*One way to state the American Dream is: the desire to be better off than your parents.
We usually verbalize this desire by saying the children of poor parents who live in the city aspire to live a middle class life in the suburbs.
But this version of the American Dream is limited to one class of people. The reality is that children of middle class and even extremely wealthy parents also have a desire to outdo their forefathers.
The positive to such a mindset is that it can inspire innovations that push society forward.
The downside to this mindset is that it can create an enslavement to work and money, depression if one is unable to outdo one’s parents, and emptiness if satisfaction does not follow the achievement of a bigger house or faster car.
The American Dream is basically a denial that people can and/or should be content.
Some will argue that contentment breeds laziness. Not true.
Great artists, scientists, businessmen, and thinkers will always emerge because of the circumstances in society. Contentment wouldn’t have stopped oil from being harvested in the 1800s, or from having that oil support new ways of life for those living then. But contentment would have stopped John Rockefeller from using questionable (at best) tactics to combine companies until he controlled virtually all of the oil in the United States.
The American Dream is a positive spin on the disease of more.
At some point you have to say enough.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]