¿Cuál es el sueño americano? The embodiment of hope. Opportunity. The notion that one’s success is self-determined and in one’s own hands.
Claro, from an intellectual perspective. America’s got charm, charisma, allure. But on the other side of the same coin lays a very different world — wars, broken promises, and a system that feels rigged to favour the incumbents. The Dream’s been swallowed by Corporate America and come out the other end in a recognisable but fundamentally different form.
Success today? For New Yorkers zooming into the City under the watchful eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg it means fast cars, dazzling mansions, beautiful girls. I admit, it’s a life I, and many others, adore. But for millions of other Americans who aren’t in such a place it’s a carefully crafted illusion, one designed to keep them working decades in a job they don’t particularly enjoy. All for a couple of weeks holiday a year and the promise of retirement which paradoxically is ever coming but never here. Then one day they wake up — realising it’s over.
Even if you achieve this, the fame, power, the flashy automobiles and swanky outfits won’t make you happy. You might think they will, but they won’t. You’ll quickly adapt and want more. Does Gatsby’s fate not provide a fine lesson? It’s no surprise that sales of Prozac shot up in the latter half of the 20th Century as, with the help of PR-men (see Curtis’ Documentary, the Century of the Self), America became hooked on consumerism.
Our lives are filled with White Noise, as DeLillo brilliantly explored in his breakout novel of the same name. The 24-hour news cycle, the expectations of others since day one, the pervasive advertising on every bus, building, and bit of the internet. Everything is vying for our attention — the result being that we are unable to focus our attention on anything. Even education has become commodified. Most go to school not to learn but to display their credentials as a well-functioning cog in the system.
And that, they’ll never teach you. The whole thing is insane if you think about it.
But I love it all nonetheless. Flip the coin back over, conscious of both sides, and you’ll see the alternative. The alternative is to love and embrace every second of it. To live to the max and focus not on the physical items which we’ve been mis-sold, but the experience of living. That’s free, naturally, and it’s the best gift you’ll ever have. It is the real definition of freedom.
I felt it intensely whilst reading cult-classic novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — racing down the California freeway with Duke and his Attorney at 120, anything felt possible. The book itself is absolutely outrageous. It’s also electrifying. Every single moment is like being on a roller-coaster. The destination is Las Vegas, the goal is to find the ‘American Dream’, but of course, no-one has any clue what that means. For me, the answer was revealed by the synergy between the Hunter’s carefully chosen words and the energy that I felt as a result.
So does the American Dream still hold true? Seen from this angle, the answer is unquestionably yes. Forget whatever notions of it you gained from adverts, the corporations, from society, and live for the experience. If you do that, the American Dream isn’t even American — you’ll feel free anywhere in the world. But for now, let the American Dream rage on. 🇺🇸🇺🇸