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09 July, 2010

The American Dream: A lie that persists today

I watched a clip today from a documentary. A woman is crying in front of her home. She is talking in between sobs to an interviewer behind the camera. She says:

"We are hard working Americans and they are taking our home away from us".

It illustrates to me the greatest lie from the American Dream. Not that we can all obtain a 4 bedroom house, white picket fence, a lawn, a job that pays well, a pension, health care, be equal with one another. But that Hard work = Success.

We have heard that equation for years. Benjamin Franklin was a huge fan of it stating "Early to Bed, and early to rise, makes a Man healthy, wealthy, and wise." and while this may have been true in the 18th century, it is no longer the case today.

You can work as hard as you possibly can and still find yourself unemployed, Foreclosed on, underwater, outsourced, without a decent pension. It's no wonder the number of prescriptions of anti-depressants is ever increasing.

Of course, that's a complete over-simplification of cause and effect but it sounded good. Much like being a "Hard Working American" sounds good. I'd hate to be one of those people called a "Hardly Working American".

So, what does "Working Hard" really even mean?

For a pilot, does it mean flying extra good? Cracking jokes on the intercom every now and then? Telling you the sights as you pass over them at 30,000 feet?
For a psychiatrist, does it mean providing the "good" therapy? Does one psychiatrist who researches medication, keeps up to date on their journals and theory but works 3 days a week and only 4 hours each day work harder than the psychiatrist who puts in a 10 hour shift in down-town New York, working with violent offenders but just goes through "the motions"?
For a teacher, does it mean making sure all your students excel, or does it mean providing the children with the skills they will need in life? Does it mean correcting behavior or achieving results?

It's pretty gosh, darn complicated.

My best advice is to shake off the chains of the lie. Be good to your neighbour. Think critically. Vote with your brain and as one of my colleagues always says "work smart, not hard". Success comes from within and can't be measured by the amount of "things" you have or the car you drive or the property you own. Measure you success by your own goals and not by a dream, invented to make you buy more "things", that has quickly soured into a nightmare. Then, perhaps, you won't be so upset when your "hard work" = crap street.


The Film Geek said...

Excellent post. Really terrific insights. The American Dream, as you've described along with the NRA and God mixed in, drives the economy here. As long as no one thinks about it, works hard and talks about heaven while polishing guns our country thrives.

Raquel's World said...

And please people stop living beyond your means