Redefining the American dream 2

In: Uncategorized

12 May 2009

More attempts to redefine the American dream in diminished terms (see post of 6 March 2009).

The traditional conception of the American dream, as put forward by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America in 1931 was of: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone”. But the desirability of becoming richer, or the link between wealth and a full life, is increasingly being called into question.

William Greider, a veteran left wing journalist, suggests an alternative idea which is explicitly opposed to the goal of becoming richer in an article in the Nation (and in turn an extract from his new book on Come Home America (Rodale Press)): “Here is the grand vision I suggest Americans can pursue: the right of all citizens to larger lives. Not to get richer than the next guy or necessarily to accumulate more and more stuff but the right to live life more fully and engage more expansively the elemental possibilities of human existence.” In essence Greider is proposing that Americans accept austerity – although he is too coy to use the word – and a vague hope that this will somehow lead to more fulfilling lives. The idea that the end of scarcity is a necessary condition for true freedom is alien to him.

Even more explicit is Ted Kulongoski, the governor of Oregon. He was recently quoted in the New York Times as arguing: “Other than taxes … the hardest thing I find to talk with my constituents and my citizens about is about changing lifestyles.” By “changing lifestyles” it is clear he means reduced living standards.

Finally, there is the story of stuff a 20 minute environmentalist video rant which has apparent had over six million viewings. At a conservative estimate I counted at least 20 serious misconceptions in 20 minutes. My favourite was her insistence that human baby milk is incredibly toxic one minute followed by her reassurance that breastfeeding is still best straight afterwards. It is hard to understand how she can justify giving what she claims is a highly poisonous substance to babies. I am no expert in child care but it seems to me incontrovertible proof of a mentality that is, to put it politely, confused.

Comment Form