I write as a non-American, but one who has watched, consumed and responded to American culture and it’s far reaching effect on my world.  Firstly, forget all the clichés which are usually trotted out about being divided by a common language.  Just as Scots experience the culture of England, our nearest neighbour, so do we experience and absorb that of the USA, our most influential ally.   I am not American. I am not English.  Close enough to have a degree of insight, yet detached enough to safely exercise scepticism with relative impunity.

“The American Dream” is as aspirational as most religions.  It promises a better end than a beginning, so long as its followers adhere to the rules.  As an opiate for the masses, it is amongst the very best non-religious con-tricks I have ever seen.  Of course like any religion, the aspiration has to be shown to have been successful, so instead of saints and a heaven, we have billionaires, politicians, and the lives of celebrities as examples of the virtuous path being rewarded.

Along with any religions, capitalism, communism, and many other –isms, The American Dream (and its proscribed pursuit of happiness) demands sacrifice now, in return for reward later.  Much like an insurance policy, or Christmas savings club, the danger of the empty promise is evident.  Subtle brainwashing is intrinsic, such that it has become the accepted norm, and to reject it is tantamount to treachery, and unpatriotic.

From my viewpoint in Glasgow, I do find the American electoral system fascinating.  Of course, the dominant Democrats and Republicans are further to the right, than all of our political parties, but that seems to suit the United States.  I do find it remarkable that no politician of note can fail to profess their Christianity loud and clear.  In addition, it appears essential for each to have their own personal “pastor” with whom they can consult for spiritual guidance.  All this, while we are living in a time when far fewer members of the public actively pursue any faith themselves.  As the media would have it; even when the public are mostly atheists or agnostics, they prefer to be governed by men and women, who have a close personal relationship with an invisible friend in the sky.

The two leading protagonists in the race to become the Presidential candidate of the Republican party have (as they always do) battled to demonstrate how each is more god-fearing, morally upright, and patriotic than the other.  In short, which one is the very best embodiment of “the American Dream”.

If you’ll excuse me, the American Dream is a load of baloney.  It’s no more than a mendacious myth, now peddled to convince the working classes that granting tax-breaks to the rich is in their own best interests. Where in the world has it ever been true that giving rich people a pass on taxes actually generates jobs, as part of the “trickle down” theory?  By definition, the American Dream cannot be realised by everyone.  For some to achieve it, it is essential that most others must fail.  In my view, it’s no more than an elaborate pyramid scheme.

Janis Joplin once sung, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”.  Despite a relatively lukewarm first term for President Obama, I suspect there are more Americans than ever who now feel that freedom even more keenly.  Presidential candidates will never admit it, but the American Dream is a false promise.  Stop dreaming.  Wake up and smell the coffee.

Source of the graphic: http://publicreligion.org/2011/12/obama-and-romney-spar-over-the-american-dream/

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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