I like the wordnet Princeton University definition of “American Dream,”…the widespread aspiration of Americans to live better than their parents did….”
This was certainly true of my parents. My parents grew up in the 1920’s and 1930’s and when they became parents they embraced the whole post-WWII “two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot” American ideal. They wanted their four children to have things they didn’t have, wanted them to have Christmases with many gifts under the tree, wanted their children to have opportunties they didn’t have. For the most part my brothers, sister and I did. My parents always told me that I could do “anything” I put my mind to and that the opportunity to do so would there.
People from all over the world have flocked to the United States in a search for this ideal – to give their families things they never had and opportunities closed to them in their countries of origin. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this ideal never has been exclusive to America. Surely all parents everywhere want their children to live better than they. And, we now live in a global community. There are companies in America with employees who live in other countries. People anywhere in the world can do commerce worldwide via the internet. The direct selling company with which I am an independent distributor is operating in several countries of the world and expanding.
I would change the phrase “American Dream” to “Human Dream.” What caused me to think on this was my re-watching of the BBC series “planet earth.” The final dvd disc in the series has discussions involving human society expansion versus shrinking environment and ecology. There is a discussion involving sustainable development. This really caught my interest. I live in a western developed country – I include all developed nations in this – and the idea of sustainable development where I live has been impossible for more than one generation already. What about other parts of the world?
Is the desire to live better than one’s parents did at odds with protecting the planet? In the series Tony Juniper, at that time Executive Director Friends of the Earth talked about the difficulty of sustainability versus development “…protecting the earth’s natural capacities to meeting human needs….”
I wondered to myself, do we as humans need development in order to aspire to live better lives than our parents?
In the series Professor Wangari Maathai, Founder Green Belt Movement, said:
- “…sustainable development must mean that we develop in a way we can thrive on this continent…and Africans have thrived…without airplanes, without trains, without skyscrapers, without all the modern development…development means staying alive…quality of life…not so much a life that is surrounded by goods, things, but a life where you can live in a clean and healthy environment….”
If I had an American Dream, a Human Dream it would be that my children and now my grandchildren can live in a clean and healthy environment…whether or not it is in a developed nation or not.
But is this now a world seeking western lifestyles – that everyone wishes to live in a suburb with two cars, tvs, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, grocery stores on every corner and mega discount stores in every community? Is this an assumption we can make? In the series M.A. Sanjayan, Lead Scientist with The Nature Conservancy said, “…I’m always cognizant in the back of my mind that they’re [people in undeveloped countries] thinking well, that’s great for you to say, that you guys have all these things in the U.S. and you’re well developed and all that now you’re trying to prevent us from the same thing. These are real human aspirations….”
Can we really say to people that they must live differing lifestyles than those in western developed nations because the planet as a whole needs them to?
“…It is impossible and unexceptable and just won’t work to say to the poor of China and India you can’t have what we’ve got….” – said Rt Hon Clare Short MP Former Sec State International Development as identified in the series.
My understanding of the American Dream has always been one of people wanting opportunity to succeed at whatever…opportunity to have dreams and goals and having the chance to pursue those dreams and goals. I have never believed this is a Dream confined to the geographical limits of the United States. I think it’s human. Even though the BBC series “planet earth” was devoted to environmental and ecological issues, I found within it the idea that all humans everywhere seek quality of life and aspire to live better than did their parents.
My Human Dream is to build a home-based business that will give me resources to help my family to live better, to help my community to deal with issues better and to help my planet because I want my grandson to have a future.
What is your take on the Human Dream?