The 'American Dream' means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but our government and those in power have tied that dream to the anchor of being a good worker. Those goalposts have moved over the years, though. Forty years ago, our parents were told that all they had to do was graduate from high school or college, get a good job at the plant, be a good worker until retirement, and we'll take care of you. That was the contract that employers had with workers, and everything was fine until we started living longer.
Then pensions came off the table in 1978 for something new, the 401k. "You have control over your retirement.", they said, "and we'll match your contributions up to a certain amount." However, unike a defined plan, there is no government oversight. The gamblers played with the house money, and you and I know what happened when they lost. They lost big. In the wake of the Enron scandal, for example, the 401ks of those workers were gutted. Those workers were at the very end of a long line of creditors as over 2 billion dollars in employee retirement dollars were lost. No American Dream for them.
Some of our fine American Citizens served this country in the military, and in the last fifteen years have fought in two wars. The contract we have with these amazing people is that when they come home for serving their country, we take care of them. But, since our government has a history of writing checks with one hand, and not bringing in tax dollars on the other to pay for it, our servicemen and service women wait at the back of the line. Some of those people suffer in ways we can't possibly comprehend. Their American Dream became a nightmare we collectively put them in, and there is no help for them.
Those tax dollars that our government utterly fails to secure do not come from us. We either gladly pay our taxes, or we grumble as we sign the checks, but we do our duty. The missing dollars come from those who make more money than they will ever need in their remaing years on this planet, or from the corporations who make billions of dollars for the privilege of doing business in this country. Their American Dream is made on the backs of the workers they have exploited year after year, all while promising those workers a piece of The American Dream.
The truth is, we will never attain The American Dream as long as we continue to play by these rules. The game is rigged, and now The American Dream is a zero sum game. If we happen to get close to a piece of that star spangled pie, it means that someone else who is already eating, gets a little bit less than they thought they would. Those people are masters of class warfare, so they manage to convince enough of your neighbors that if you demand your seat at the table, then that means there wont be room for your neighbors. The truth is, the folks already at the table don't want you or your neighbor at the table. They want you do be a good little worker, make them rich, and shut up about your reward for a career spent in pursuit of someone else's American Dream, at the expense of your own.
The few brave souls who speak out against this perversion of The American Dream are labeled as crackpots, subversives, communists, but among all of these, the worst of all labels since the coming of the Age of Reagan, is Liberal. Liberal and Conservative, Republican and Democrat, Tea Partier or Occupier, these labels are wedge words, and they are part of the system that attempts to control us. As long as we continue to fight with each other about ruining The American Dream, we don't pay attention to those who are killing it.
The Complicity of Media
Those in power have an apathetic, if not completely complicit partner in the media. News outlets, which should be independent, report stories based on what gets ratings, what gets ad buys, and in the case of the worst local reporting, what bleeds the most. Cable news channels report based on agenda, and we watch the infotainment based on what agenda we already agree with. Reality based television has ruled our airwaves for fifteen years, and we live vicariously through a cast of train wreck television, deluding ourselves into thinking that we have it more together then the clowns we see on TV. In fact, these clowns who are famous for no actual reason have the laugh on us; we cluck and shake our heads at their antics, while they rake in the money we gladly pay them in advertising dollars and merchandise.
Commentators and debators shout over each other for our attention, spewing talking points given to them by lobbyists, politicians, and political organizations that do little to shed any light on the subject at hand. The louder and more brash the commentator, the better.
The past 25 years of radio has been dominated by conservative talk radio hosts, one trying to outdo the other in their level of bombast. Yet, the most honest man in radio—in my opinion, Howard Stern—was forced off the terrestrial airwaves because his content was ‘too offensive’ compared to the level of clearly intellectual discourse in talk radio today. Please note my sarcasm.
The internet, the grand sum total of human knowledge that we can access every single day from devices in our pockets (a fact that I as a 45 year old man still find mind boggling) has been reduced to cat pictures, trolls, and a group of people willing to send swat teams to your home if you disagree with their opinion.
Perhaps the most brazen display of the willingness of the media to toe the corporate line was how they handled the Occupy Movement. In fairness, the Occupiers could have had a better message, but day after day the big media disparaged them not on the basis of any message they had, but rather on the basis of their youth, indirection, and in some cases, personal hygiene. They also took any opportunity to latch onto any criminal element they found within the movement, and the Movement was doomed to failure, message be damned.
The corporatists—The Crown—won, because we let them.
Collectively, as a society, we tolerate this.
The Yearly Infomercial
Every year, in late January, the man we elected to be our head of state walks into a joint session of Congress and gives us a shopping list of all the things the Congress isn’t going to let him do. The State of the Union address has become little more than an informercial for the party occupying the White House, and depending on the size of the opposition or their level of batshit insanity, they either won’t let the President do anything, or they will agree—depending on the level of severity of the crisis du jour—to fix just enough of the problem at hand to kick the can down the road. Our government is a triage unit with bad judgement clouded by money, agenda, and an addiction to legislation via crisis. Nothing gets done, and it hasn’t for years.
In Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, she outlines how crises has paved the way for the special interests and ideologies to reengineer our country and society, thereby rigging the game for those same special interests. It doesn’t matter who is occupying the White House anymore. What matters is the size of the checkbook, because they get to write the laws.
The bailouts of 2008 and 2009, when it became clear what the banks had been doing since Glass Steagall was repealed, could have been a moment when we said ‘Enough!’. But we trusted the authorities to do what was right. They did not, they allowed the banks to get away with a slap on the wrist, citing “Too Big To Fail” as their reason for not one perp walk ever taking place. No convictions. No admittance of even the appearance of impropriety. The truth be told, the argument could be made that no law was broken. It’s true, because they were successful in getting rid of that law. The irreparable damage having been done, those who brought the economy to the brink demanded that those who stood the most to lose from a failed economy foot the bill for their irresponsibility. So we bailed out the banks, who promptly went back to business as usual.
Unless of course, we’re talking about a matter of National Security. The Patriot Act, clearly one of the most invasive and ill conceived laws in American History, was passed 20 days after the events of 9/11. There are some, like Richard Clarke, that believe that the core legislation was written years before, you may take that as you wish. The truth of how it was passed is irrelvant, the fact is that it passed as intended, and we gladly gave up some of our freedom for security.
The Turning Points
The selection of George W. Bush as the President in 2000 was a nexus and a turning point for our way of governing, just as September 11th 2001 was a turning point for any media that was not fully on board by then.
On the flipside, the election of Barack Obama, the housing crisis and subsequent bailouts, The realization of a government that spies on it's own citizens, and an authoritarian enforcement arm that treats some citizens more harshly than others have tried to swing the pendulum back in the other direction to no avail.
The currernt incarnation of The Crown has learned the lesson on how to succeed where others failed: Control the message, control the medium, control history, and you control everything and everyone.
O'Brien holds up five fingers every single time. Ask him. If you cant ask him, ask his cohorts. They're everywhere. Then take your soma and sleep. This is The American Dream, where your free to life, liberty, and thhe pursuit of happiness, so long as you do what they tell you.
There is another way to get to The American Dream.