We all know about influenza and the vaccine that can help fend off the attack of these nasty, often debilitating germs. But what about affluenza? Who has ever heard of this and further more, is anyone aware of a cure for it? I'll admit, affluenza is a new term for me as it probably is for many people. It shot into the news headlines over the past week when a teenager in Texas used affluenza as an excuse for his drinking, driving, and killing of four innocent people. So what is affluenza? According to this young man's highly paid attorney, his affluenza is the result of his parents giving him "freedoms no young person should have....where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences." A psychologist called as a defense witness blamed the teen's actions on "growing up in a household where the parents were preoccupied with arguments that lead to divorce." The affluenza defense initially worked and the teen was placed on probation for ten years and sent to off for self funded (by daddy warbucks) rehabilitation in a fancy California treatment center. The sentencing caused an uproar whose repercussions are likely to be battled out in Texas courts for some time. But for me the bigger question is "Are you kidding me?". When did being rich and spoiled become a get out of jail card (literally)? Or perhaps it has always been this way.
It seems as though Hollywood stars have been getting away with bad behavior for some time. How many times have the likes of Lindsey Lohan and Brittany Spears been in the news for excessive behaviors that the rest of us mere mortals would be locked up for? Alec Baldwin and Kanye West getting into altercations with the paparazzi or anyone else getting in their way? Another almost normal occurrence. But (as far as I know) none of these actions have resulted in the deaths of four innocent people the way the sixteen year old's did.
All of these actions, however, beg the question of whether we have become a society without consequences. When did taking personal responsibility for one's actions become a thing of the past? Apparently this Texas teenager isn't personally responsible for his actions because of the environment he grew up in. Somehow I doubt the same holds true for the teenager from the inner city projects who kills someone in a drive-by shooting. If being rich and spoiled is an alibi, shouldn't being poor and impoverished be as well? Or perhaps they both need to be held accountable and have to deal with the consequences. The highly paid attorney is arguing that his parents never taught him right from wrong; so perhaps his parents need to be held accountable. His father may be shelling out $450,000 plus a year for "rehab" but perhaps some time in jail would be more meaningful. After all, the whole premise behind the affluenza argument is that the teen was taught that money can buy you anything. And if this is the lesson that his parents taught them, it appears that they were right. I find this all so discouraging and it begs the question of what does this really say about our society?