The Real Cost of Experiences

This is becoming a really popular ideal among my generation, I think. Go out and do things, they tell you, don’t just rely on stuff to be happy. Inherently, it’s not a bad idea but it gets problematic really quickly, the way I see it.

Experiences are rarely free, even if they seem like it at the time. Taking a walk in the park? It’s maintained by park rangers, who work hard to keep that space safe and beautiful; their salary probably comes out of the taxes that you pay. Had an adventurous dinner at a restaurant? That meal was prepared by a staff of often barely make a living wage and the ingredients possibly come from a farm abroad that underpays their workers.

I’m a real buzzkill today, I know. But I guess I’m tired of being told that experiences (many of which I cannot join in due to disability) are intrinsically better than stuff. The Experiences are Better Than Things premise is no more free of the crushing bonds of capitalism than is the premise of If It Makes You Happy, Buy It. There’s no getting out of the loop. And capitalism, if you ask me, can be a pretty gross and exploitative system – especially toward women, minorities, and people with disabilities.

According to the American Community Survey in 2015, people with disabilities made only 68 percent of what people without any disabilities made. Even among people with disabilities, the gender pay gap is quite significant: median pay for women with disabilities is 69 percent that of men with disabilities.

Capitalism asks us to place a value on our own lives based on how much money we can make. And it demonstrates again and again that women, minorities, and people with disabilities are somehow less than their (usually) white male counterparts. “Problematic” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Don’t put a price tag on who you are. You’re better than that.

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