The musical 1776, which is about the creation of the Declaration of Independence, contains a nugget of wisdom. The Continental Congress is split into a pro-Independence faction (mostly middle-class lawyers and clergy) and a pro-Reconciliation group, led by upper-class landowners.
Opposition leader John Dickinson spars with President of Congress John Hancock, who states that there aren’t enough wealthy landowners in America to control a democracy.
Dickinson replies, “Perhaps not, but don’t forget that most men would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.”
Ouch. That’s the Solvency Shark’s reaction, too. No American likes to think of themselves as “poor”, not even the truly destitute. And part of the American Dream is aspiring to rise above our current station. Right?
True, but Dickinson has a point. Many of us Americans would rather live in a dream-world of “free” credit and deferred payments than accept that our resources are finite, and that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Is there a secret to achieving the Dream? Probably not. But it there were, those two statements might be it.
If you can’t stomach them, okay. Go ahead and do the things that will make the American Dream not come true, like:
Live beyond your means. Open multiple credit accounts. Make minimum payments. Make them late. Eat out every night. Always go for the name brands. Get a mortgage you can barely make payments on. Get it for floorspace you don’t need.
Invest in “get-rich-quick” schemes. Invest only in precious metals. Dump your savings into the “next Apple” or Google or Netflix. Pay for a “how to become a millionaire” kit. Blow it all in Vegas. Play the ponies.
Waste your money. Buy stuff. Doesn’t matter what, just spend: Order from infomercials. Join record clubs. Get that super-extended warranty. Insure your cell phone. Hire a plumber to unstop your toilet. And don’t even think about coupons.
And what will happen?
You’ll receive the illusion of wealth, that cherished “possibility” Dickinson refers to. It’ll probably be fun.
But eventually you’ll receive a drained bank account, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and profane calls from collectors at dinnertime. Most of us don’t find that enjoyable.
Stay tuned for part 3, when the Solvency Shark attacks the myths versus the realities in achieving the Dream.
Continued: The American Dream (part 3): Realities
Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.
Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.
I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.
Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.
Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.