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What is the American Dream?

charleslb
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12/1/2010 3:13:27 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Part 1

Ah, the much culturally ballyhooed will-o'-the-wisp known as the "American dream", what, nitty-grittily speaking, is it? The inclusion of the word "American" in the catchphrase of course usually has the effect of shielding the nationalistic notion from critical scrutiny, no one wants to unpatriotically tear it apart, but what do we really find when we probingly parse the meme of the American dream?

Regrettably, for the real lives of millions of real working and poor people, the cultural meme turns out to be a myth. And not just in the disparaging usage of the word either, the American dream is a lofty myth in a more technical sense as well, in the sense of being a feel-good fable that our society uses to mythologize its economic system into a never-never land of a chicken in every hard-working wage slave's pot and a gas-guzzling SUV in every middle-class garage.

The myth of the American dream is nothing less than our capitalist society's secular version of religion's pie in the sky. We've simply pulled the dreamt of pie more down to earth, but for most who never really get more than crumbs of America's prosperity apple pie, it remains largely a mythic hope, an out-of-reach ideal, a dreamy dream.

That is, Webster's two definitions of the word myth "a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something … something embodying the ideals and institutions of a society" and "an unfounded or false notion" have merged in the concept of the American dream to give us a cultural big lie that has grown up around the economic system of the United States and embodies its materialistic and selfish ideals in a way that glorifies them and utopianzes the system of capitalism.

This cultural spin-doctoring function of a myth such as the American dream is not too hard to discern when you start to scratch its wholesome surface. Such social myths, tenets of a nation's "civil religion" operate to socialize us to accept our place in the socio-economic status quo of our society, to accept and even love our lot in the power structure and economic life of the system we've been born into.

Essentially, conventional myths condition our thoughts about the established order of things in the world, they tell us that whether it's because God or the gods decree it, or because the hallowed history and traditions of our country ordain it, or because it's just inherently right and proper, the established order deserves to be believed in and supported. The myth of the American dream does this for the capitalist order of things quite effectively.

The largely illusive ideal of the American dream is an ideological Trojan horse, it looks like just the inspiring "national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success" as Wikipedia nutshells it. So, we patriotically and positively take it into our worldview, but it imports with it the beguiling, counterfactual, lying dogmas of capitalism and the "free market". Once ensconced in our brains, the myth of the American dream instructs us to think of the American capitalist system in rosy terms, to think that, all empirical evidence to the contrary, ours is a fair, merit-based system in which individuals achieve affluence through hard work and ingenuity rather than exploitation and heavy-handed business practices.

Once we've been thoroughly steeped in the entire mythology of the incomparable goodness of our system of economics and political way of life, well, we become what those at the top of the economic and political food chain euphemistically call "good citizens", i.e., windup workers who resignedly labor to make the corporate elite rich, and occasionally windup soldiers gung ho to go off to fight and die and kill in its greed-motivated wars.

And alas the "ethos" of the American dream, disappointingly, is one more plank in this national mythology that's used to make us believe, and to motivate and manipulate a population that without such brainwashing might recognize its real interests and rise up to set an unjust status quo right.

But the myth of the American dream works quite well to help damp down our righteous indignation about being undervalued, overworked, and frequently royally shafted cogs in the economic machine. It dangles in front of our noses the carrot of middle-class well-being, of joining, at a supposedly realistic level, the successful set. So, instead of getting up in arms about the way the system and its elite treats us, we keep dreaming the impossible dream, we keep plugging away at making it come true, and in the process make money for the barons of business who are increasingly feudalizing our society, turning it into a society of a few privileged owners lording their riches over a population of blue-collar peasants and white-collar vassals.

Tragically for those who buy too deeply and uncritically into it, the myth of the American dream is just a fond illusion and a societal subterfuge down to its bottommost premises. The first layer of its premise is the fallacy that satisfaction with life and blissfulness are to be achieved through the attainment of material success, that fulfillment is just the byproduct of owning certain material possessions such as an overpriced house surrounded by a white picket fence, a high-def widescreen TV, an SUV, the latest iPhone, etc. The consumerism that results from believing this is good for merchants and manufacturers but hardly promotes any real understanding of the nature of human happiness.

The poignant consequence of our indoctrination with the myth of the American dream is a nation of people vainly seeking contentedness in all the wrong places, when the pursuit of happiness comes to be equated with "living the dream" of capitalism, well, you can easily predict a serious downtick in the quality of human joy.

Then of course tangled up with the above spiritually false premise of the capitalist life-philosophy and the myth of the American dream is the taken-for-granted idea that striving after materialistic pseudo-happiness is pretty much the whole meaning of life. So, it works out so that being catechized with the lore of American capitalism means we're also catechized to think that regardless of the mediocre quality of the happiness yielded by owning expensive possessions there are really no other worthy life-goals out there, or within ourselves, to set our sights on, therefore we have no real alternative but to settle. Yep, the myth of the American dream does us the

The conclusion is located directly below
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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12/1/2010 3:14:28 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Part 2 (Conclusion)

great spiritual disservice of helping to implant this kind of bourgeois materialism right in there with our most basic assumptions about life.

Of course last but not least, I've already alluded to the American dream's other fallacious premise, that this materialistic success that's held out to us as the best happiness available is not only available it's eminently attainable, it's not! No, contrary to the propaganda that if you play by the rules and earnestly apply yourself to becoming a middle-class success story you're guaranteed to do so, materialistic success is not even really that attainable in our dog-eat-dog capitalist system in which a few alpha dogs fight dirty and lock up most of society's wealth for themselves.

As if all of this isn't bad enough, the most insidious thing about a national myth like the myth of the American dream is the way it imprints us with a bogus social identity that works against our ability to discover a deeper sense of identity and of solidarity with the rest of humanity. Socialization 101, the myths of a society are designed to tie its member's self-concept into their group identity, into their nationality, ethnicity, race, or religion. In our case, the myth of the American dream helps tie our self-concept into both American nationalism and the way of life of capitalism. The "ethos" of the American dream helps define what it means to be an American in terms of the values and ideals of capitalism, and then it sinks the hooks of that definition of "American" into our minds. Thus we come to proudly self-identify as free-enterprising Americans, an identity which is used against us to cut us off from a larger spiritual identity that would not incline us to be such good worker bees and cannon fodder for the big business-big government complex.

And thus does the American dream limit our personal sense of identity, our spiritual self-awareness, our ability to find authentic happiness, and our inclination to change the status quo, to swap our current one in for a more just one. The myth of the American dream turns out to be an element of our socio-cultural conditioning that does not exactly work in our highest interest as individuals, as workers, as a society, or as members of the larger human community. It's high time that we begin to give it the heave-ho from our collective consciousness.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
bluesteel
Posts: 12,301
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12/1/2010 7:46:43 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
I have a dream, that one day, my children will not be subjected to 16000 character posts.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
InsertNameHere
Posts: 15,699
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12/1/2010 8:42:16 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/1/2010 7:46:43 PM, bluesteel wrote:
I have a dream, that one day, my children will not be subjected to 16000 character posts.

This. xD
Cerebral_Narcissist
Posts: 10,806
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12/2/2010 7:36:08 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Hopefully he will get bored and leave.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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12/2/2010 8:38:05 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 6:53:38 AM, Caramel wrote:
He is a good writer

The fact that you agree with him is not sufficient to establish that.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Danielle
Posts: 21,330
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12/2/2010 8:46:01 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 8:38:05 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
At 12/2/2010 6:53:38 AM, Caramel wrote:
He is a good writer

The fact that you agree with him is not sufficient to establish that.

And just because you don't agree with him doesn't mean he's not.
President of DDO
innomen
Posts: 10,052
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12/2/2010 9:07:56 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 6:53:38 AM, Caramel wrote:
He is a good writer... Don't always have time to read it though!

How can you possibly say he is a good writer? I'm not even talking content at this point, in fact i am particularly not talking about content. If he even has a point to make, it's rendered diluted and deluded in a muck of blathering. I don't mind an opposing point of view, that's what we do here, but i do mind a de facto blog, that's not what we do here. He's a secular sidewalk preacher, who just loves his own words, lots and lots of them.

Look at it this way; after reading his post(s), if you were to raise the same points, how long would it take you to do it? There is more power in brevity, particularly when forming a cogent argument.
Caramel
Posts: 855
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12/2/2010 4:07:07 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 9:07:56 AM, innomen wrote:
At 12/2/2010 6:53:38 AM, Caramel wrote:
He is a good writer... Don't always have time to read it though!

How can you possibly say he is a good writer? I'm not even talking content at this point, in fact i am particularly not talking about content. If he even has a point to make, it's rendered diluted and deluded in a muck of blathering. I don't mind an opposing point of view, that's what we do here, but i do mind a de facto blog, that's not what we do here. He's a secular sidewalk preacher, who just loves his own words, lots and lots of them.

Look at it this way; after reading his post(s), if you were to raise the same points, how long would it take you to do it? There is more power in brevity, particularly when forming a cogent argument.

His mistake is the medium - people hop on DDO and want to read dozens of posts within a few minutes before doing something else. But his writing is pretty creative.
no comment
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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12/2/2010 4:14:04 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 4:11:49 PM, FREEDO wrote:
Don't be so hard on charles. You just don't understand him cause he's old. And vise-versa.

So? innomen's old, too (no offense).
Cerebral_Narcissist
Posts: 10,806
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12/2/2010 11:57:21 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 4:22:35 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 12/2/2010 4:14:04 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 12/2/2010 4:11:49 PM, FREEDO wrote:
Don't be so hard on charles. You just don't understand him cause he's old. And vise-versa.

So? innomen's old, too (no offense).

As is RoyLatham.

So am I.
The guy is a literate version of banker.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
Danielle
Posts: 21,330
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12/3/2010 11:29:41 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/2/2010 4:07:07 PM, Caramel wrote:
His mistake is the medium - people hop on DDO and want to read dozens of posts within a few minutes before doing something else. But his writing is pretty creative.

I agree. I think it's funny that people are being so condescending... Charles isn't always/usually right but neither are a bunch of people here on a lot/most issues. Yet somehow they're better because they just post wrong stuff in shorter posts? Hmm. At least he has the wherewithal to post a long explanation for whatever thoughts you think are wrong. One thing I will say though is that he seems to ignore other people's arguments (from what I hear - I don't pay attention to his forum discussions but from the one debate I've been reading of his it's seemingly a trend), but that's why I've never said he was a good debater and just agreeing that he is an okay writer.

I agree with Innomen that his posts seem like blogs which is annoying. I agree with Caramel that Charles is therefore using the wrong medium, because Charles doesn't want to debate - he wants to discuss. Or mostly profess his beliefs, and then lightly exchange commentary. So yeah, Charles, you should consider seriously trying to debate (not just in accepting one and posting but focusing on specific arguments) or visit blogspot.com.
President of DDO
darkkermit
Posts: 11,204
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12/3/2010 12:58:59 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/3/2010 11:29:41 AM, theLwerd wrote:
At 12/2/2010 4:07:07 PM, Caramel wrote:
His mistake is the medium - people hop on DDO and want to read dozens of posts within a few minutes before doing something else. But his writing is pretty creative.

I agree. I think it's funny that people are being so condescending... Charles isn't always/usually right but neither are a bunch of people here on a lot/most issues. Yet somehow they're better because they just post wrong stuff in shorter posts? Hmm. At least he has the wherewithal to post a long explanation for whatever thoughts you think are wrong. One thing I will say though is that he seems to ignore other people's arguments (from what I hear - I don't pay attention to his forum discussions but from the one debate I've been reading of his it's seemingly a trend), but that's why I've never said he was a good debater and just agreeing that he is an okay writer.

I agree with Innomen that his posts seem like blogs which is annoying. I agree with Caramel that Charles is therefore using the wrong medium, because Charles doesn't want to debate - he wants to discuss. Or mostly profess his beliefs, and then lightly exchange commentary. So yeah, Charles, you should consider seriously trying to debate (not just in accepting one and posting but focusing on specific arguments) or visit blogspot.com.

These are directly from his blogs. In fact, he really uses this website to advertise for his blogs which is why he annoys me. I agree he is a good writer. His writing style is very emotionally appealing which leads those who disagree with him disgusted and those who agree with him to praise him. However, it is in no way informative or likely to change one's opinion, just solidify someone else's opinion.
Open borders debate:
http://www.debate.org...
bluesteel
Posts: 12,301
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12/4/2010 10:55:13 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
I've read a few of charles' posts in their entirety and part of his debate with J.Kenyon.

He is a good writer if being a good writer means using SAT vocab words and being emotive.

He is a bad writer if being a good writer is using logic, organization and having clear thesis statements.

He's far from the smartest Communist I've ever known, some of whom could actually defend their visions of Communism. He backs away from ever actually defending anything. He's more like the philosophy majors who like to intellectually masturbate in the form of constant criticism, without ever defending a competing system. Anyone who knows what a policy kritik is (based on the German philosophical method of kritik), he likes to criticize without offering an alternative.

And that's REALLY annoying if his posts are straight off his blog, as darkkermit has suggested.

@theLwerd

I dunno, there's a huge premium in the debate world placed on stating your point succinctly, even if your point is dumb or wrong. Competitive debaters call it your "tag line," which often synthesizes an 8000 character piece of evidence down to one sentence. There's a certain skill involved in this that is to be revered. Word economy is king!

Charles' 16000 character, two part posts can usually be synthesized down to one or two sentences of actual argumentation for his point. Then when people actually identify and refute the meat of his argument, he usually ignores them.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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12/4/2010 6:56:52 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Of all the people that posted on here, I agree most with Bluesteel.

First, about him as a writer:

Now, I am not claiming to be an authority on the subject. But, I have studied it and I do engage it professionally. Nonetheless, this is only my opinion.

That said, he has potential be a writer one day, but he is quite green. He is mistaking atypicality for creativity; if you pay attention, he displaces regular descriptions with anachronistic expressions and it comes off sounding like someone's grandfather that used to teach at the local community college. But, to someone in their late twenties-on, he simply sounds like someone who is taking forever to say something very simple, either because he's getting off on what he considers his eloquence, or he thinks that whomever he's speaking to is far less intelligent than he.

Past creativity and uniqueness, there is only the technical minutiae of writing, which he pays no regard to whatsoever. Subsequently, it's clear that he writes for hobby rather than for trade. As a hobby, I'd say he isn't bad. But, he is as much a writer as anyone doodling idly on his or her trapper keeper is an artist. Just about every one of his sentences is a masturbatory run-on viscous with ten dollar words. His punctuation is terrible and his witticisms are trite. Overall, he's something of an unedited, underdeveloped Rushdie. Suffice to say that I thought he came off as incredibly obnoxious to only me.

To answer the other question (and why it's still a question is beyond me), these are indeed his blog posts. He used to finish them off with a link to the actual post. It is quite irritating, because his points are hackneyed as it is. Moreover, it's insincere, since he does not do a very good job of defending any of his points in the subsequent threads that somehow continue to garner attention.