Posted by: JDM..... | August 17, 2014

The new American dream ….

Is it way out of reach? …..

While raking through the internet’s morning litter box to separate that which might be salvaged instead of unceremoniously buried, I came across an interesting teaser asking “Is the new American dream way out of reach? ” I sat back to ponder the question before reading what the writer had to say on the matter.

My initial thought was a question of my own. What is the American dream these days? I don’t believe it is the same one I visited back when I was launching myself headlong from the 3 meter diving board without knowing if there was any water in the Pool of Life. This isn’t your granddaddy’s world, and it certainly isn’t your granddaddy’s United States of America.

For some of us, that is a good thing. For some of us, there may be a downside or two. Was the writer introducing some fact-based revelation, or simply whacking the beehive to see what might fly out? Is the writer thirty years old or does he/she have grandchildren that age?

We have experienced some impressive positive changes in a number of areas. In the field of medicine alone, the developments have been amazing. Vaccines and treatments were discovered for diseases and conditions that devastated my father’s generation; influenza, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, and meningitis, to mention a few. Small pox was eradicated. The cardiac pacemaker was invented, we learned how to successfully transplant vital organs like the heart, and research is underway to create artificial replacements for failed or damaged body parts with technologies such as 3-D printing. Men have walked on the moon, and astronomers have seen things their own teachers may have been unable to imagine. Communication is no longer limited to pen and paper, the two-way radio, and a heavy Bakelite telephone with a dial or that required a remote operator to manually connect two parties so that they could talk. Speaking of “pen and paper”, hand written communication was significantly changed forever with the introduction of the now iconic Bic pen in 1952. The “ball point” idea was actually pioneered as early as 1888, but an instrument that actually worked did not appear until after WW2.

Telephony also had it’s limitations, with intercontinental communication relying on radio transmission before the Trans-Atlantic Cable was brought to use in the mid nineteen fifties. Domestic long distance calls were clunky, not particularly clear, and often involved manual transfers from one relaying station to the next before microwave transmission came into general use around the same time. The birth of the “Space Age” in the sixties gave rise to satellite technology.

The “telephone” is actually an archaism today, as communications devices that function only as voice communicators are fast disappearing. Even the cheap “phone” on my desk performs multiple tasks such as identifying the caller, recording messages, keeping track of missed calls, and more. Americans are actually abandoning the traditional “wired” kitchen wall phone and the desk phone in favor of wireless cell phones, “Smart phones”, and various other devices that function as cameras, video recorders, computers, miniature televisions, and more.

One of the most prized possessions for a teen back during the sixties was the “transistor radio’, an amazing pocket-sized replacement for the suitcase-sized “portable” of just a few years earlier. The invention of the transistor in the late forties changed electronics completely and provided the foundation for countless subsequent technologies and developments.

In addition to these and hundreds of other changes to all aspects of day to day living, our population has more than doubled in just my own lifetime. The world population as a whole has grown nearly 500% during the same time span. We have begun to recognize for the first time in history the very real potential for humanity to literally eat itself out of house and home.

So, the American Dream of today cannot possibly be the same as it was when I was starting to chase it.

When I was in high school, one of the Brass Rings was a degree in engineering, and the most complex mathematical calculations were done manually with pencil, paper, and perhaps a slide rule.

Another Brass Ring was Medicine. Being a doctor was a prestigious profession wherein one could be the boss as well as one’s own boss, and make a lot of money.

Those without the opportunity or desire for higher education did very well in the still robust industrial sector, construction, and work was plentiful

The Industrial Age has given way to the Technological and Digital Ages, and the job market is more service oriented. With “Boomers” entering their seniority, medical and ancillary fields are the place to be.. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the most sought after and highest paying jobs today are in the actuarial sciences, biomedical engineering and, of course, computer sciences.

To what do new graduates aspire today, and what do they expect to discover and achieve?

As possibilities change, so do dreams, or at least they should. My generation largely defined our dreams by the standards of our fathers’ generation, which turned out to be woefully misguided for many. I suspect that could be said by many who have preceded us, the one constant, I believe, being expectation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Such principles have traditionally been protected by our government, which was formed for that purpose. In recent years, that government has transitioned from representing an extension of the will of the people, to acting as a partner of the people. Roles are being reversed and even usurped. Government has begun to take on an authoritarian, parental role.

For those who are still youthful and pondering the future, I’m sorry to say that the world your parents believed they were going to inherit didn’t turn out exactly according to plan, and neither will yours. Perhaps that is as it should be. So, to answer the question posed at the start of this essay, “Is the new American dream way out of reach?” If the dream is a prescripted model one expects to follow, I’d bet one won’t even get within spittin’ distance.

However, if one’s American dream is fundamentally no different from the dream of his predecessors over the past eight generations or so…..the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…..I imagine it is very much alive. Whether or not it is within reach will depend upon how much one is willing to stretch, and whether or not one has fallen for the come-on and believes it will be served on a silver platter.


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