If there is a nation that has greatly influenced almost every sector of society, then it is unmistakably the good ol’ U.S. of A – America.
For the past three centuries, America has been a beacon of possibilities –even in the 1800s, immigrants from around the world were drawn in by Her allure of promise – a promise that we can all be great and succeed.
Things haven’t changed – She continues to seduce many.
Granted She has contributed Her own fair share to the lexicon of retrogression, most notably Facebook and George W. Bush, but you can’t deny that there is one infectious good She has bestowed upon the world.
Again this good is another promise to all who hear Her – a promise that the Pursuit of Happiness is the right of everyone. A promise that, to borrow from Al Pacino’s iconic Scarface, the world, and everything in it can be yours.
It’s the promise that we have come to know as the American Dream. And once again, we have all been seduced. But how did the aspirations of a single people become the ambition of many? When did the American Dream become The Dream? Well, maybe it’s because, from a distance, the Americans made everything seem so easy.
It looked so easy to become a millionaire – it seemed so easy to be a homeowner – it even seemed so facile to always get your way as long as you had an American accent. Everything seemed so easy! Well, I must admit- it all seemed a little too easy. But whither the American Dream in these days of global financial recovery, or is it still recession – I never know which?
When I turn on my Made in China TV to watch Made in America News while seated on my Made in South Africa sofa, one would be right to assume that the American Dream has become, to borrow from another American icon Malcolm X, the American Nightmare. Where there used to be colorful homes and happy families with ridiculous smiles, now stand houses up for sale for the price of a Made in Japan radio and standing by them are homeless families experiencing 50% chances of getting a divorce that can only be Made in America.
Where there used to be a thriving middle class with disposable incomes and access to loans, now stands a lower middle class that is being taxed to death, has no savings, but still has to settle unaffordable outstanding debts.
Where there used to be a prosperous economy supposedly driven by exemplary banking practice, now stand greed-infested, untrustworthy financial institutions and a financially irresponsible government with a national debt of over USD 10 trillion that the unborn future generations will have to repay.
America – where hard work was once valued and rewarded – is now one of the world’s largest welfare states, where people feel entitled to be paid for being unemployed and the once gung-ho and proactive citizenry now expects government to look after their every need. What happened? Who stole the American Dream?
If the American Dream were a contract, it would be sensible to look more closely at the fine print before we make any guesstimates. A closer look resoundingly tells us that the Pursuit of Happiness was at a terrible cost.
In layman’s terms, the reason why America is where She is today is because the values of delayed gratification and sacrificing for a better tomorrow, which characterized past American generations, were sidelined for a live-for-today consumer society that wanted easy credit for things they did not need and could never afford.
Who stole the American Dream isn’t the right question – what we should be asking is whether there ever was an American Dream to start with or was it, just as in its name, a dream?
An Empire is falling before our eyes. America, like Rome before Her, has fallen from greatness because of unsustainable financial irresponsibility at all levels of Her society. Whether the Americans can rescue themselves, like in Chuck Norris movies of old, and return to financial regulation, collateral-based credit lending and a savings culture is a decision only they can make.
As Malawians, we can only ask: Are we living beyond our means? Is our government trying to manage our finances? Are loans getting too easy to access? Are we a consuming society?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you, like the Americans, are dreamers if you think Malawi will turn out any different. Wake up!