Sunday, June 08, 2014

American Dreamin'

On this hot and steamy, Summer dreamy, hammock-sleepy Sunday.

By Capt. Fogg

I happened to have CNN on the other day and they were airing another one of their puff pieces on "The American Dream,"  one of those annoying reflections on how the land of opportunity is failing to be a land of opportunity.  I find it annoying because of the assumption that the USA is somehow a unique place when it comes to providing upward mobility, a more honest name for a dream that, let's face it, is everyone's dream.  I've seen figures  that argue for other countries -- quite a number of other countries -- being better places to get ahead, to get out of poverty, to save some money, to make a good life for your children, but we still call it an American Dream as we still use the word freedom to stand for some special thing we, and only we possess.

The people interviewed all seemed to believe that those Americans about to enter or having recently entered what we like to call the "work force" will not have as prosperous a life as their parents.  I remember hearing the same thing about my children's generation some 30 years ago.  If hope for the future is the American Dream, pessimism is the American affliction.  Things are always getting worse.

One young female interviewee told us her vision for the future of  people her age was bleak "because of all the guns and violence" and the answers of  the others were is bizarre and confused as hers.  It's true, the middle class of America has been shrinking for quite a while, and with a possible brief interlude, so have living standards, including health and education for all but a tiny proportion of us, but perhaps the dumbing down includes an inability to correlate the marginalization of the masses with the rise of  retro-Capitalism and the idea that we're all dependent on the very, very rich for our prosperity.  It's an idea that does I think, depend heavily on a misunderstanding of Capitalism and of prosperity.  I could easily cite Mexico or other countries with a lot of wealth in a few pairs of hands and very little opportunity that doesn't involve swimming a river or climbing a fence.

But here at home, in my unincorporated area with large spreads of trailer parks and not much more than a crossroads shopping center or two, I have to wonder just how much trickles down from a few dozen multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires who live withing walking distance from me. They don't shop here, lobby effectively to keep much commerce and traffic away and although property taxes do help our schools, most people of the white persuasion send their kids to private institutions, many of them parochial. There are very few employment opportunities even at the minimum wage.

Most of the visible trickling is the water consumption of the private water parks and golf courses owned by the sports and entertainment folks you never see, unless it's one of their helicopters going overhead.  They might as well not be here.  I can only wash my car on Thursdays and Sundays while the bulk of our drinking water nourishes grass and water slides. Trickle Trickle.  They're not really job creators other than for lawn mowing and pool maintenance.  If you find a job here, your employer would likely be a local business man.  A shop keeper, painter, mechanic, grocer -- and they are suffering still, long after the market has hit historic highs and unemployment is back in the 6% range.
It's percolating up, not trickling down and of course we understand how it all ends with no affluent consumers to fuel jobs and opportunities -- and no dream, American or otherwise, just pessimism, hopelessness.

But a good part of  the malaise has little to do with the failure of Capitalism, the growth of  monopoly, the reduction of choices and opportunities, it's also the legacy of round the clock scandal, outrage and doom marketing having so little to do with objective reality.  The 20 something has less to worry from guns and violence than I did 50 years ago, she won't be drafted, she's more likely to live a long life and not to be bankrupted by medical bills, less likely to die in a car accident and a lot of other better than nothing things, but the spirit of defeat and hopelessness is there. The habit of looking backward instead of forward of seeing defeat in victory and victory in being a loser and I have to blame the information age and the technology that lets those very, very rich prosper by providing that stream of disinformation and outrage people just can't tune out and don't know enough to question. All we lack is a Colosseum.

Before Bowe Bergdahl spoke a word to anyone, the media had already turned from hope and relief to slander and scurrilous accusation lest any unity arise.  I understand his parents have received threats and that the slime machine is at full production levels. The machine that cannot tolerate our feeling good about anything lest we tune out, unplug, wake up, fight back. 

I think it's a fine example of how dreams and hopes and even hard work are turned to shit for corporate profit:  an explanation of the success of all those apocalyptic destruction blockbuster movies and those apocalyptic shooting/suicide shootings, stabbings and bombings because we all know the end times are here and nothing is ever going to get better, unless you live on Jupiter Island Florida with a private water park and a private helicopter to fly you between your yacht and your private golf course.   These good folks aren't interested in seeing Godzilla stomp on our cities.  They are Godzilla and they've been stomping for years -- and God help anyone, from peon to president who interferes.


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