The Illusion of the American Dream

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
By Paul Martin

“It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin

Once upon a time, I woke up and realized the American Dream was an illusion; a myth, a shiny-but-inedible carrot used to trap us into a narrow range of experiences, often referred to as the rat race.

The American dream philosophy started at the inception of the country — that all people were created equal in the pursuit of happiness. The basic idea became that if you study, work hard, and play by the rules you will have prosperity and success. This idea brought, and still brings, many immigrants to the US. I have no doubt that if someone is dedicated, smart, and talented, this is still the case despite increased challenges.

The illusion is that the American Dream can be conventionally defined for everyone. Is it having a good job with health benefits for the accumulation of material things? Or, is it the freedom to pursue passions and have amazing experiences? Perhaps true success is a balance of all those things.

We’ve been lucky enough to have already lived both extremes of this paradigm, but are still in pursuit of the perfect balance part. At one point we were rat-racers through and through; with the big house, two cars, bills and debt, two full-time jobs, toys, etc. It was all well and good, and certainly we found much joy in that life, but it made us feel trapped. The notion of doing the same routine for the next forty to fifty years just to pay off our stuff and retire modestly really started to bum us out.

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