When you are a kid you are told by those around you to ‘follow your dreams’. What they forgot to mention is that all people are not born into a system of egalitarian values. Indeed, nearly all of us are born into systems of oppression and exploitation. What you are told in your youth then is a fabrication. For we citizens of the United States the “American Dream” is the refined epitome of this lie. Ultimately it is the fallacious idea that we can achieve maximum freedom within a system of socioeconomic hierarchy, or more to the point, within a capitalist system that exploits us, our non-American brethren and our fellow non-human Earthlings.
In America everybody believes they can get rich. As John Steinbeck once put it, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
In our culture the “American Dream” is the ability to attain wealth, which is predominantly, but not limited to, monetary value. This is the preliminary requisite for the capitalist acquisition of power; and in America it is synergistically related to our conception of freedom. Here it is believed that wealth, and therefore power, is the vehicle to greater choice. And it is, but it is a particular type of choice—the self-maximizing sort. The sort that disadvantages others. In such a system there must be winners and there must be losers. The more losers, or the greater number of the oppressed and exploited, the fewer, but freer, the winners.
So to be a winner, to follow your dreams, to acquire lots of money and power, we have to adopt a backwards view of freedom. We have to accept that for us freedom means the freedom to exploit the losers, which must include poorer Americans, even more so non-Americans, animals and always, always our landbases. Literally for us to be free we have to steal from others their rightful agency.
This is how hierarchy must function. It cannot function otherwise. It must stamp out egalitarianism and replace it with exploitation or it will die.
The “American Dream” is the falsification of hope. To paraphrase Raoul Vaneigem, it is the leash of submission. We falsely believe our economic system will provide enough choices to create enough opportunities for all people to amass wealth and generate the power for their own agency. Indeed, within the parameters of this system, if the premises of oppression and exploitation are accepted, the “American Dream” can be a reality, but only for the few.
In this falsification we have no agency over the conditions of our future. The “American Dream” is the individualist’s rejection of collectivism. It elevates the value of one far above the importance of us all. This is the equivalent of a man in a boat of several people beginning to drill a hole under his seat. In dismay the others will scream in protest, “What are you doing?” And he will reply “What business is it of yours? I am doing this under MY seat. It does not affect you!”
The reason this is the reality of the “American Dream” is because we have been duped into accepting premises never presented to us. They were slipped by us with enormous success. We believe the “American Dream” is real; it is good; and it is obtainable to any and all. Worse still, we believe that it is predicated on substance of real value. It’s not. The fact is nobody will show us the oppression. It must be felt. Nobody will show us we are exploited. We must be made conscious. The “American Dream” is one of many opiates to a population that has lost virtually all agency to its future condition. As we fail to realize this our remaining freedoms ebb away like a sandy shore utterly failing against the mighty currents. It pains me that so few are awake.”
– via @americawakiewakie