Saturday, August 10, 2013

Is the American Dream Dead?

A recent YouGov poll revealed that 41% of respondents believe the American dream is no longer possible, while 38% still believe it is achievable.  When broken down by party affiliation, the results were that 53% of Democrats don't believe in the American dream, while 55% of Republicans still do.  

What, exactly, is "the American dream"?   Originally, this term represented a state of mind, a sort of quest.  It meant that you could come from anywhere, belong to any socioeconomic level or class, and still be successful, whatever "success" might mean to you.  It meant freedom to be what you want to be, whether an entrepreneur, a teacher, doctor or whatever else you could aspire to.  It was a philosophy.

In recent times, I believe it has changed into something else, with a focus on materialism.  The dream for many is to have a big house, luxury cars, designer clothes, jewels and all the other trappings of wealth.  It's human nature to want to possess nice things, but with this emphasis on material "stuff", it's easy to see why so many people no longer believe they can achieve financial success.  Our economy is anemic, unemployment is at unacceptable levels and job growth is mainly in part-time jobs.  

Maybe we need to reconsider how we define success.  At one time, if you had a job with a reasonable salary, a stable family life and the respect of the community in which you lived, you were considered successful.  This seems pretty pathetic to many people now, but are people happier now that the emphasis is on how many "goodies" you can acquire?  I don't think so and our society seems much more unstable in many ways. 

The American dream is alive and well; we just need to rediscover it in its original form.  The time has come to adjust our attitudes and expectations and find contentment in simpler things.   

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