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“…You May say that I’m a dreamer…” An examination or the American dream
Troy Hagan Gibson 2A Friday, April 23, 2010
Hagan 2 Troy Hagan English III Gibson 2A Friday, April 23, 2010 “You may say that I’m a dreamer…” An examination of the American dream The American dream, as well as the American way of life, has been in a state of constant change since this country’s inception. Throughout American history, not a single certain citizen of this country has ever defined their dream(s) in quite the same way as another. This important distinction is what distinguishes the American dream from other philosophies. In order to get a full understanding of the American dream, we must first examine what it was, what it is today in the world, and how it may be/ has been achieved. In the late 18th century, The United States of America was founded. In this time of great social change, the American people were filled with a sense of excitement about a new way of living: living free. The ones at the forefront of this new movement for freedom, the “entrepreneurs of enlightenment” as Terrance McNally calls them, are now called the founding fathers. (McNally 1) They came to this ;land seeking to build a country in which it’s citizens would have both the means and the freedom to experience what they define as “God”. McNally also adds: “They took the creator seriously. And when they equated happiness with life and liberty, they did not mean the most toys [weapons, cars, etc] or the biggest empire. Many people may be surprised that Washington, Franklin, and many other of the founding fathers all the way until Lincoln
Hagan 3 were religiously minded in the sense that they believed that there was a higher power in the universe, but that is about as far as they went. Using sectarian and/ or institutional or church institutions as a means to express their oneness with the creator was not of much interest to them. But very simplistic view of Christianity and the broader spectrum of religion did not last long, and was soon reformed into something completely different. In came the industrial revolution, and with it came a dramatic rise in materialism. Also, Different sects of Christianity began forming, and suddenly the simple way of religion began to get more and more complicated. Amazingly, by 2001 there would be 33,820 denominations of Christianity throughout the world. These two factors: the industrial revolution and the rise of secular religion were and still are the driving factors of what people today define as their American dreams. In just over 200 years, the American dream has changed drastically from one based on the pursuit of freedom and happiness to a darker one based on seeking money and material things. My American dream is to live a truly free life and to encourage and enable others to do the same. It’s a dream that is much more simplistic in concept than the intricacy of material pursuits, but achieving it, I believe, will prove to be much harder than the latter. I am willing to devote my whole life to helping the world achieve peace. And in striving for and encouraging and advocating world peace, I realize that if we are to ever know peace we must be willing to live in fluctuation; we must live, as a society, in a way that is ever-changing. We must never be afraid to reinvent ourselves as individuals or a civilization according to what is relevant to our species as a whole at any given time. I do believe that this is possible. And to confirm this belief, I turn to a great mentor of mine, who has achieved a quite similar pursuit, except on a more personal, local scale.
Hagan 4 Mohandas K. Gandhi, the hugely successful advocate and pioneer known for his works in promoting peaceful, non-violent protest did achieve living a free life and also helped encourage and enable others with the means to do the same. He enjoyed things such as spinning and weaving his own clothes on a loom. Now that’s independence. And where as he helped foster the independence of his home country, India (and saw his country achieve this in the year before his death), I hope to foster the independence of the world as a whole from the old, unsustainable ways of plundering the earth and it’s inhabitants. The dreams are quite the same, just on different scales. He too sought this dream—the dream that is progress. It is a dream that does not die with him but instead lives on in the works of the activists (like me) of today. However, my American dream is certainly not the only one. The American dream is an amazingly beautiful mosaic of different ideas, backgrounds, and influence. In The Great Gatsby, Jay’s American dream: the acquisition of wealth and power is quite a contrast to my dream, which shows the diversity of the American dream in itself. Through the acquisition of wealth and power and material things he would (and did) accumulate, great wealth and power. And with this wealth and power he hoped to wow XXXX, the love of his life. He did carry out such things but not sustainably, and not without sacrificing what he believed to be ethically right. In contrast, in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Janie Simply wanted to live a life of freedom; to love, and be loved. She eventually obtained this, but only after she was free from the things that were holding her back (for example here first and second husbands greatly hindered her ability to live freely). Even after the death of Teacake, her third husband who treated Janie with dignity and respect, she still was not afraid to run free in nature and to look into the sky and “watch god”. So, we see that in the great diversity of
Hagan 5 American dreams, ones that are rooted in ideological ideas (not physical) are more sustainable than ones that involve things like money, wealth etc. (which are largely materialistic and greed-based pursuits). Jacob Needleman, the author of The American Soul Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, says that in order to continue the only constant American dream— progress, we must learn to think critically: to think “quietly, carefully, and respectively about a subject” again. He adds that he has hope that this “is not too unrealistic”. The Kardashev classification scheme, which was first proposed by Nokolai Kardashev, is a classification of civilizations based on technological advancements. According to this scalar philosophy, Transitions between the three different types of civilizations may include times of social “upheaval” and distress which force the civilization to progress their technological, social, conservational, etc. advancements to new levels. So while the American dream of progress is possible, we see evidence that times of temporary distress or even disaster may be inevitable, or even necessary to accomplish it. The only thing we need to achieve our American dream is to be willing…willing to think, understand, and grow. “Once people do start thinking, they like it. They say ‘look, I’m thinking, my god…if you really listen to another person, you realize that there is another human being there who has an opinion. You can be against the opinion but not against the person. That realization could be the salvation of out troubles.” (Mcnally 3) So how we can achieve the American dream is to think critically. The American dream may have changed drastically throughout the last 200 plus years, but one thing remains constant: a yearning for progress. And if we grasp that yearning, if we harness it and
Hagan 6 turn it into a movement, we may just see real, lasting peace not just in America, but in the entire world.
“We are seeing how very important it is, to bring about, in the human mind, the radical revolution. The crisis, is a crisis in consciousness; a crisis that cannot anymore accept the old norms, the old patterns, the ancient traditions and considering what the world is now, with all the misery, conflict, destructive brutality, aggression, and so on; man is still as he was: is still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive and...he has built a society along these lines.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti
Hagan 7 Works Cited Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print. Needleman, Jacob. "The Real American Dream." Interview by Terrence McNally. Whole Life Times Aug. 2004: 1-3. Print. Zubrin, Robert. Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000. Print.
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