Millions of teenagers and adults think that smoking is cool. The cost for this delusion is high in lives - the U.S. Surgeon General's Office estimates there are 400,000 tobacco-related deaths a year, or about one-fifth of all the deaths in the U.S.
It is also high in dollars - millions for health care and anti-smoking advertisements. And then there's oil. We constitute 4 percent of the world's population and use 25 percent of the world's energy supply. Oil has us so damnably addicted that we're about to risk starting World War III to keepour Middle East supply lines open.
And of course we're addicted to money, which almost goes without saying. Just ask Kenneth Lay or most of the U.S. Congress.
Gambling is another addiction. There were more than a hundred different possible bets on the Super Bowl, including whether the Rams would score more points Sunday than Michael Jordan, and which team would win the coin toss. Between the legal gambling in Vegas, the off-shore virtual betting parlors, Web gambling sites, and the various pools and illegal gambling in every bar, office and school in the nation, a couple of billion dollars changed hands on Sunday.
Some of us are addicted to rage. I found this in a "Dear Abby" column a few months ago. Writing to an abused husband, she said: "The type of anger (your wife) displayed is never about the issue. This is about the release of pent-up anxiety in the abuser. The abuse will escalate because it takes more and more anger and violence to get the abuser to the physical release she needs. Think of cocaine and how the 'high' keeps demanding larger and larger doses of the drug, and you get the picture. That is why we call such people rageaholics."
What Dear Abby and the rest of us call "illegal" drugs are only the tip of the addiction iceberg. But it is a big iceberg. America has a huge demand for drugs like heroin and cocaine, as well as pharmaceuticals like ecstasy and OxyContin. Why are we so shocked, shocked, when people try to supply that demand? Isn't that the heart of capitalism?
One of the main characteristics of addiction is helplessness in the face of it. Yet in a Super Bowl ad that cost the American people $3.4 million,the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in another act of futility, told us to stop using drugs because we are supporting terrorism.
Addiction seems to be as American as apple pie. Isn't there an Americans Anonymous chapter anywhere? Shouldn't we be creating a 12-step program for the country?
Then maybe we'll start eating more real foods, driving hybrid cars, keeping up with our U.N. dues and respecting the natural environment. And maybe we'll stop using people's weaknesses as marketing opportunities. And stop bombing countries just because we feel like it.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.