American Dream or American Nightmare?
By Steve Gillman
What is the American dream? Perhaps the most common version
is having a good job or business, owning a nice big home, buying
new cars and other adult toys, taking regular vacations and retiring
in style. But what does the pursuit of this dream do to a person,
and if one does attain it, does that lead to happiness?
The American Nightmare
Jack got his degree in business administration and promptly
set aside his desire to write. He took the first job that paid
decently - selling office equipment to corporations. He didn't
care for the work, but it paid the bills. Soon married and with
children, he bought a home and started making the large payments
that would continue for forty years with moves and refinancing.
Once, during a vacation that he and his wife charged to their
credit cards, he started the first chapter of the great novel
he always wanted to write. Those two pages sat in a drawer for
the rest of his life.
He was proud of his beautiful home, and they soon also had
two nice new cars. With debt for a home, cars and credit cards
now, there was no chance he could do anything but keep working
his way into higher paying positions at the company he secretly
hated working for. His neighbor bought a boat, and it looked
like so much fun that Jack got one too - on credit, of course.
His wife and him found a great timeshare condo near the ocean
in Florida as well, and bought that. They took the kids there
when they could, although life seemed to be getting too busy
to visit it often.
Jack proudly showed photos of the condo to his friends, and
generously let them use it once in a while. He took family and
friends out on his boat when he had the time. His wife remodeled
the house and they planted a large garden, bigger than any in
the neighborhood. Their children had the latest video games,
most popular shoes, and took karate classes each week. They were
living the American Dream.
Once or twice they almost lost it all. The debt was staggering,
but Jack managed to keep getting raises at work, and his wife
got a job as well. They struggled for years at the brink of bankruptcy
while keeping up appearances and telling nobody of their troubles.
They began to fight more often. The kids had problems in school,
though they agreed there was nothing they could do about that.
Days went by when nobody talked to anyone else in the house.
Stress was in the air like smog.
Times got better and worse over the years, and the kids moved
on with their own lives as they grew up. With the debt under
control, Jack was finally able to retire early at sixty-years-old.
He had some ideas about what he might do in retirement, as did
his wife. As it turned out, it was easier to just sit in front
of the television and let the days slip by. He did enjoy the
grandchildren when they came to visit, but otherwise felt no
motivation to do much.
He did read more. One day, as he was reading a good novel,
he briefly thought about his previous desire to write. It was
too late in life to get started with that he decided. He set
down the book and changed the channel on the television. Jack
died at the age of sixty-seven.
Work at jobs you hate for most of your life, buy things because
others own similar things, ignore your true needs, try to impress
your friends and neighbors, go deep into debt, and hopefully
struggle out of debt and save enough to finally stop working
and start dying watching television, having forgotten what it
is that you might have wanted to do at one time. That is how
it sometimes looks to an outsider who doesn't play along with
the American dream.
An exaggeration? Well, it's certainly not a universal experience,
but look around. The current generation, for all of the advantages
and riches they have, is one of the most pessimistic yet. Research
shows that happiness levels declined over recent decades, even
while incomes were rising in the United States (incomes are not
rising at the moment). It isn't just happening here though. A
recent BBC headline, reporting on research there, said, "Britain
is less happy than in the 1950s - despite the fact that we are
three times richer."
The general level of happiness has been climbing in
poor countries which are becoming wealthier. It seems that money
helps, but only to a point. Beyond that it not only doesn't help
one have a happier life, but may cause even more unhappiness,
at least when it is not used well. Let's take a look at how the
so called "American Dream" may mislead people.
Continues here... The Trapping and Traps