For many people fhe American Dream is a nightmare. Before discussing Beyond the American Dream let's take a look at the "American Dream" which has become the centerpiece of what it means to be an American according to the rhetoric espoused by politicians and many others. In rhetoric, the American Dream is as American as apple pie.
Webster's Dictionary defines the American Dream as "an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also the prosperity of life that is the realization of this ideal." The American Dream is a national "ethos" of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success; and upward "social mobility" achieved through hard work. This carries with it the "opportunity for each according to his or her ability and achievement regardless of social class, race, faith, circumstance or birth. Inherent in any definition of the American Dream is the philosophy of rugged individualism of the Wild West which implies that a person can lift himself up by his own boot straps. But can he, even if he has boots?
A major aspect of living the American Dream is for a person to own his own home or at least something comparable and have enough money to live without being on a dole. Today it is estimated that about half of Americans, which includes the top two percent of the wealthiest Americans with ninety percent of the nation's wealth and the bottom fifty percent which has ten percent of the nation's wealth that includes the bottom five percent living in dire poverty are without wealth. This latter group constitutes the underclass. They are under or beneath class.
Rethinking the American Dream is crucial based on the fact that many of those who have achieved the American Dream, including wealthy people, as a result of their success-driven lifestyle and lack of health-consciousness became physically and mentally debilitated and had less meaning in their lives than is desirable prior to becoming three score and ten years as they are promised by their Creator. Despite paying for, in quote, what is advocated as the "best medical care" many died much too young.
Hard work or working hard is emphasized as a cardinal principle to be applied in achieving the American Dream. The message resounding from the White House to the poor house is: "If you work hard and play by the rules you can have the American Dream." Yet, some peope who hardly work and did not play by the rules achieved the American Dream while many hard working people who played by the rules, of course, different rules, have not and are not likely to achieve the American Dream. This idea of hard work is ludicrous as the American Dream rhethoric. Work, yes; but hard work in a time when science and technology have given us tools and vehicles to lift heavy loads by simply pushing buttons hard work is unnecessary. A search of the Scriptures inicates that only Adam and Eve because of their disobedience were driven out of the Garden of Eden and made to sweat, i.e. do hard work. Jesus said "My yoke is easy." In such a time as the present play should be emphasized as much as work. This we see among other animals. What a difference it would make if we heard politicians and our leaders say, "If you play and engage in cooperation rather than competition you can achieve the American Dream." Play is a sport where everyone wins.
Rethiking the American Dream is imperative in light of globilization and competitiveness involving peoples of other countries, particuarly peoples of China and India, the two largest populated nations on earth. With many Americans not having the American Dream and others who had it and lost it coupled with what is obvious that fewer Americans will achieve the American Dream, as we know it to be, rethinking the American Dream is vital. The illusion "anybody who works hard and plays by the rules can have the American Dream" has the potential to adversely impacr people emotionally in a much greater way than before because many seeking it will have a similar experience to hitting their heads against a stone wall. No, anybody cannot have the American Dream. No, anybody cannot be president."
Beyond the American Dream does not mean more or a greater degree of the American Dream. Casual observation indicates, as indicated earlier, that many of those liviing the American Dream are victims of their own success because of their hexed lifestye that is characterized by stress, extravagance, wastefulness, drugs, over-indulgence, and arrogance. It is "Beyond the American Dream" that a person can achieve real meaning and self-fulfillment.
Beyond the American Dream also means beyond nationalism. Just as polllution released in China pollutes America and pollution released in America pollutes China and the rest of the world knows no national boundaries we must be governed by a similar principle of reality. Americans must recognize the ineffectiveness of embracing nationalism and the importance of world community. Planet Earth, not just the continent of North America, has to be no less a concern of Americans than the fifty states comprising the geography of America. This means that resources of the earth has to be resources for all the people of the earth, beginnng with resources in America being available for all Americans. This means that there has to be a drastic reduction in the amount of money spent on America's "miitary industrial compex," to borrow a term popularized by President Eisenhower.
Advancement in science and technology has enabled some people to have a high standard of living while simultaneously having a low quality of life, something that is compatible with the American Dream. It is clearer now than ever that a simple life for all is better than a wealth-possessed life for a few and this is the only hope for creating a healthy and peaceful world.
Living "Beyond the Amerian Dream" requires people to have or develop a climate change-consciousness. Humans are the earth's greatest polluters. Their actions now contribute to the activation of hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, droughts and mutations that cause outbreaks of traditional diseases and the creation of new diseases.
The good news is that some Americans living in poverty or barely beyond the poverty line are also living the "Beyond the American Dream." They are among the healthiest and happiest people in America. And they are among those living the longest. They are aware of the certainty of their own mortality but they have learned to live in the present. They are living the "Beyond the American Dream."
Copyright 2012 by Uriah J. Fields