There’s been several times in my past when I found myself infatuated with a girl. She would return some of my affection and I’d swoon, thinking it was meant to be.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve told her, “You’re the girl of my dreams.” Only to have her get weirded out, and explain that she didn’t want to have that sort of responsibility. To have to live up to something like someone else’s dream, you can imagine, would be quite straining. A girl doesn’t want to be the girl of your dreams. She wants to be the girl of your reality, i.e. love her for what she is and not what you imagine she is.
In this sense Americans are dreaming, of the American Dream. Even though the phrase “Rugged Individualism” wasn’t coined until 1893 by Frederick Jackson Turner in his social analysis, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” it’s true that this spirit was present throughout the short history of this country. Rugged individualism is the belief that people can and should provide for themselves economically and not expect to be taken care of by others, especially not by the government. The moral basis behind this is the famous protestant work ethic, which is the belief that a man is under a moral obligation to try to be productive(material accomplishment) and self-reliant. The condition necessary must be the egalitarian tradition. In American Egalitarianism we hold the belief that America is a land of unlimited equality of opportunity where in any man can be self-reliant if he tries. Essentially we have to have social mobility.
Sure, those conditions are present for a few. We often hear tales with a rags to riches theme. Listen to any popular hip hop album and it’s likely peppered with such memes.
No wonder so many youngsters in the black community do not show interest in academics, and prefer to sell drugs and play the thug. Everyone around them is perpetuating this myth as reality, they call it the “Hustle”. A dangerous meme in which they’ll do anything for money. Lie, cheat, steal, sell drugs, commit acts of violence and murder, you know the deal. They have a dream of that rags to riches story, and the “artist” who is living that dream is prescribing the path one has to follow to be like them. I bet you can sit on your pedestal and refute my claims. Because, you had the sort of positive reinforcement that deterred you from following the more dangerous path. And from where you sit, you can’t imagine what your life would be like without such reinforcement. In fact, you probably can’t even fathom such discreet reinforcement, because you never looked at your life memetically. Well, if our obsession with celebrity and material wealth is any indication (and due to middle class debt, it is) we are not satisfied with a job earning a wage we can live on, because that is supposedly what a National Minimum Wage was created for, and I’d like to see you try to live off minimum wage. We’re Americans! We want to live the dream! Not content to merely live, we want to thrive. To live the type of life we see celebs living as filtered through entertainment media.
Let’s look deeper, because this theme of rags to riches didn’t begin in hip hop.
Horatio Alger was an author who died in 1899 after writing some 119 books about young boys employing the procedure of rugged individualism, resulting in the accumulation of great wealth. Uhhhh….Modern Hero Myths(See: Joseph Campbell)! Alger’s books sold a staggering 100 million between the 1880s-1920s. Of course these works of fiction are backed up by some real life accounts; think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, Guggenheim, Ford, Hoover, Kelley, Kellogg, etc. I just want to throw it out there that the Great Depression started in 1929, and devastated world economies because people pushed to live beyond their means. Sound familiar? And yet we are all familiar with the famous quote by Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So what happened?
(We tried to live beyond our means, had a depression, went to war, rebounded and prospered, sought to live beyond our means, the 60’s, went to war, rebounded and prospered, recession, rebounded, went to war, Clinton surplus, 911, went to war, recession, and the majority now dislikes the President who is trying to break this silly cycle. But it seems the majority would rather get a quick rebound and prosper in before they go back to war. Think like Obama: Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.)
Okay, so you know the story. And obviously it’s not possible for everyone to be some mega-millionaire/billionaire. So what about the rest of us? As America is often compared to Rome, what did they do?
Emperor Nero was busy bankrupting the economy and letting his people starve so that he may build monuments to himself. Well, Nero was eventually considered a public enemy, and committed suicide as a result. Vespasian took over and set to work on the structure of a struggling empire. One of these projects became the Coliseum. A place where everyone could come together and enjoy a variety of entertainments. The most popular, were the gladiators (sporting events), but entertainment included reenactments of famous battles, mock sea-battles, animal hunts, executions and dramas of classical mythology. The idea was to provide an escape from reality, make the citizens happy. Because if citizens had to constantly dwell upon the mistakes of the elites, an uprising would quickly ensue. Besides, providing entertainment such as the glorified gladiator, allowed for the sale of merchandise (gladiator action figures and “jerseys”) which drummed up some economic prosperity.
Now obviously, could you imagine how boring life would be without sporting events to go to? Or even be able to watch on tv? Could you imagine not having any tv? No movies to go see? No concerts or music or internet to play with? What the hell would you do with yourself?
Then you hear stories of a distant people, who have all of these things, and know nothing of your burden. And they don’t particularly care to share with you, they just want to come and rape your land, leave you destitute and let a few rise to incredible wealth the tyrannical power that comes with it.
Well great, now we can see why there is this Jihad vs. McWorld. But we don’t have to, because it’s football season, and I’ve got my fantasy football league. As long as I repeat that soldiers are hero’s protecting our freedom and that I support them, that’s all that’s really expected of me. I bought Alan Jackson’s single, I didn’t even illegally download it, isn’t that what I was supposed to do?
Well what am I supposed to do then?
Be informed of history, be informed of the present. Don’t waste your time on the information spun by P.R. (Public representation is an interpretation of what’s happening, cast in the best light to protect the image of those involved). And give the children the same opportunity to grow up unencumbered by a matrix of fallacy.
In America, communication of information isn’t supposed to be manipulated and controlled. And yet, in stark contrast to the ideals of democracy, we paint rosy pictures to children of the discovery of the New World, of the Pilgrims early life in New England, of the Founding Fathers, of the true agenda of the nation’s elites.
It all starts with being aware and getting informed. Read a book, like a college history text. I’d recommend staying away from the news. They’ll offer up a lot of information tinged with their opinion, just like I’m doing now. Long story short, we’ve let the education of our youth propagate a life where dreams do come true, because it has for a few. And if you fall through the cracks, and if the system fails you, it’s your fault, you didn’t dream big enough, so dream someone else’s dream.
As George Carlin joked, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
Carlin was much more successful in life than I, and he could see that the big wealthy business interests who control everything and make all the important decisions have a greater influence than an individual’s choice.
At an early age, Americans are enticed by fairy tales of the “American Dream”. So enchanted are they by these fantasies, that seemingly no one wants to wake up and live the “American Reality.”
We can change that, it’s true.