Abundance Syndrome – The Problem of Plenty


Abundance Syndrome
Image – Jeni Rodger

Consider this – You have fifteen pens and you don’t find even one when you really need. Does that happen to you too? What is the first thing we all do? Since it is “just” a pen, we run to the shop and get another one and forget about the fifteen pens. Don’t you think this example somehow reflects how we have changed over a period of time…

Pen and change? Yes, when things are available in abundance we forget its value. Globalization and the ensuing consumerist culture has resulted in a fascination for excess consumption. Multiple options for people at reasonable prices have resulted in people not attaching any sentimental value to what they have.

Gone are the days when we cherished that beautiful ink pen like a diamond. Why? Because today, we can always buy one and more importantly, we can afford to buy any number. The combination of these is making us, as humankind, lose the important quality of appreciating, cherishing and most importantly treasuring anything. This problem is mainly faced by urban Indians (particularly, upper middle class) who have higher buying power.

When we are unable to cherish or understand the value of anything, how will we ever understand the meaning of failure or of success? How will we understand what is losing and what is gaining? Today when we look at the education scenario of India, we feel shocked. The number of engineering or MBA colleges that have mushroomed in every street of India has pushed down the value of an engineering degree. You don’t need merit to get one; all you need is money. The abundance of colleges plus the ability to pay huge amounts of fees by parents has resulted in hundreds of thousands of engineers graduating every year. How many of them are true “engineers”?

Evidently, the value of engineering has vanished. If only the students had got into the college with merit, they would cherish and value their seat and study hard. Instead, their lax attitude towards studies is the result of the fact that they haven’t gone through any difficulties in getting the seat. They have got it on a platter and unfortunately, they are completely ignorant of the fact. Cut down the number of colleges and automatically the value of the degree will increase. Commercialization of education is the sad reality of India.

We see this abundance syndrome affecting our children as well. When my child loses his umpteenth pencil/eraser, he coolly asks to buy a new one and he loses it again the next day. He simply cannot understand the fact that we need money to buy pencils and erasers. All he knows is that his papa has the money and he can buy it. Basically, the “value” lesson is lost right from the beginning. When we were young , we cherished our first pencil/eraser, because we knew that once we lose it, we are not going to get another one.

We load our children with so many toys from the day he/she is born, that they simply don’t get the point of buying toys for an occasion. We go out and we buy a toy/chocolate/drink whatever they ask for. The number of toy shops/malls have increased manifold, along with our ability to buy goodies. Particularly, the post-millennium kids are facing this issue. This vicious combination is creating havoc for parents. Who is to blame for this? Why do our children not understand the value of things?

We can quote numerous other examples of abundance. Massive wastage of resources like water, power, food are evident all around us. The whole point is that we are lost in a sea of abundance and are eternally living in a confused state of mind. We are spending half the time in choosing and acquiring things and not actually doing anything productive with them. We are buying things left, right and centre and most of the time, we don’t even need them! Our cupboards are full of clothes we hardly wear and we possess electronic gadgets that we use, maybe once a year. We switch on TV to watch TV and not a particular programme. The reason is there are too many TV channels to choose. Yes, we realise what is the problem we face, but what about the solution?

There is a change in our value system and the way we view “things”, it is not always a bad thing to have many choices before us. But what really matters is that we need to choose the most essential one among these umpteen choices. Moreover, our choice can promote a change that is a natural process and the harbinger for new things. We can try and preserve our core value systems, our Indian culture and at the same time absorb anything new that enhances our lives.

Factfile –

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  1. The “problem of plenty” affects only a small percent of the overall population. Ironically, only they can recognise this problem introspectively, for the majority of the others still do not have enough even to meet their needs. Given that, those amongst us who are fortunate to have this freedom of choice, must also understand to use that freedom responsibly – by seeking inwards with honesty to recognise what is essential and what isn’t, and then consciously giving up the latter.

    • We live in interesting times. Whether this is a problem of plenty or the “disposable” nature of products that we, as a society, have grown so accustomed to over the past few decades, I tough to tell.
      Typical farmlands in central and south India reply on drip irrigation during the dry seasons. Till recently, the drip lines available in the market used to be made of UV resistant HDPE and were designed to last 20 or more years in the Sun. Since the last two years, the markets are being flooded by “disposable” pvc or pet based drip lines that are cheap and are designed to last just one or two years. We have started seeing rampant use of these cheap drip lines in places where traditional irrigation methods would give good results. I don’t think it’s very different from the problem of plenty.

  2. Sorry Hemanth,
    i do not agree with you on the so called “small percent of the overall population”. today, a large population is considered middle class.
    As per 2011 Census data, the number of households with –
    Owned house – 87% | RCC houses – 29% | Tapwater from treated source – 32% | Electric lighting – 67% | LPG – 29% | Bank account – 59% | TV – 47% | Mobile-phone – 53% | Two-wheeler – 21%
    The total average is – 47%, which is nearly half of India! Does that look like a small number for you?

  3. Great Article. I was writing an article of linked-in of some thing similar called as Buffet Syndrome and came across this one. It very true that with plenty of options available the value is de-graded. It also reduces feeling of gratitude as a side effect. I will share link of my article too here.

  4. Very true. It’s also caused by a change in the fabric of our nature which has become more impulsive, restless and instant expectation. Moreover an interesting phenomenon developing is called attitude of entitlement without analyzing are we worth it.


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