The American Dream?

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The American Dream?

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-12-17, 3:49

A lot of my colleagues at work are immigrants from various countries in Europe. By now, at least three of them have referenced "the American Dream" in conversations with me in contexts implying that they believe it is a thing that exists. This is interesting to me since at the same time, fewer and fewer people born and raised in the US seem to believe it is.

What do you think? Does it exist? What even is it in the first place? What does it mean and/or what does it mean for it to exist? How much do you care about any of this? :P

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby księżycowy » 2018-12-17, 10:00

I seem to recall once knowing what it meant. Something like having a good job, a family (usually with a few kids), and living comfortably. I could be remembering incorrectly and/or forgetting things, however.

As for whether I think it's still alive or believed in, maybe for some, but not in my circles.

How much do I care? I think it's very telling how much I personally care based on how well I remember it. Which isn't well at all. :P

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby Surgeon » 2018-12-18, 12:52

Well I have always imagined it as living in suburbia in a moderately big house, having two cars, a wife, two kids and a dog. And a lot of friendly neighbors. The man would earn enough money to rear his housewife and children. Enough to put them through college.

So in my mind the picture is pretty much like the 50s without the wife-beating and segregation ofc.

Anyhow a more simpler view would be a poor European getting off the boat, working hard, having saved enough money to start a small business and grow exponentially. (rags to riches scenario)

My personal AD was to graduate in the local Film University (FAMU) , get some experience and travel to the US to write screenplays and direct movies. Eventually geting an academy award. HAHA. How naive can one get.

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-12-18, 17:16

Essentially, it's a fantasy of the USA as meritocracy. The classic "dreamer" is prototypically an immigrant (hence the DREAM Act) who arrives penniless and through hard work secures financial success and stability and a middle-class upbringing for their children. Applied to the American-born, it's the idea that "anyone can grow up to be President", i.e. that this is a land of limitless opportunity.

But the facts are that we know there is less social mobility in the USA than in European social democracies and it continues to decrease. This is reflected in public surveys showing a majority think conditions are getting worse and that the next generation will have a harder time achieving success. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans (more than 4 in 5) believe that the American dream exists and that they have or will achieve it.
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Re: The American Dream?

Postby Prowler » 2019-01-31, 10:27

I find it hard to believe in it. If it was an actual thing most Americans would be rich, which we all know it's not the thing.

I think it fit better in the post-WW2 years when USA was bounds and leaps above Europe and most countries in the world in standard of living... but as we know, certain groups of people didn't have the same rights as the majority of the population at the time. So I always roll my eyes when I see an American in their 20s online talking about how "great America was in the 50s-60s". It's like to many of those people who brag about USA being great only care about political power and influence and winning wars.

Anyway, worse than the American Dream cliché is saying that USA is the land of the free and the freest nation on Earth. I dunno guys, I don't feel oppressed in my country, so what exactly are those "freedoms" you guys have that I don't? If it's guns... you can legally obtain them in Europe too. The process will be harder here, but in countries like Switzerland and Serbia gun ownership is very common.

And there's also whole USA soldiers fighting for your freedom thing... first of all, USA wouldn't have the need to fear possible terrorist attacks like 9/11 if it never got involved in wars in the Middle East in the first place. So if anything, the American military industrial complex is to blame for that. So it's kinda ironic how many Americans seem to think their military is actually fighting for their freedom. As if 20 Afghanis or Syrians could easily invade USA and conquer the entire country...

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2019-02-09, 9:08

Prowler wrote: As if 20 Afghanis or Syrians could easily invade USA and conquer the entire country...


Well, half our country is convinced that group of hispanic refugees that were trying to enter the US several months ago constituted an 'invading army'. And this had enough support where the president was able to send the military down to the border to drive them away. Also, you have to remember what happened in the US on 9/11, so its not too surprising Americans can see even a small group of nobodies as being a serious threat.

As for the American Dream, I was taught (growing up in the US) that it meant that you could climb out of poverty, and even possibly run the country if you wanted. I was taught that literally anyone could be president; there were NO requirements. Note how we now have a president that had absolutely no experience in politics before he ran for president. There literally is no legal requirement to enter office. The presidency however does have a few restrictions. Such as you have to have spent the past few decades in this country without leaving (this is why most presidents are already old when they first enter office), and you have to have been born in the US. However, to my knowledge, there's no restrictions on who can become a congressman or senator (beyond the fact that an ex-president can never have a job in politics again).

Of course none of this is true in practice. Economic mobility is a thing of the past, and its debated as to whether or not it ever existed in the first place. Today which class you belong to is dictated by who your parents were, and even then you could end up falling into a lower class later in life. Essentially, you can move down the social ladder, but you can't climb up. And as for becoming a politician, in reality you'll only succeed if you have the money to promote yourself, which in a country as large as the US is of course quite expensive. There's a reason all US politicians are wealthy; you have to be to get the job in the first place. Really unless you're a part of the 1% (the upper class in the US), there's no realistic way you could become president or enter any other office. You have to be part of the upper class just to become town mayor here. Note that before they preached that even someone who was born into poverty could become president (and in the past, some presidents did in fact come from the lower classes, Abraham Lincoln is a notable example). All of this is also why most of our politicians are greedy selfish businessmen. We've seriously had people enter office just for the money!

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-03-22, 5:11

linguoboy wrote:But the facts are that we know there is less social mobility in the USA than in European social democracies and it continues to decrease. This is reflected in public surveys showing a majority think conditions are getting worse and that the next generation will have a harder time achieving success. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans (more than 4 in 5) believe that the American dream exists and that they have or will achieve it.

But how much social mobility is there in European social democracies? One of the people who told me that the American Dream is still alive is Swedish, and she's had quite a few unflattering things to say about her home country, so I have a sneaking suspicion she may feel that there isn't necessarily any more social mobility there, either (she may even feel that there is less). That might help explain why she sees the US the way she does.

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Re: The American Dream?

Postby Johanna » 2019-03-24, 16:31

vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:But the facts are that we know there is less social mobility in the USA than in European social democracies and it continues to decrease. This is reflected in public surveys showing a majority think conditions are getting worse and that the next generation will have a harder time achieving success. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans (more than 4 in 5) believe that the American dream exists and that they have or will achieve it.

But how much social mobility is there in European social democracies? One of the people who told me that the American Dream is still alive is Swedish, and she's had quite a few unflattering things to say about her home country, so I have a sneaking suspicion she may feel that there isn't necessarily any more social mobility there, either (she may even feel that there is less). That might help explain why she sees the US the way she does.

It's definitely more difficult to see when someone moves between socioeconomic classes in Sweden since even quite rich people often have a rather (upper) middle class lifestyle, and on the lower end, it's extremely rare for citizens and permanent residents to live in true poverty, so on the surface, it's often difficult to tell a difference between the "underclass" and lower middle class as well. Working class is essentially the same as (mostly lower) middle class these days, there's no difference in how much money they make really, and culturally, they've grown really close too.

I think another problem is that moving from lower middle class or working class to squarely middle class or even upper middle class is so common that no one takes any notice of it, it's not even really thought of as moving social classes. Heck, not even going from growing up on welfare to an adult life as squarely middle class really is.
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