Is the American Dream dead? Did it ever exist in the first place?
If you’re studying in an American university, you are probably taught that the American Dream is a myth. That it only extends to a limited inner circle. That one-percenters have rigged the system, and there is no hope for the “little guy” to make his way in the world.
They would have you believe that if you are white in America, you have an inside track to success. But if you are some shade of brown, you are screwed. Really screwed. With no hope at all.
The usual way to expose this fraud is showing examples like Internet tycoons who started in their own garages, only to become giants like Microsoft, Dell, Apple, or Facebook. Or — if the focus is race — mention the financial success of people like Kanye West and Oprah Winfrey.
Maybe it’s about power and influence? You could mention our current President. Or TWO Republican Presidential candidates. Or Col. Allen West… Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder… Dallas Police Chief David Brown… Condoleeza Rice. What about Microsoft CEO John W. Thompson. Or Judge Clarence Thomas. Dr. Ben Carson. You get the point.
Academia is no different. You have people that have risen to the pinnacle of their discipline from every race and walk of life. Thomas Sowell, for example, has been very open about his own humble beginnings and how hard he had to work to even afford school. Look at him now.
That, as I have said, is the USUAL way to address this question. Since it is falling on deaf ears, let’s try another approach. Let’s use the Left’s OWN language.
One of the big questions in today’s election is the question of Immigration. The fact that this is a thorny issue actually betrays the Left’s knowledge that the American Dream isn’t actually dead. What are the big arguments for amnesty? People coming here “for a better life”. DREAMers. That’s THEIR word, not ours. Obama’s “DREAM” act.
Notice the language? A “better life”, and a DREAM. As in “American Dream”. Why are such people coming to America rather than going to — say — the (now-bankrupt) socialist utopia of Argentina? Why are they risking their lives to come here through shark-infested waters in leaky boats? Or risking exposure in a trek through the blazing Mexican sun? And — just as importantly — how many are fleeing in the opposite direction?
If the game is rigged so badly as we are told, why would ANYONE come to America? If there is no hope and no opportunity, why do they keep coming back, even those who are deported? If the cops are the racist murderers some claim they are, why risk coming at all? Simple. The Left’s favorite narratives are false. Demonstrably false. You need look no farther than the success of immigrants.
It’s easy for native-born Americans to rant against “the system”. About how “the man” (whomever he might be) “keeps them down” (however that is defined). But first generation immigrants from around the world can come here and flourish. That alone shows us the narrative is a lie.
If you are ‘working poor’ there are choices you might make that can put you on the same track that Cruz and Rubio described in their family. Children of immigrants with literally nothing to their name leveraging American opportunities into legitimate success stories have proven this. The great thing about America is that you can do this too.
There are a few factors that will make a huge difference in whether this is possible.
Aside from the obvious one (the marriage gap) there are other things that differentiate those who leverage the American Dream from those who don’t.
Risk-taking. One of the unintended consequences of the Industrial Revolution was the shift from self-employment and small business (even farmers and fishermen had to take goods to market, remember) to being someone else’s employees. We are no longer encouraged to dream big and sell our idea to the world.
Instead, we are encouraged to climb a corporate ladder. Attach ourselves to someone else’s company, and soak it for all we can. Then we bitch about how much the guys at the top of the company that pays our cheques make, while refusing to start our own business.
Why? Because working for yourself involves long hours, delayed gratification, and no guarantee of success. There is also nobody to blame but yourself if your big ideas crash and burn.
Speaking of deferred gratification, that’s the other side of the issue. Part of why the American Dream eludes so many. We are conditioned to spend whatever “disposable” income we have on trinkets and toys as soon as we earn it. Usually on stupid stuff. How many rusted out cars have you seen with high end stereos, for example?
Contrast that to the success stories. They know how to put work before play. They often had to make hard choices about their personal spending. Maybe they drove an old beater instead of that shiny new car. Maybe they didn’t have the latest smartphone and the trendy bluetooth headphones. Maybe they didn’t go out to eat several times a week.
Back in agricultural times, this practice was “not eating your seed”. However hungry you might get, NEVER eat the grain you would need to plant your next harvest. Otherwise you are guaranteed to starve again next year. Financially successful people have applied this to reinvesting in their future. We can learn from their example.
Hard work. Self-discipline. The American dream.
It won’t come easily. But it’s still out there if you really want it.