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Is the American Dream Dead?

 
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jammerbirdi



Joined: 23 Sep 2004
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PostPosted: 06/16/20 2:55 pm    ::: Is the American Dream Dead? Reply Reply with quote

My question is how long has it actually been dead for the white working class? Because it certainly was never a living breathing thing at all for black Americans.

This is as good as it gets and actually much better than the title.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Chq_VxzDsSc" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>



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FrozenLVFan



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PostPosted: 06/16/20 3:53 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I would say yes. I feel I've had the American Dream (as defined in that video) as I grew up with not much, worked hard, and became pretty successful. I don't see that happening as much even pre-COVID, but then I don't see many younger people willing to work as hard as I did. I think the American Dream is migrating toward the European Dream of less work, more free time, and a bigger safety net.


jammerbirdi



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PostPosted: 06/16/20 6:57 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

Hmm. I have a much dimmer outlook on where we’re going in terms of the cruelty and the tolerance for inequality and crushing poverty. But that’s just me.



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Falsehood will fly on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps slow and solemn, she has neither the vigour nor activity to overtake her enemy. - Thomas Francklin
justintyme



Joined: 08 Jul 2012
Posts: 8259
Location: Northfield, MN


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PostPosted: 06/16/20 7:09 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

FrozenLVFan wrote:
I think the American Dream is migrating toward the European Dream of less work, more free time, and a bigger safety net.

It's hard to expect people to "value" hard work when working hard for 40 hours+ a week doesn't guarantee someone will even exceed the poverty line, much less a "middle class" life.

America is much more about who you know, what breaks you get, avoiding any of the major pitfalls (health, tragedy, systemic racism), and what resources you already have (ie: what socioeconomic class you were born into). From there it is all about the genetic lottery. Whether it be exceptional intelligence (in some form or another), charisma, beauty, or athleticism, unless something allows for you to stand out from the crowd, you are highly unlikely to ever transcend your birth socioeconomic class. And even with one or more of these things, it still takes a decent amount of good luck combined with tons of hard work.



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pilight



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PostPosted: 06/16/20 7:40 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

Betteridge's Law applies here



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Richard 77



Joined: 19 Nov 2004
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PostPosted: 06/16/20 7:47 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

My American Dream was to grow up, finish high school, have a girlfriend, get a job, get married, get a house, have kids, watch them grow up, and watch them pursue their own American Dream while living out my days with my best friend, the girl that I loved.

My dream hasn't been rosy. Finished high school with a C- average, no girl friend, three years of having no goals before deciding to get a post-educational college degree only to wind up with $40,000 of debt and a degree that became obsolete by the time I graduated, no wife, no kids, no home, apartment living, homelessness, became an author who's books don't sell well, medical issues creeping in, living alone without a companion.

The American Dream isn't dying, it's already dead and has been dead for years. Many have been living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, debt upon debt, without goals, hoping to survive every last breath thay take until the sun rises the next morning.

No one dreams anymore about their futures (IMO). They can't. It takes every amount of energy they have to worry about their present.

One good note: I do have a sale or two of the eBook of The Baby Ballers every month. Someone out there in the world is reading it.



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jammerbirdi



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PostPosted: 06/16/20 9:32 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

Richard 77 wrote:
My American Dream was to grow up, finish high school, have a girlfriend, get a job, get married, get a house, have kids, watch them grow up, and watch them pursue their own American Dream while living out my days with my best friend, the girl that I loved.

My dream hasn't been rosy. Finished high school with a C- average, no girl friend, three years of having no goals before deciding to get a post-educational college degree only to wind up with $40,000 of debt and a degree that became obsolete by the time I graduated, no wife, no kids, no home, apartment living, homelessness, became an author who's books don't sell well, medical issues creeping in, living alone without a companion.

The American Dream isn't dying, it's already dead and has been dead for years. Many have been living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, debt upon debt, without goals, hoping to survive every last breath thay take until the sun rises the next morning.

No one dreams anymore about their futures (IMO). They can't. It takes every amount of energy they have to worry about their present.

One good note: I do have a sale or two of the eBook of The Baby Ballers every month. Someone out there in the world is reading it.


As tough as this is to read about a longtime friend here, I really appreciate you sharing your story, Richard. So many of my friends have similar life stories. I don't want to politicize yours or your moment of sharing so I'll comment some other time. My heart goes out to you, though.



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Falsehood will fly on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps slow and solemn, she has neither the vigour nor activity to overtake her enemy. - Thomas Francklin
Howee



Joined: 27 Nov 2009
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Location: OREGON (in my heart)


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PostPosted: 06/17/20 4:31 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I'd posit that "The American Dream" is really a propagandized illusion. Can it be "dead", if it was never REAL?

But. Let's go with the narrative.

My "Dream" (I really prefer "plan") has been fulfilled. And it certainly did help that I was in America, to follow that plan.

I wanted to be a teacher since childhood. My parents never went past 8th grade, none of my siblings past high school, ALL GM workers. Not one member of my extended family, going back several generations, graduated from college. My parents might have been happier with me if I did NOT want college -- they certainly couldn't pay for it, and they just didn't *get* it. I was blessed with a scholarship-paid BA. Their major contribution? They taught me the value of dedication and working toward a goal, and fed and clothed me til I was on my own.

My career was edifying and financially rewarding (ENOUGH!) In MY view. Here's where I was blessed again by my parents: I NEVER NEEDED BIGGER/NEWER/BETTER/FANCIER ANYTHING*, in the material realm. I learned the value of being content with "enough". As I see it, this concept has been one of the most corrosive detractions from "The American Dream", but that's another topic.

My personal life has been pretty much blessed, according to my Plan/Dream. I knew from a young age that I needed to love another man, and I hated the closet. I came of age in the 80s, surviving the brutality of the AIDS epidemic, and found love. Been with my husband for 30 years now. In this time, we've seen a sea-change in cultural perceptions, and legal codification to benefit us, removing barriers and restrictions that earlier generations never dreamed might be allowed.

If I die tomorrow, I'd rate my life as having fulfilled my Plan/Dream nicely.

BUT. The entire question is hardly about me, one American who's happy enough. I only share my personal take on "The Dream" to compare/contrast with others, of my age OR the Next Generation.

Time constraints keep me from rambling on here, but I'd at least add one more point:

IF ONE'S "AMERICAN DREAM" IS UNFULFILLED, can you identify the degree to which the shortfall is measured in *material* things??



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Last edited by Howee on 06/17/20 4:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
jammerbirdi



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PostPosted: 06/17/20 4:55 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

Well, except that people lived it. Nothing that generations subjectively aspired to and achieved can by definition be said to have not existed in the first place. It existed all around me when I was growing up and those aspirations AND the successful realization of them have been decimated in America.

Philosophical distancing always seems to enter conversations surrounding fraught subject like our national identity. Like so much of it is just mythical junk anyway and completely debatable.

The reality is that simple people were driven by aspirations just like everyone else. Their version, what they bought into and made work for them for generations, was this idea of the American dream. That you could at least achieve a modest version of that and be comfortable and safe and pass on a level of expectations to a brood of your offspring. We’re talking about people’s dreams. How could they not have existed?



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Falsehood will fly on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps slow and solemn, she has neither the vigour nor activity to overtake her enemy. - Thomas Francklin
Howee



Joined: 27 Nov 2009
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Location: OREGON (in my heart)


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PostPosted: 06/18/20 11:45 am    ::: Reply Reply with quote

jammerbirdi wrote:
We’re talking about people’s dreams. How could they not have existed?


Indeed, they existed. Dreams, aspirations and hope are the lifeblood of the human soul: the battered prisoner in a N. Korean prison camp, the hungry kid in an African village school, or the Gen Z kid saving up to buy their first car. Hopefully, we ALL know how to dream. And hope.

The American Dream....(I'm curious, is there even such a thing as "The Hungarian Dream", or "The Mongolian Dream"?? Shocked) was as real as can be. The op question -- is it dead? -- might be better framed as "Has it finally been exposed for the fraud it is?"

Ms. Ball's report does a spot-on job of explaining that, imo. Not only does she outline its fallacies and foibles, but also clarifies the reasons why NOW it's being questioned and challenged more than ever, and how The Covid Crisis has been a revelatory catalyst to that end.

Though not specifically stated by her, I think she'd agree with my opinion: The American Dream was a propaganda tool implemented by the rising capitalists of America. It was designed to rally our greatest resource -- human labor -- to the call for hard work and productivity. Not only did it draw valuable labor from abroad, but it coalesced all kinds of Americans into believing that hard(er) work resulted in more material gain and status.

That was an easy sell, no? Clearly, the contrasting Communist model with its egalitarian guarantees of EVERYBODY gets the same thing (no matter how much you contribute) made our Capitalist model the envy of the universe, right?

And it panned out. Innovations like mass production via assembly lines provided good-paying jobs AND affordable Big Ticket items (cars, large appliances, etc.) to average families. Innovations like Levittown made owing your piece of land and a home something that didn't require being born to the landed gentry of old. Improved infrastructure meant quality of life was improving at a good clip, and good schools promised even better things to the upcoming generation. The Dream is alive and well.

Folks back then had no way of foreseeing how that model was not sustainable. It made perfect sense to believe that your kids could do 'better' than you, and their kids, even BETTER! Sustainability. Now, that's another ball o' wax. Ms. Ball explains those factors nicely, too.

The wheels have come off of that wagon, and the fraudulence of The American Dream is all laid bare. Anymore, one could re-read "Animal Farm" and see Capitalism as the subtext.

Dreams, hopes and aspirations are all vital to our souls. Have we been scammed by the American Dream? I dunno that it's an easy yes/no question. But my final suggestion here is to consider our role in it; no one can MAKE you dream -- it's on you to design your own goals. And while the inherent frustrations we might encounter in our pursuits are all explained in the video, I'd also suggest that Americans have been suckered into the concept that "Dreams" are made of MATERIAL things, wealth and social status. That more/bigger/better/fancier/newer anything is the ultimate goal....house, clothes, cars, toys, social standing....and that to NOT have attained these goals is to have failed. Our greed as consumers has been extraordinary fuel for capitalist growth, an extraordinarily sharp double-edged blade.



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FrozenLVFan



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PostPosted: 06/18/20 3:04 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I think many aspects of the American Dream were in place well before the capitalists came along. The early settlers here had to have a very strong work ethic to make a life for themselves and for their offspring. Then there were waves of immigrants (the Irish, Italians, Portuguese, etc) who came to America to make better lives for themselves. Going to America was the Irish/Polish/German Dream in many cases. The concepts of hard work and continual improvement were well-established long before the term "American Dream" crystallized after WWII. I don't think it was a propaganda tool initially although the capitalists took advantage of all that immigrant labor.

Is Consumerism the inevitable result of a successful American Dream? After people have food, shelter, clothing, and basic entertainment, what do they do with themselves except lust after the latest sneakers or iPhones? How much responsibility does Madison Avenue have here? Or Hollywood? Witness the growth of product placement deals in movies and television. What has outsourcing jobs overseas and importing products that are cheaper but largely disposable contributed to our situation?

I think the American Dream still exists, but maybe more as a Dream and not something realistically attainable. If this thread were being answered by people 30 years younger, this discussion would be different.

ETA: Please excuse my rambling.


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