The American Dream is the promise to have it all and enjoy it all. It’s been glorified and sentimentalized as a utopian goal not just by the media and Hollywood stars, but also by businesses and politicians, including the President of the United States. But in reality, the American Dream is becoming more and more like the ‘Impossible Dream.’ Today, many Americans believe that their odds of winning the lottery are better than attaining the American Dream.
Originally the American Dream concept was born out of lack and a genuine need for security shortly after the Great Depression and WW2. Because jobs were scarce, the greatest aspiration for most Americans was securing steady employment and owning their own home. As a result, work ethic and integrity were very strong. The focus was on a wholesome values system, family and community, all of which created pride, real prosperity and real joy. However, over time the same prosperity which resulted from being a nation of producers, also created a nation of consumers, driven not by need but rather by the desire to ‘keep up with the Jones’s.’
Today, the American Dream is more of a marketing concept, whereby Madison Avenue and government alike, have convinced people that they have to have a certain standard of living (such as a second home, a vacation in Europe, expensive jewelry and other ‘toys’) in order to be happy and fulfilled. Even the Christmas holiday has lost its original meaning and has become highly commercialized.
In other words, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that, ‘He with the most toys lives,’ rather than ‘He with the most joys lives.’ By taking on even higher amounts of personal debt, Americans are more stressed out and less optimistic and fulfilled then ever before despite their high standard of living. That’s because ‘toys’ (material goods), without purpose and a wholesome values system, only produce an artificial joy that is as fleeting as it is cruel.
The American Dream as we know it, is no longer something that is born out of need and lack but rather out of greed and desire. Therefore, it does not represent the true spirit of America, which was based on perspiration, innovation, risk and reward with the focus on a wholesome values system, integrity, family, community and a strong work ethic.
From an Enron economy and huge government deficits, to our failing educational system and the break down of the family system (where kids are left home alone to grow up with their peers, gangs and TV), practically every facet of our lives is negatively effected by the pursuit of materialism, which is a by-product of the American Dream. In a materialistic-driven society where there is an obsession with fame and fortune and winning at all costs, the prevailing wisdom is to do what’s politically correct, rather than doing what’s in the best interest of the community. And when the intoxicating love of power overcomes the power of love, it’s easy to see why absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The concept of The American Dream (as we know it now) is not only a marketing concept but it is also used by politicians for getting votes and keeping constituents happy. In the cut-throat world of politics where the stakes are high, politicians are driven by their own self-serving agendas. As such, the different political parties have their own agendas when it comes to helping certain members of society achieve the American Dream. The Democratic party on the one hand supports labor unions and union contracts that provide for big wage increases for the common worker so that they can achieve a piece of The American Dream. In so doing, they guarantee work and wages for people who are not necessarily that productive, at the expense of everyone else. On the other hand, the Republican party believes philosophically in the free enterprise system. Their vision is to have an economic system that rewards primarily people who are successful, which means mostly wealthy people, at the expense of everyone else.
In other words, both political parties and the special interest groups who contribute to their election campaigns are trying to achieve the political version of the American Dream for their constituencies at the expense of everyone else. Ironically, both political parties realize that because the pie is limited, making the American Dream a reality for all Americans is virtually impossible. As a matter of fact, most people are kept in perpetual debt their whole lives in order to maintain a standard of living consistent with the new ideal of the American Dream. It’s this unattainable dream that drives both parents into the work place, working longer and harder than ever before, which contributes to the ills of society.
So in order to make the American Dream possible for as many Americans to achieve, consumerism had to be created. The point of consumerism is to get people to spend more by going into debt. The logic is that higher spending produces wealth for some people. The problem is that there is a limitation on how far people can go into debt. Eventually the economy becomes a ‘house of cards’ because it is unable to create ‘jobs of value,'(based on producing, creating and manufacturing). Instead more and more jobs are in the services industry, catering to our insatiable need to consume. Eventually this type of faulty economy will result in financial chaos where institutions, banks and even governments fail, as we’ve seen by what’s happening in California.
In the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, we’ve been looking for solutions and fulfillment in all the wrong places. The solution to restoring our economy, our failing systems and our institutions, as well as our sanity, is through the spirit. That’s because whether we realize it or not, we are spiritual beings experiencing the human experience and not the other way around. As such we were meant and designed to live a life of meaning and purpose by recognizing the unity of life and living in harmony with universal laws that are characterized by integrity and the honoring of all living things. Total prosperity and peace are dependent on the strength of our spirit.
Only when the ‘business as usual’ type of politics is replaced by business with integrity (whereby the power of love overcomes the love of power) can we hope to see a meaningful and lasting transformation that’s also cost effective. Perhaps if we live by the mantra that, ‘He with the most joys lives,’ rather than ‘He with the most toys lives,’ knowing that paradise is not so much a place but rather a state of mind, can we once again appreciate the simple pleasures in life while recognizing that indeed the best things in life are free. Now that’s the real thing, unlike what Coca Cola claims to have.
And while most of us may not be Lords of the Rings, we are always the Lords of our own earthly destiny. Simply put, we all have the power to create our own destiny through personal responsibility no matter what we’ve been brainwashed to believe. Perhaps when we reconnect with our spiritual roots, and understand the unity of life, we can finally recognize that we are all connected in the web of life, that whatever effects one directly, effects us all indirectly (the global economy perfectly illustrates this fact). Perhaps then confrontation will give way to cooperation and destruction will be replaced with construction. Only then we will discover that peace is not so much unity in similarity but rather unity in diversity – a diversity that needs to be celebrated. Perhaps as we realize that we are all children of God, we will also learn to honor life and finally experience true and lasting peace and harmony, which inevitably leads to total prosperity for all in a win-win spirit. Now that’s something to sing about.