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The thing with a dream is...

you have to wake up, that's the thing with any dream. Even if your dream 'comes true' it changes shape, it doesn't quite turn out how you would have thought - the thing with dreams is they usually contain no struggle, no sharp edges. So too the deal with the American Dream, yes, that grand narrative that hovers over all those Americans still desperate enough to believe in it as a) American b) Dream. What constitutes this American Dream? Your own home? Why should that be a dream, why not a basic need? Owning your own business? You can start your own business right now if you so wish... c) getting filthy stinking rich and doing... what, exactly? Isn't this the real American Dream? That one day, if you work long enough, hard enough, damn it, even smart enough, that you will one day be the proud owner of ten homes, hired help, and as many Jimmy Choos as there are days lived. I hate this notion of the American Dream, not least because its origins from those early pioneers with their protestant work ethic has become distorted beyond belief, and keeps millions of people bound to jobs/careers/beliefs that will never serve who they are as people. And why do I suddenly mention this now? Because I've just watched the third and final presidential debate between Barak Obama and John (Thunderbirds are go) McCain. These two sides have danced around each other and have succeeded in not making clear enough points. But tonight's debate was the one in which, as one Republican advisor commented, McCain drew his line in the sand. They were both stronger in the force employed in drawing that line in the sand. And here's the line. McCain says he wants Joe 'the plumber' to become rich and then do with these riches - which he can't get alone I must hasten to add - as he wishes. Obama, on the other hand, says that Joe the plumber could still be helped to buy the business he's worked for for years, but that where the wealth distribution duty comes in, the government has to be responsible for spreading some of that wealth, and one of the ways in which this is achieved is through tax cuts. Here's another thing - if Joe the plumber thinks that by simply buying his plumbing business and is suddenly or even anytime going to become fabulously rich then he is very much mistaken. Here's where Obama really knows his figures. The vast majority of small business, save for a few percent, make less than $200,000 p.a. Don't quote me verbatim, but it's around that mark, the reason I know this is because it's not far off the stats for the UK small business sector, (I used to work as a press officer/spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses). And, what is often overlooked, which doesn't seem to have been lost on Obama, is the fact that most people set up shop on their own so they no longer have to endure working for someone else and having to beg for payrises and time to do stuff like go to the dentist! So, when it comes to the American Dream, we are dealing, by and large, with a big fat myth. It was a myth that was fuelled in the fifties in response to the threat of (crude) communism, and in order to encourage people to give their lives (I use the language as befitting someone sacrificing their life to any other god) to the Organization. So, hundreds and thousands of, back then, mainly men, all stamped and tramped their way to the commuter station each morning from their identical suburban house, in their identical suits, to their identical booths in their identical offices... you get the picture - all in the name of the American Dream. It is an area of interest to me because of two particular essays I read of Marx & Engels, and they resonated the most, they were Alienated Labour (Estranged Labour) and The German Ideology. The former is a full psychological profile which most people nowadays would instantly identify with, the latter is the ideal situation - how infinitely more interesting it would be to job hop all day long if one so wished, or just specialised in a role that involved his communion with it - and is the difference between a person making just the legs of a chair and then moving them onto the next person along for them to make the next element and thus no-one feeling as though they had 'created' one whole thing - and a carpenter who is responsible for creating an entire thing. But no-where is the American Dream as myth more fleshed out than in American literature itself, here's a few:

Arthur Miller - Death of a Salesman
Richard Yates - Revolutionary Road, Disturbing the Peace, Young Hearts Crying...
Sloan Wilson - The man in the gray flannel suit (rather more sentimental but is an early treatment of the contemporary problem of the 'work-life' balance.

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