Monday, October 20, 2014

Is the American Dream dead?

But, before I pronounce the idea dead, I need to find its corpse (excuse the analogy), because the American Dream is as elusive as the Higgs Boson.
        I posted a discussion on BlogCatalog last week, and I received such an overwhelmingly diverse collection of definitions for this one ideal, that I've decided to clarify what the American Dream is (or at least what I think it is) before I hold a funeral service...

Here are some of the ideas I heard from my discussion:

"[the American Dream is]getting a good job, getting married, buying a house and having kids who did a little bit better than you. " ~ Rhumperd

"I always thought the American dream had more to do with freedom from tyranny and oppression?" helenafortissima

"The American dream is founded on the idea of the pursuit of happiness" ~ quenarth

"I believe for the most Chinese people (yes, I [k]now no doubt it is "most") the "American dream" is about big houses and cars." ~ yunyi2009

"I think individual freedom is the heart of the American Dream" ~ nothingprofound

This is a pretty evenly divided sample of the definitions of the American Dream. For some, it was purely materialistic ("big houses and cars" or the quintessential 50s suburb thing: "a good job, getting married, buying a house"), while other thought of it as completely abstract and mental: "individual freedom" and "freedom from tyranny and oppression" and "the idea of  the pursuit of happiness". 

To me, and the Library of Congress, the American Dream is neither purely mental nor completely materialistic, it's a perfect mixture of both. It is the equality of opportunity - the freedom of every American to not be constrained in any particular socio-economic class. Everyone in America (is supposed to) have the choice to move up in society if only they worked accordingly. 

This ideal of upward social mobility is what those second-born sons and forever-stuck-in-the-lower-class men dreamt of when they first set foot in the infinity that was North America.
This ideal is what our forefathers deemed as the nation's ethos - this is what was supposed to have kept America running. 

Now that, that has been established, I finally say that this idea is dead. I may sound pessimistic, but it is true; no one has a chance of upward mobility anymore - unless you're Mark Zuckerberg, and maybe not even then. 

To be able to earn money, one needs a good job. For a good job, one needs a college degree. To earn a good college degree, one needs to have money to pay for tuition. Both the start and end of this little journey involve money - so, if one wants money to survive, one needs to be starting with that kind of money..
             No matter how hard you work, if you (or your parents)can't pay your way through college, then you can't reach that much-talked-of upper class. If you (screw the third person 'one', not only is it frigid and academic,but it is also one of those words that are very hard to type seriously) were born poor, chances are that you won't be able to afford college (and there goes your good job and a good income). There is no chance of upward social mobility in this case. 
         Yeah sure, you could take loans, but then you'll use the money you get from your good job to pay off your never-ending education education debt. Here too, you won't be moving upwards socially or economically.
There is no American Dream in a country where hard work doesn't get you success, but having rich parents does.

Oh the irony of living in the land of freedom and opportunity..