Saturday, January 9, 2010
The Loss of the American Dream
In the last few years, pretty much since I became an “independent” person as society likes to put it, I’ve constantly questioned myself as to what my dream is. I remember my dream as a child, it was to do something cool, be a mountain climber, an astronaut, a firefighter. As I reached my teenage years my dream became more pronounced, it began to include the ideals of love and life. I wanted to have a successful job, I wanted a wife and children, I wanted my dream house with a white picket fence, I wanted to travel and see the world. I suppose these thoughts of what I wanted life to be like developed through my family.
While we weren’t always “happy” my parents never divorced, they always tried to provide for us to the best of their ability and still do. I remember my mother one time telling me that even when she wanted things she never bought them so that she could make sure we always had what we needed. I know the opposite exists now. In the last few years my father told me, with pride, that for the first time he could remember he actually had money in the bank that wasn’t going to something. My dad worked to become what he is, eventually going back to college late in life and building up to the career he currently has. My mother was stay at home until financially she had to go to work. We went on family vacations, packed into a car with the luggage on the roof. Driving where we needed to go. Our only entertainment was our mind, and books, lots of books (not TV screens with DVD players in the car). We never had the most “up to date” technology, we weren’t the type to have the brand new TV, the coolest computer, or the latest gadget. Happy moments for me was fishing with my father and going to movies with my mother.
In school I was a good student, I never skipped, I brought home the grades, and later I was rarely disciplined. Going into college I had high hopes. I imagined college to be what I always saw in movies. Large auditorium classes, a melting pot of people, learning what I wanted to learn and partying along the way. College ended up being almost the exact opposite of what I expected. Here I was paying for an education (with my own money, I saved up, never got a loan) that included courses I never wanted, sitting in small classrooms that were supposed to be better for the students but only made me feel like I was still in high school, and paying an exuberant amount of money for books and fees that I had no idea what they were going to. It really wasn’t the melting pot I expected, the student protests were usually limited to groups of ten students, and no matter how much I looked I couldn’t find any clubs I wanted to be a part of. I could understand the need for a student to be well educated, to cover all the bases (math, science, history, etc), however I couldn’t ever grasp why I had to pay for things that I wasn’t interested in. In the end not only did college fail me, but I failed college. I was kicked out with two classes left to graduate with my BA and three more to add on three minors. I have people telling me to go back but I can’t really grasp why.
I understand it is so I can get a “better paying job,” but I’ve never been able to picture myself in a corporate job. I can’t imagine sitting in a cubicle, having bosses on top of bosses on top of bosses. That doesn’t sound important to me, or necessary, when did that become necessary? I want to be a writer, saving up the couple of thousand necessary to go back to school seems better spent on going to Europe, at least then I can experience rather than regurgitate. The problem with me is a lack of motivation, I’ve quit most of the things I’ve started, I don’t know why…I quit all the sports I played, I quit school, I quit…caring. I was once two hundred and fifty pages into a novel and deleted it one night when I got drunk because I felt it was shit. I wanted to move to London once, then found out I could never get the “points” to go. Unless of course I had a Masters degree from one of a few universities in this country in business. This helped me to understand the plight of immigration into this country. Everywhere is a sign that says, “No Vacancy.“ I held the same job for seven years but was laid off when the restaurant I worked for closed because of the economy. The story of my life.
I guess this can go into two things. One, the self medication of society, particularly in today’s youth. Two, the concept and failure of the modern American dream.
The Self Medication of Society
My life feels the most like Peter Sarsgaard’s character Mark in Garden State. A failure, in almost every aspect. My grandfather was an alcoholic, I can see myself becoming the same. I don’t consider myself one now, but I can see it happening. After high school I started getting into drugs. At first it was just smoking weed. This gravitated to nitrous oxide, which eventually went to ecstasy and on to the culmination of eventually trying almost every drug known to man. From the drugs I went to drinking, I drink…often, I smoke weed on an occasional basis, and I really wish I could stay fucked up on a twenty four hour rotation. Why? Because a society, a life, through dull/diluted images seems much more interesting than the life I currently lead. On alcohol you forget, you forget everything, your inhibitions go out the window and you can become your “Tyler” from Fight Club. On weed everything becomes much more entertaining, whether that be watching a TV show, seeing the interactions of society, or hearing a joke you’ve heard a hundred times. A quick little research study can kind of help spread this “shocking” (note sarcasm) news of a self medicating society. According to the National Institute of Mental Health website (www.nimh.nih.gov) 14.8 million Americans suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, 3.3 from Dysthymic Disorder, 5.7 from Bipolar Disorder, 40 from some type of Anxiety Disorder, and 15 from a Social Phobia. Think about that and let it sink in. Now getting a statistic like this comes from people who actually tell the truth and/or are treated for one of these disorders. Now how many people never tell and/or are treated? How many suffer from a disorder and never admit it? How many people actually have a problem in the first place? Do we really think this many people suffer from depression, or is it more that society has to place these restraints/classifications on people in order to justify that need? Maybe a need to explain something they can’t put a name to. That would be my guess. So how about suicide? According to the World Health Organization (www.who.int/en) 17.7 per 100,000 men committed suicide and 4.5 per 100,000 women in the United States as of 2009. Suicide people. Suicide. We hear it more on the news now. The murder/suicide of an entire family. Of people killing themselves in real time on the internet. In Japan they have actually had a string of gas/poison related suicides where the victims place notes on the door letting authorities know that the apartment has a poisonous gas in it. In fact, in today’s time how many people have at least considered suicide? Talking to my parents and grandparents no matter how bad things got for them the concept never even entered their head. Lastly, in the terms of self medication, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse website (www.nida.nih.gov), let me mention that they have a large amount of statistics on children. Between the ages of 12 and 20, 10.8 million reported drinking within the last month, 30.5 reported driving under the influence of alcohol. 16.3% of 18-25 year olds used marijuana, 6.4% abused prescription drugs, 2.4 million used cocaine, and MDMA use has continued to increase in the last two years. Why did I just shout out a lot of statistics to you and made it seem like you were either reading A)a boring school paper or B)a boring government paper? Because I really can’t make statistics entertaining while still getting my point across. The world is going to shit. Of course this can also be an example of the complete failure of the “War on Drugs.” Do I necessarily think it is wrong for people to use drugs? No. Do I think that people are over medicated? Yes. We see arguments in society and on the news about how many children are pronounced with having ADD or ADHD and whether or not we are actually misdiagnosing yet do people bother to try and do this with depression? Do you really think 14.8 million people suffer from depression? Or do you think there are a lot that do and never get help compared to those that don’t that do? Why is this an example of the destruction of the American Dream? We are medicating society rather than living. We are choosing to ignore what is going on around us rather than pay attention to it. We are so fucking self-absorbed and juvenile that we don’t know what the meaning of living even is. We would rather live in an alternate world then the one we are actually in. Because the one we are actually in is the one we don’t want to be in. Watch The Chumscrubber.
The Modern American Dream
No one is happy with their lives. I mean really, truly happy. There can always be something wrong.
Money. Like the edict of “Money can’t buy you happiness.” Bullshit. Whoever said that must have been loaded because in today’s society money is the only thing that appears to be able to buy you happiness. But should it be that way? According to the US Department of Commerce in 1961 the average American family income was $5,600 in 1960 (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/popscan/p60-036.PDF). What do you think it is now? Could you even do anything making that much a year? I think homeless people now make more than that. This is one of the reasons for our loss of the American Dream. We no longer look just to provide for ourselves and our family. Now we look to compete in a market driven consumer based society. We need to have that new Ipod, that brand new laptop, the newest videogame system. We want to have a larger TV that’s flatter than our neighbors or best friend. We want to make sure we drive in the car with the leather seats and cd/mp3 player. Did we not want the same things in 1960? I won’t say no because that would just be retarded. However I think that the majority of our lives now strive for this.
Divorce. Looking around quickly I couldn’t find a reasonable statistic. All over the place I saw people saying it was 50% of marriages end up in divorce. I won’t go that high, I’ll say 35%. Even if it is only 35% what does that say? Boredom
is my answer. In this fast paced society we have brought on by short attention spans and the free sex movement of the 60’s/70’s the possibility of a successful long term relationship drops quickly. Because of this. Because of children growing up in one parent households. Watching their parents go through divorce. Seeing the odds of a relationship actually working. We have given up on the concept of true love. Now instead of finding that one person we are going to spend the rest of our lives with we look at the possibility that it may be the first of many marriages. I saw a commercial the other day in which a woman is looking for the man of her dreams, when she finds said man the commercial ends in a wedding where she pronounces “I found husband number two.” We have a TV show called “The Starter Wife.” We have the modern terms of MILF and Cougar. Where did these come about? Look back at the concept of money again, of this notion of bigger and better. We trade in our old models for new ones. Even when we think we have found the perfect someone we continue to look for someone better.
Faith. Being a Deist, and a person who generally despises every aspect of Christianity, I will have to admit that society has faltered somewhat since the absence of church in the home. The youth of today lack the discipline that was once instilled. Now instead of getting in trouble and getting the holy hell whacked out of you parents are expected to “talk” to their children about why what they did was wrong. I got talked to…after I got my butt reddened. What did this teach me? Don’t do that because it has consequences. We also lost the core values of what a family really is. Almost like the military they should be something along the lines of persistence, respect, courage and loyalty. Courage comes from examples of women being raped around people and no one stepping in to help. Loyalty comes from helping your loved ones and that family comes before all else. Respect is easy to identify, how many children now talk back to their teachers? To their parents? How many do you hear say “Yes Ma’am” or “No Sir?” How many would help someone with their groceries or open a door for a lady? Then again look at the fact of what would happen now if you did try to help someone? You stop to help someone with a flat tire and you’re likely to get maced in the face or have the cops called on you. Persistence would stay along those lines of following your dreams. How many people, myself included in this, are simply doing what they have to do not what they want to do? How many have jobs to simply “pay the bills?” Even I have not followed in my parents footsteps.
I feel that life has dwindled to a state of simply going through the motions. Do we really have anything to strive for anymore? What happened to the concept of having a family, raising children? What happened to the concept of love? How did we go from comfort to luxury, from “Leave it to Beaver” to “Modern Family,” from wanting to fight for your country to demeaning it? Where did the family dinner go?
We have kids walking around school with wheelie backpacks. Parents who would rather talk on their cell phone then listen to what their small child did with their day. We have a country that was once the envy of the world and is now almost looked upon as a blight. We have an education system that is failing and yet we dump money into bailing out car companies with CEOs that fly in private jets. We have corporations like McDonalds ever expanding while the small business owners are collapsing. We have become a selfish people, the children of the selfless. We want better then what we had for our children and yet what does that get us? What do we hope for now? Where do we go from here? What has happened to the American Dream?