John D. Rockefeller, Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Oher, Chris Gardner, all success stories that represent the so-called American Dream. This dream can usually.be described in a ninety-minute movie that we have all seen 100 times and can predict the ending; the "self-made person genre" I prefer to call it. People are constantly told the classic tales of how certain individuals achieved their American Dream, but are rarely asked of how they want to achieve their own. The American Dream was originally written to create a sense of hope and to initialize a feeling of purpose in all people. In 21st century, society has turned the dream into an idol that we strive to obtain, rather than to pursue a life to each American's fullest potential.
We live in a world that is full of man-made idols. We worship high paying jobs, satisfactory social status, extensive education, designer clothing, social media, and the list could continue. Society has found that if we just reach the next level than we shall be content. Ethics become blurred, morals weaken, the desire for wealth grows for certain individuals, while the hope of surviving the next day is for others. There are explanations for these actions, or at least that is what is believed. However, there is one philosophy that rationalizes why Americans do what we do; The American Dream. This phrase was coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America. With no jobs, money, homes, Americans were faced of a time of uncertainty. Adams wrote his ideas in confidence that it would inspire each individual to realize there will be better times, "a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable" ( as quoted in Amadeo, 2015, para.1-2). While the American Dream's meaning will differ, depending on who is asked, there is a sense of individuality in Adams' definition. He never clearly specified what the "real" dream should be. In today's culture, the dream is labeled as a sort of "rags to riches" philosophy. The goal was never meant to merely jump socio-economic positions, but to strive to your own degree of success.
With the American Dream being a basis to find true individuality, it has become the demise of it. We live in a world that is focused on dividing individuals for making American culture "easier," when subconsciously it is ruining the beauty of what America was founded upon. Labels are placed upon race, gender, religion, economic status, political stances, that cause people to be "fit" into the category that suits best; no longer can there be a mixture of the wonderful differences that makes society. Society says it has become "evolved" and is "open-minded," since 1931, but are we? Groups such as Black Lives Matter, modern-day feminists, left-winged libertarians claim to be progressive, but are harming the distinctiveness of those who disagree with their view. Conservatives, certain religious institutions, traditional society members, claim to be accepting of modern views, but refuse to acknowledge that we live in a changing culture and that it might be okay to "think outside the box." Each group has their arguments, and for every argument there is a disagreement; for every disagreement, there is a division. Is each group not fighting for the plain fact of human individuality? As Richard Rodriguez (1992) discusses in his work "The Chinese in All of Us," "the belief we share in common as Americans is the belief that we are separate from one another" (p. 243). Americans are instilled with a drive, which is what made them "successful" in history. With that drive, an ego appears as well. Somewhere along the way American individuals developed a mindset that if a way of life or an opposite belief is presented, then it is wrong, just ask the Native Americans. Why is any human group more important than the other? Each is attempting to grasp the same American Dream that is encouraged by American culture, making the focus on society's dream, instead of each individual dream.
From a young age, American success stories are implanted in the minds of people. We are told how they did it, when, the struggles they overcame; it is fixed that to achieve "The American Dream," we must require the same attributes as those who are told to us. Labeling specific characteristics of the "dream," has resulted in the loss of self-content. We take the "right" jobs, "right" education, "right" life path, and constantly wonder why, forty-years down the road in a suburban town with two-point-five kids, the desire for something more remains. We are not living the life we envisioned, but what society envisioned for us. We awe at material wealth, judge those we disagree with us, become anxious on the number of likes we will receive on a filtered picture, distort the value of each individual, and so on. Culture has become consumed with focusing its agenda on anything and everyone around it, so it does not have to have it on itself. Are we to blame? We are told what is right to believe and what is not. We are told what success is. It is easier to conform with surroundings, than to have to discover individuality on our own. If early Americans lived by societal social norms, there would be no "American Dream," there would be no America at all. America was found upon individual freedom and now it is taken away. Not by governmental officials or modern views, but by the inability to accept differences. The value of success should depend on the individual that is acquiring it. A person's job status ought to be what position they want. Intelligence should be based upon what each individual wishes it to be, not the degree held. Adams intended the "dream" to be an idea to ignite individuals to go and pursue their potential and for others to be accepting and encouraging of that. That the "dream" will be unique to everyone, now the dream has become a set of adjectives that society uses to measure success.
The word success relates to a multitude of ideas. Living in a capitalist society, typically, success describing wealth. Since the early fourteenth century, forms of capitalism have been infused in American culture. A common misconception about capitalism is that it only affects elements relating to the economic system, not to the totality of American mindsets. The idea of a free market system with the possibility of accumulating high wages is appealing to most. The underlining feature of capitalism is that it ingrains individuals with the impression to never be satisfied. Could this correlate with why over fifty percent of American married couples end up in divorce? Or even why the American obesity rate is now around thirty-five percent? In society, we strive to grasp the "next best thing," in comparison to individual accomplishment. The basis of success is monitored by which version of an IPhone is had, the label of clothing that is worn, and the amount of money in bank accounts. No longer does society care whether we have personal happiness and potential, but if it is implied to those around us that we do. It is determined that the American Dream is accomplished, if wealth has been accomplished. The examples I listed before, each had gone from "rags to riches," which is not bad, just an example of how Americans relate the "dream" back to social status and capital. Is the "dream" unfilled by the factory worker who was the first of his family to graduate high school? The high-school dropout who sings at the local bar every night of the week or the immigrant who owns a small restaurant? Success should be viewed through the ideas of those who got "bored with the routine" of society and decided "to be part of the beauty" (Marquis, 1927, pp.196-197).
American culture is an intricate collaboration of many individuals. We have become so caught up in the categories we and others are in to realize that all of us are human. We have goals and dreams that go unfulfilled because we have developed society's outlook. It says that there is a distinction between skin color, religion, and social-class. Regardless of which side you are on, there will be an opposing group showing biased views. America has become a hypocritical nation against itself. It was found on the principle of acceptance and now it turns individuals against one another, by trying to achieve the same identical "dream." We are greedy, egocentric, wealth-driven people, attempting to discover our place. Society has shoved the ideas of what success and goals should be present, leaving no room to determine it on our own. It is not merely to the fault of those before, but also to us in the present. Opportunities are given from this crazy universe that are refused because it does not fall into what is acceptable for society. The "American Dream" has turned into an "American Nightmare," filled with "cookie cutter" individuals who live by the aspirations of what they are told instead of what they want. In attempt that everyone strives for the same one goal, society is in the possibility of losing individuality forever. Adams wished for a time where the public was filled with people who had diverse ambitions, leading to an assorted society. Where it did not matter of the cars that were driven, the skin color they had, the amount of money made, the political stances taken, but by the individuals in America and those who wish to come to it.
The English teacher, the policeman, the stay-at-home mom, the barista, the yoga teacher, all individuals who represent the American Dream. For society to fully reach its potential, Americans must realize the amazing talents and dreams we have. To no longer go off what society says we can do, but what is instilled in each individual. If we continue striving for the misrepresentation of what Adams wrote, new ideas, inventions, discoveries, creativity, different philosophies will no longer exist. Americans will continue in our wealth-driven culture and lose the wonderful variances of those who make up our society. The "dream" will continue to validate following societal norms, leaving us in a predictable world.