The “American Dream”
The more I read the more I am struck by how artificial, how phony our way of living, our society is. That is, it strikes me, more and more, how difficult it is to maintain what we like to think of as an exceptional society, as a way of living this is almost “natural” or at the very least in accord with what might be called “laws of nature,” and especially “laws of human nature.”
Our great wealth was generated by the institution of slavery, where millions of human beings were held in bondage via violence, rape, torture, and death. Without these crimes against humanity, the US would not be the wealthy, powerful nation it is today. Criminality, of a horrendous kind, lies at the base of our “exceptional society,” our “city on a hill” that we think enlightens the world.
And would our “exceptionalism” be possible without institutions that distort human beings, bending them into shapes that are, at best, somewhat benign? Would it be possible to maintain our society without huge, bureaucratized corporations or bureaucratized institutions we call “schools?” And would these institutions be possible without “socializing,” as we like to call the coercion needed to maintain what we call “civility,” human beings? And for those who resist such “socialization” we have built other humongous and inhuman institutions called “prisons” or “correctional institutions.” The size of these institutions allows anyone who wants to see that our society is actually fragile, its civility the result of coercion rather than of virtue.
And of course no listing of such characteristics would be complete without a mention of the propaganda, the mountains of propaganda that is needed as another prop for our exceptional society. So much of this propaganda, like all well-done propaganda, we aren’t even aware of. It is, as the saying has it, hidden in plain sight. So when our police are militarized, dressed up like warriors in our “high tech” society, we just accept this as normal, as the way things must be. Even more amazing, when after 9/11 signs appeared around Washington D.C. saying, “If you see something, say something!” very few commented that this is the kind of sign that could have been found in novels like 1984 or Animal Farm. And, of course, it is quite common, almost mandatory now, to say “Thank you for your service” to anyone in a uniform or designated “a first responder.”
“Land of the free, home of the brave?” So we believe but it is difficult to accept this as an adequate description of the place we now call “the homeland.” “America the beautiful?” Perhaps, but its beauty, which it no doubt has, is being covered over by institutions and mores that may best be described as ugly. Amongst “the good, the bad, and the ugly” it is the ugly that seems most prominent.