America is uniquely plagued with a disease of ideology that stems from its heavily protestant roots. From the “protestant work ethic” comes the mythology espoused by the right that if you work hard enough, anyone can get ahead in life. It has many names, but it is most famously attested as “The American Dream.”
It’s a dream, of course, because you have to be pretty much asleep to believe it.
Just a casual look around at society is usually enough for most people to at least acknowledge that there are other factors at work when it comes to individual success, besides one’s attitude. The ranks of the wealthy are full of people who take months of vacation time off from work, while the poor often work two or three jobs and still only survive paycheck to paycheck, one medical bill away from bankruptcy.
Don’t try to tell this to anyone who sees themselves as having succeeded by the sweat of their brow (even if they wear a shirt and tie to work). The mere suggestion that someone is the possessor of unearned privileges is enough to send most people into a tizzy, prompting an angry indignation in the form of accusations along the lines of, “Are you saying I didn’t work hard to get what I have?”
No, mister middle-class white male, I know you worked hard. Most people work hard. I don’t even have a job and I work hard, doing chores around the house, odd jobs for neighbors, free-lance work in one of my fields of expertise, political activism (the real kind, where you have to leave the house and talk to someone face-to-face), and basically making a productive use of my time (at least in my opinion).
But you know who works really hard? The millions of people on welfare. Americans have the misguided notion that people who get financial assistance from the government are lazy, even though many work over 40 hours a week. The truth is, millions of full-time jobs in this country don’t pay enough for the person to live on one paycheck alone, and many families receive aid despite working longer hours and harder jobs than people complaining about paying for welfare.
In the end, people who complain about how they have to pay for someone else to sit at home and not work are people who don’t know what’s going on in this country: namely, that hard work is rewarded with exploitation, while social connections among the nobility ensure a wealthy class of elitists can jetset to their friend’s Caribbean island on a whim.
In my opinion, the nonsensical lie that you can get ahead in this world if you put the effort in is no longer the American Dream. The idea that we live in a meritocracy is so ridiculous at this point that those who claim it to be true are clearly nothing but oblivious. Now, the real dream is to pop out of some trophy wife’s vagina with a silver spoon in your mouth.