Do you ever wonder what happened to the average citizen’s ability to achieve The American Dream? Is there something about the pursuit of THE AMERICAN DREAM that contributes to failing systems and institutions (from an Enron economy to failing education, the deterioration of the family unit, social ills such as senseless violence, suicide, substance abuse and perversion)? Geela thinks so. In her highly praised book THE AMERICAN DREAM, Geela explains the connection between our failing systems and institutions and the pursuit of The American Dream as we know it. Through her proven “Principles For Successful Living,” and her innovative nonprofit organization, ONE SPIRIT, ONE WORLD, Geela revolutionizes the conventional wisdom of achieving personal success and prosperity.
A recent study reveals that the overwhelming majority of Americans are now experiencing more stress and less true fulfillment and optimism then ever before. They believe that the odds of them winning the lottery are probably much better than their odds of attaining The American Dream. And the current climate of global terrorism coupled with growing uncertainty and failing systems and institutions only makes their faith in attaining The American Dream for success, happiness and fulfillment seems less likely. The American Dream is becoming more and more like the Impossible Dream.
When one looks at the evolution of the concept of The American Dream, it’s hard not to notice the sharp contrast of “before and after” or “this was then, this is now.”
The concept of The American Dream was basically originated from suffering periods of lack, following the Great Depression and WW2 when people had appreciation for work because it was scarce. The main concern was security and basic survival. As such, the focus of The American Dream was on wholesome values such as a strong work ethic, integrity, family, community and moral values. It created joy of life, pride in work and family and a sense of community. In sharp contrast, The American Dream is no longer attainable by most people. How many people can afford a home considering the ridiculously high prices? And decent jobs with stable companies are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Sure, we have accumulated lots of stuff (toys), but they only bring us artificial joy, which is as fleeting as it is cruel.
It was hard work, integrity and wholesome moral values that provided the solid foundation for creating prosperity and economic boom in this country. It was prosperity with integrity and purpose that brought us a sense of real joy and pride coupled with a strong sense of community. However, success has its own trappings, and with success came the desire to “keep up with the Jones’s.” Need eventually turned into greed. The new generation wanted more, in fact they demanded a higher standard of living almost at all costs, even if it meant getting into serious debt. Life was no longer about family and community but instead was more about status (through money and power, with the obsession with fame and fortune for the wrong reasons). And thus began the pursuit of materialism with all the side effects associated with it.
And when need turns to greed, the results are inevitable. The same spirit that created capitalism and prosperity has also created corruption, compromised integrity and the erosion of wholesome values systems that eventually has led to failing systems and institutions.
In a materialistic driven society, where the love of power and money overcomes the power of love, anything becomes fair game. The system, including the media only perpetuated this concept of the newly evolved American Dream for self-serving reasons (to make more profits), while turning us from a nation of producers to a nation of insatiable consumers that made us forget our spiritual roots. Thus, human excellence has given way to human weakness while enslaving us to our own addictions and desires.
In fact, we hear so much about the Enron type of corruptions and dirty politics fueled by special-interest money, that it has virtually become an accepted practice.
The prevailing mentality in American society today is that you can get something for nothing. There is a sense of entitlement and an expectation of wanting the good life without having to work hard for it. This is reinforced, glorified and perpetuated by the media with shows like “The Lifestyle of The Rich and Famous.” When all you see is glamour, but not the hard work and sacrifice that goes into achieving success, it only inspires more envy and the desire for a “get rich quick” scheme leading to the erosion of morality and integrity.
Consider the break down of the family system. When both parents spend long working hours (sometimes just to make ends meet), their children are left alone, being raised by their peers, gangs and TV. Family values and compromised integrity simply don’t run parallel. By failing to instill good values in their children, children have become corrupted by default, increasingly turning to violence, which in turn negatively affects not only our way of life, but our economy as well. . Once again, the culprit is the pursuit of materialism.
Now consider the increased senseless violence at our schools and unchecked crime on our streets. Both can be traced to the pursuit of materialism, which drives people to corruption, compromised integrity and the erosion of wholesome values systems. Violence is a reflection of being away from family and community, an anti-social behavior and a lack of a sense of belonging. After all, how can children feel safe and truly cared for when they are left alone without any clear boundaries? Crime too, is a reflection of the growing frustration and anger resulting from the perception of lack of opportunity, and the equal sharing of prosperity. Call it like it is – it’s a class warfare between the haves and have-nots.
Here is a quick quiz for you:
* Do you know your neighbors? How about just their names?
* When was the last time you invited your neighbor to dinner?
* Why do you build a fence around your home?
* Have you noticed that the more possessions we have, the more we try to isolate ourselves with an attempt to protect our hard-won assets?
As tough as it is for our national pride to admit it, one can’t ignore the failing of our educational system as evidenced by failing test scores. This too is basically a reflection of the erosion of our moral values, work ethic and our failing institutions. Many politicians are driven by doing what is politically correct and getting elected rather than what’s in the best interest of the community. As the United States falls further behind the world in education, the negative impact on our economy will be felt too. Once we were the world’s leading producers of goods. But now our higher standard of living has escalated wages to the point where manufactures are taking jobs overseas (to places like China and India where cost of living is very low). As a result we are importing more and more of the goods necessary to maintain our excessive lifestyle. As a result, the foreign trade deficit has ballooned to an all-time high. Our addiction to consumption has forced us to go into debt to the rest of the world. The huge budget deficit we hear so much about is really a deficit in integrity. Our only edge in the world economy has been in technology and innovation. But in the absence of good education, we will lose this competitive edge too. And if we wish to maintain our high standard of living, we must produce something of value in order to remain a valuable player in the global economy.
But the break down is not limited to our systems and institutions alone. Our nerves and spirits are just as affected. With growing personal and national debt (with no way out short of a miracle or winning the lottery), out of control violence and crime, environmental and spiritual pollution, extreme stress, frustration, hopelessness, rejection over lack of opportunities, lack of accomplishments, or control of their own lives, send more and more Americans straight to a shrink’s office, take Prozac or worse, get hooked on drugs and other destructive substances as a way of coping. Many simply have reached their breaking point resulting in a diminished productivity at work, a diminished family harmony and enjoyment of life itself.
People are not as free as they would like to believe. The reality is that, knowingly or unknowingly, people are controlled, by virtue of being in debt and by being enslaved by the pursuit of materialism (a by-product of the pursuit of The American Dream as we know it). Perhaps it’s time to reflect on what really matters in life and ask ourselves the eternal question. “Are working to live or living to work?”
Many feel this country has seen its finest hour unless we develop a new attitude. In the words of a fellow immigrant, Arnold Swartznager, “no more business as usual.” It is a luxury we simply can’t afford. As an immigrant, who came from a different culture and a different values system and achieved The American Dream, not only do I appreciate the great opportunities and freedoms this great country has to offer, but I am able to see the sharp contrast and the cause and effect that contribute to the social and economic ills of our society. Indeed, social ills are an equal opportunity employer. But it is precisely because I care so deeply about this country, that I make my observations and offer innovative solutions in order to preserve the greatness of this country for future generations.
Finally, here is the burning question. How can one be happy and successful and still get a piece of The American Dream? How can we restore our failing systems and institutions and preserve a free and thriving society? What needs to happen is to restore a wholesome values system with integrity. We need to restore the true spirit of The American Dream which was based on perspiration, innovation, risk and reward. That’s when we can once again appreciate simple pleasures and discover that it is “He with the most joys lives,” and not “He with the most toys lives.” And perhaps only when the power of love overcomes the love of power can we finally get back on the yellow brick road to real prosperity, real peace and real fulfillment. Indeed, the best things in life are free, and all you have to do is recognize it.