The “American Dream” has been hijacked. It used to represent our basic ideals of freedom and opportunity. It seems to me that it now represents consumption to the max. In a nutshell, isn’t the common notion of the American dream now that the person that dies with the most “toys” wins?
We need to rethink whether or not this line of rationale is good for us as Americans or not. I think it is harming us fiscally and mentally. Author Nigel Marsh sums up our problem quite well in saying that “there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”
I have talked to folks suffering from this mentality and have seen firsthand the effects it can cause. It becomes a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on a person’s life. The signs of this behavior in our society are all around us. To take Nigel’s quote a step further, we even see people purchasing things that they don’t have room for so they fill up a storage unit or two with all of their extra possessions. Those possessions become a faint remembrance yet there is still a monthly bill for their conglomeration of paraphernalia. By the way, there is more than enough room in the storage units of America to fit every single citizen inside their walls. What a depressing thought.
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. So why not make a commitment to change? Someone mentioned to me after reading my blog about my car with 200,000 miles that society will judge me based on the car I drive and that sometimes it is worth getting a newer model for that very reason. I say, who cares? There are lots of people driving nicer cars than me that can’t sleep very well at night because of their massive workload to keep up with the debt they have racked up for lifestyle choices that they can’t afford.
Think about the last commercial you saw. Did it tell you about a product and how it works or did it try to tell you on how much improved your existence could be if you only dropped the dough to bring it into your home? Advertisements have steadily changed over the past few years. The giant companies are trying to sell you on a lifestyle change. They tell you that their particular item will get you well on your way to the life you’ve always wanted. This is what I’m talking about. You do want to keep up with the Jones’ right?
I don’t want to sound like I’m on a soapbox and don’t struggle with these issues too. It is hard to live in our society and not buy into the carnival of consumerism. I have certainly fallen victim to this cycle before. Recognizing the problem, however, is our first step towards change. Have you ever had instant regret after a purchase? Ever realized that your most recent splurge wasn’t what you thought it would be? You probably wanted your money back but by then it was too late. It has happened to all of us.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the American dream and how we can take it back. If we consume less and make better choices it puts control back into our lives. If we make these changes we aren’t controlled by the job we don’t like, we aren’t devastated financially if that job ends, and we have a new found freedom to explore the way we live. I’ve met too many people enslaved by their belongings because of the choices they’ve been told are “normal.” Let’s be abnormal. Let’s be counter cultural. By the way, no-one that I know of has ever laid on their deathbed wishing that they had spent more time at the office and bought more material possessions. I must agree with my friends the Avett Brothers. Down with the Shine.