America is the land of opportunity. This was the message and the intention of the American declaration of independence, which exhorted the virtues of truth, and that all men (people) are equal regardless of race, age, gender, association, religion or any other matter that may create disharmony in the society. The declaration also states that all Americans are endowed by their Creator with a number of inalienable rights such as right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Today’s American Dream para 14).
The declaration independence recognized the importance of acknowledging the relationship between man and his creator. It also gave birth to The American Dream, an idea that sought to establish social order and posterity for all Americans. The dream was build on the principle of liberty; the essence of political, economic and spiritual freedom, that sought o guarantee all American equal opportunities.
The American dream has gone through a series of interpretation and as such lost much of its original meaning. Today the American generation has lost touch with the values that informed the dream. Originally the dram was equated with the principles of the pursuit of happiness through freedom and respect to basic human rights. Presently however, the dream is equated with material possessions and the happiness that comes out of such materialism (2).
Most American think that the pursuit of the American dreams is the acquisition of a well paying job, a good house, a car and the happiness that comes from enjoyment of such things. The moral and ethical aspect of the dream has been lost and as a result, moral decay has planted itself in the society. It is the moral decay that leads to the loss of freedom, the very essence of the founding of the American dream (6). Therefore the attainment of the American dream is today hindered by the pursuit of material wealth.
The original intention of the American dream was happiness attained from the enjoyment of life but the pursuit material wealth has reduced enjoyment of life and instead replaced it with pursuit of material pleasure. Americans have confused the enjoyment of life with the pursuit of material pleasure. Csikszentamihalyi explains that Real enjoyment of life involves activities that require more effort and will power and which lead to long term benefits to the person (362).
Such activities may include training hard to perfect ones skill or talent or even the pursuit of a person’s hobby without any artificial obstacles placed to hinder the person to pursue that hobby. Engaging in activities that guarantee real enjoyment of life is not usually a pleasant experience as a person may have to go through a moment of physical pain and fatigue.
However the pain is usually worth it as these activities help a person overcome certain challenges in life and also lead to spiritual fulfillment. Therefore these activities are more meaningful to a person and lead to the attainment of more meaningful personal goals rather than just the pursuit of pleasure.
Americans are much more concerned with the comforts of material pleasure that the real enjoyment of life eludes them. This is because material pleasure is always pleasant to the body person may opt to engage in activities such as going on expensive holidays in exquisisyte destinations. The benefits of such pursuits are short lived and add no meaning to a person’s life. Such activities require a lot of matearsil wealth and lead to the consumer culture.
The average American thinks that the American Dream is found in consumption and through this consumption a person feel whole and worthy (Calder 5). Most Americans today know the American dream as the ideal life that involves at least a good house and a good job and the ability to buy two family cars.
This notion of the American dream is further rubbed in by the American media which paints success as the accumulation of much money which will in turn enable one to accumulate much wealth and a good life (3). To the average American a good life involves the ability have heaven on earth; the opportunity to exploit all the pleasures that materials things offer 0721223336. The American dream is further symbolized and idolized in such iconic figures as Marylyn Munroe, who is the representation of a perfect life in the 1970’s America (4).
Search attitudes lead to a culture of overconsumption. What American consume is way beyond what America produces and cannot even be compared to what Brazil, a country that constitutes 10% of the world economy consumes (Shaw para 1). American do all this with total disregard of the fact that it “takes more than a credit card to achieve the American dream” (Calder 5). This is because the American dream involves the attainment of value driven goals rather than material driven goals (Today’s American Dream para 2).
Such consumer behavior is driven by greed and selfishness and results in the desire to acquire as much wealth as possible by individual at the expense of the values that propagate the growth and the benefit of an equal society for all (Sustainable Consumption and Production para 2). As Today’s American Dream explains such pursuit of material well being leads to the moral decay in the society (para 6).
The pursuit of the material has lead to the evolution of a society that has the tendency to over consume as well as the desire to accumulate as much wealth as possible for the individual at the expense of the societal well being, which leads to moral decay. Such ideas tend to justify the means to the attainment of such ends.
Therefore the average American is increasingly embracing such values as dishonesty and greed through which an individual in guaranteed personal success (Wuthnow 28). The result is that the American work force if full of professionals who cannot uphold integrity and honesty, are much more willing to commit crime and whose only reason of not committing the crime is the possibility of being caught rather than the commitment to the moral principles and ethics.
Such moral decadence traverses all aspect of the American society. To make it worse, such immoral values are taught by some professors in school, who have been known to encourage students to practices certain values as greediness, justifiable means for personal success (interpreted to mean the achievement of the American Dream)(26).
As such the moral fabric of the American society has been found deficient. Such immoral pursuit of personal gratification is in contrast to the tenets laid down by the founders of the American Dream. The founders of this noble dram saw a worker who was a patriot and would serve the country through commitment to moral principles and ethics such as truth honesty and integrity.
The American Dream proposed for individuals who worked fro the betterment of the larger society and as such subordinated the individual fulfillment to societal well being. Therefore, the consumer culture is so popular with American today and is seen as the attainment of the American dream. Ironically it propagates moral decadence which infringes on the same freedom that the American Dream seeks to fulfill.
The initial intention of the American dream was to establish an orderly society, where every individual was equal to and enjoyed basic human rights, the most important of them being individual liberty. The essence of individual liberty was to guarantee peace love and posterity.
However, this noble definition has been lost with time and in its place replaced by the pursuit of materialism. This notion of material success is so much ingrained into the current American society that American thinking is the ultimate American dream. The pleasure derived from the comfort and enjoyment of these material possession confused with the enjoyment of life that is stipulated in the American declaration of independence.
By declaring enjoyment of life, the America founding fathers meant the pursuit of value driven activities and not pleasure driven activities. This is because pleasure driven activities would lead to moral decadence that would infringe on the same freedom that the American dream sought to achieve. However it is not all lost on the Americans. Americans can by discourage material rewards, such as a new car for a child who has performed well in school as a way to overcome the material curse
Calder, Lendol. Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1999
Csikszentamihalyi, Mihaly. “Enjoyment As An Alternative To Materialism.” In Consumer Society and the Urge to Splurge. The New Yorker Collection. 2002.
Shaw, Jonathan. “Debtor Nation: The rising risks of the American Dream, on a borrowed dime.” Harvard Magazine. 2007. 30, March 2011 July-August 2007
Sustainable Consumption and Production. “Attitudes about Materialism, Consumption and the Environment.” n.d. 30, March 2011
Today’s American Dream. “Founding Fathers and the True American Dream.” 2011. 30 March 2011. http://www.todaysamericandream.com/
Wuthnow, Robert. Poor Richards Principle: Recovering the American Dream through the Moral Dimension of Work, Business and Money. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1996. Print