Thursday, May 10, 2007

Commercialization of the American Dream

America is rotting at its core. The American dream is no longer a mantra of inspiration. It is a marketing campaign. "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness? " Life has been lengthen but at the expense of depth. Liberty has been traded for what was behind door number two, "NO DEAL!!" Happiness is the lynch pin that has been used to manipulate the other two. It has been the preverbal "carrot on a stick." With each generation the meaning of "happiness" being redefined to keep us chasing that high like a heroine addict trying to get that same experience they had the first time. Think about it. How happy would our grandparents have been with the ability to cook a meal in 5 minutes, have hot water in doors, or be able to call a family member miles away. These things have exceeded being benchmarks for happiness. They are considered basic necessities of life. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating some purist or Amish ideology. My complaint isn’t with progress. My beef is with laterality (sideways movement). Somewhere the "happiness" that was the nectar of life has been replaced with the empty calories of the next "got to have it" fad. I am opposed to people feeling the need to put themselves and their families future in jeopardy to have a house too big for their need, a car that exceeds their budget, and a lifestyle that leave a family scattered and non-productive. I am turned off by a culture where mother and father have to work full time just to keep financially afloat. An environment where the children are raised by life, peers, and caretakers. Your children will have your physical features, but whose culture are they really preserving?
There will be a future post that explores acknowledging and correcting that situation. Here the death of the American dream is the topic. More importantly is what are the ramifications of this emerging reality. Like anything logical, in order to understand the effects of an action, you must understand the cause. Even deeper then that, you must seek the understanding of what the concept really meant to those who agree to it’s relevance. Huh? I am saying that we need to understand why our founders felt that this was an important concept and our generations have felt it an attribute worth preserving. The American dream has driven immigrants to leave their homelands and travel ½ way around the world investing everything to achieve it. In the calling for the inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" our founding fathers meant exactly what they said. They felt that everybody had a right to live no matter what their religious, ethnical, or class background was. Europe had a long history of valuing lives of people differently. Loyalty to a king was often demanded or death was the consequence. Liberty was meant to mean freedom from unnecessary government interference. It was not meant to free you from what you might consider offensive. (Democracy, freedom, and free enterprise is also too big of a topic to be included in this post.) In Europe the governments often took citizens property, charged taxes for which there was not representation, and the amounts were unfair. Our founders felt that the government’s role was to protect and serve. "Pursuit of happiness" was actually stated "right to property." The originators felt it was important for its citizens to be able to support and sustain their families. At that time land was the main asset required to guarantee that opportunity.
Land ownership as an asset is the second evolution that led to the situation we find ourselves in now. The first was the reduction of valuable immigration coming to take part in the culture. The Atlantic Ocean was the great filter in the inception of the great cultural experiment we know as The United States of America. When your choice was staying where you were at or hopping on a ship and taking a very dangerous trip across a huge unknown, something resembling desperation had to exist to drive you. Imagine taking a flight to Europe knowing only 70 of the 100 people on board were going to make it alive. Your desire for change and a better life would have to be immense. Your discontentment with your current situation would have to be strong. Your character to actually do something about it would be rare. The immigrants were of the best quality of people at that time. They were doers and real survivors. Think about it. Even today were mobility is so easy, Even though so many people complain about their home region, very few move far away from it. This trend continued until the trip across got easier and the way to earn you salt move from family intensive farming to hard labor.
So what does this have to do with the American dream? Those who pursed it were driven, strong, and proud individuals. Their idea of happiness was something that they could grant themselves as long as they were left alone. They were communities such as the puritans whose ideas of happiness has simply not getting persecuted and forced to worship in a way the didn’t believe. There was no welfare, unemployment, or Medicare. To be successful in achieving the American dream these immigrants had to be physically, mentally, and morally strong. These strong characteristics are no longer assimilating into the culture with the magnitude they did in those early days. The majority of the immigrants today are poor, uneducated, and weekly committed to the land. They come to the US but their loyalties lay to the south. Their offspring are often lost in a world where they are severely under equipped to excel.
The second major event that set the culture into this path of decline was the advent of the industrial age. As I mentioned earlier land was once valued as a major factor in the success of a family to achieve that American dream. The reason land was important was that it could be used to grow crops and raise livestock required for independent survival. The other thing useful was children. They were cheap labor. A large family could raise more crops and work more land and be more productive. This situation was also good for the children. Children of the farming economy had a place in the family. They had to milk cows, work the land, and pretty early in our culture we understood the value of education. They were also required to attend school. Even today we still get spring break and summer vacation. These traditions were derived from the fact that children needed to be allowed to stay home and work the farms during the crucial busy seasons. (Yeah, believe it or not there was a time when spring break wasn’t so your 17 year old daughter could use a fake license to get drunk on the breach and take her top off for a chance at "stardom".) Children of this period had self worth, meaning, and a close family relationship. They felt loved and needed because they were.
With the advent of the industrial age, factories became the way of earning a decent living. Land was no longer needed in order to maintain the American dream. Our society started crowding closer together into cites. Children went from being an important asset to family productivity to liabilities overnight. They no longer had that natural self worth provided by the farming family structure. They also didn’t have the responsibilities to keep their idol hands occupied. At first the fathers went to work and the mothers stayed at home. Many of the neighborhoods tried to keep that sense of community and family they had with the previous environment. Even today we hear stories of how neighbors used to look out for all the kids. The responsibility of instilling morality and self worth became the full time job of the mother. Eventually, as the gap has grown bigger between the "haves" and the "have nots", even the mother has had to take to the work force to make ends meet. The responsibility of raising the children has fallen onto the backs of the schools. These schools are often over stretched and under funded. Large cracks open for children with weak constitutions to fall through. These children which make up the great majority these days are raised by the television. Do you really want the big dollars of the marketing industry developing your child’s constitution? Telling them what is important, what is not important, what to want, and how to judge their level of success. "If you don’t look a certain way, own certain material items, and agree to accept a level of morality then you are not successful." The result? Think about it? During the late 1800’s through the mid 1900’s we had huge technological advancements. Automobiles and the logistics that go with it were designed. Diseases that had long gone uncured stopped. Sanitation, communication, and conservation techniques were all developed while the US was in transition. As of recently all we have done is improve ways to kill each other, view porn, and make fantasy of video games seem more realistic. That is how the American Dream has become a marketing campaign. There were a few other major contributors that allowed the ease of this demise. Releasing slaves into an economy with no rights, no land, and no way to sustain themselves was one. Wars, divorce, and development of a riskless society sped the decline along.
So with the original meaning defined, the course of events that have caused a variance from that idea, the only thing left is why be concerned, and what can be done anyway. So "Why care if we become mindless drones? As long as we think we are occupied, who cares?" Because we what this country to remain strong and great for our children and our legacy. If that is not a just cause then why would we send good men and women to die for the cause.
The problem is that in this country the people grant power to the leaders. These leaders are in charge of the most powerful military and economy in the world. With that power we have the ability to become the monsters we sought to break ourselves from in 1776. We are being taken over by a race who feels that violence is a legitimate form of diplomacy. Not an option of last resort, but one of the many options that are "on the table". The leaders we are being marketed don’t have these ideals in mind. They have shown little value to human life in order to feed their own power needs. Morality and continuance of the human race are the reasons to stem the midless erratic behaviors.
SO how do we fix it? How is a big answer that is dependant on a chosen approach. We have to find a way would be to reintroduce the concept of self worth into the culture. An increased emphasis on education and raising the general IQ level of the population would be a start though. A major step in doing that would be to close the wealth gap. That is a "Soap Box" topic meant for another post. It won't be easy. My wife's "lactation consultant" instructed us to use bottles that are harder to extract the liquid from when supplementing. She said we don't want to risk letting the baby get used to having such an easy time getting the milk out of fear that she will learn to expect it. We Americans have given up the tit for the easy flowing plastic bottle for years. everything is at our disposal. Hungry? Use the drive thru. Want to get married? Elope in Vegas. marriage doesn't work? get a divorcee. Get pregnant by "accident"? Don't worry, you still have a "choice". Look beautiful, be famous, increase your performance. It's all in a little pill. Too bad intellect, foresight, compassion, and a sense of justice are not available in a pill. Maybe we should get to work on that. To fix the American Dream will require colonial type decision making. Many of my post will address some suggestions.

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