"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
In Facing Up To The American Dream: Race, Class, and The Soul of a Nation by Jennifer Hochschild, she explains that there are various kinds of success
embodied in the American Dream. She claims that success can be absolute which means that achieving the American Dream implies "reaching some threshold of
well-being, higher than where one began but not necessarily dazzling."(p.16) Success can also be relative in which achieving the American Dream consists of
becoming better off than some comparison point. Finally, success can be competitive. With this definition of success achieving the American Dream occurs by
achieving victory over someone else."My success implies your failure."(pp16-17) Hochschild goes on to explain that the achievement of success, whatever the
definition, is essentially the main tenet of the American Dream. The pervasiveness of the American Dream throughout ALL of America's historical periods (for more
on that seeA History of the American Welfare System)has created a fantasy of success. Hochschild asserts that these fantasies, "are innocuous so long as resources
roughly balance dreams for enough people enough of the time."(p 27) Unfortunately, this is not the case and so many people are unable to achieve the success that
they dream of. Since America's foundations are built on this success ideology, those who are unable to achieve it are seen as failures and are marginalized by the rest
of society as a result.(see The Meaning of Words Part I and The Meaning of Words Part II)"The better the dream works for other people, the more devastating is
failure for the smaller proportion of people left."(p 29) In the commercialized hip-hop of today the image of success put forth is competitive. Albums increasingly
contain references to the superiority of the artist over another person or group of people because of his (and sometime her) material wealth.
Yet, the writers of current welfare reform legislation fail to notice these aspects of the real world. Americans are so caught up in their own American Dreams
that they don't realize that the American Dream just might not be possible for everyone. The men, women and children on welfare PROVE that monetary
success DOES NOT come to all those who work hard. Welfare proves that you CAN'T always pull yourself up by the bootstraps. However, America relies
on its Dream to justify the accumulation of the very rich and to provide a fruitless hope to those who have not. Acknowledging that the Dream isn't always
attainable means acknowledging that there might be something wrong with the Dream. If there is something wrong with the Dream, maybe you or I can't
achieve it. Since from its inception America has been based on the ideologies within the Dream (self-made success, individualism, hard work), acknowledging
that it might be flawed, or even worse that it is a LIE, is too frightening for many people to do. Thus, the concept of welfare--of giving money to the
"unworthy" poor(see The Meaning of Words Part I)--directly violates the ideologies within the American Dream. Instead of admitting that the Dream just
doesn't work the same way for all people, we blame and punish those who don't achieve it by labeling them lazy, and corrupt. The welfare-reform legislation
of 1996 is a direct result of this attitude. The writers and supporters of this legislation attempted to create a welfare system in which nobody gets "something
for nothing". Working is so important that if the states fail to reach their designated percentages of "welfare to workforce" their federally funded welfare grants
are reduced. Interestingly enough, this does not punish the state or those in charge of finding welfare recipients jobs, but it punishes those on welfare. In fact,
the concept of "working" is so important that the kind or quality of work done is irrelevant. Picking up chip bags on the median for eight hours a day will
suffice, just as long as the poor are "working"
individualism embedded within the American Dream.
and does not refer to the broader concept of
individualism (e.g. self-sufficiency, reliance on one's own hard work and morality) that I argue is part of the American Dream.
In a country that from its inception has
perceived itself as a land of democracy, prosperity, and equality, and has formed an ideal of achievement that relies on the
existence of these qualities (the American Dream),
The American Dream of the self-made man
American Dream of
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American culture, Psychotherapy, American Dream, American exceptionalism, Counterculture of the 1960s, Symbols, Dream, Awake, welfare reform legislation, american welfare system, facing up to the american dream, material wealth, pervasiveness, one flew over the cuckoo s nest, cuckoo, tenet, fantasies, superiority, threshold, foundations, proportion, periods, hip hop, victory, failure, dreams, fantasy
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