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Archive for May 2011

Towards A New Dream

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I can’t help but think, as I look around our culture, that there is a consensus that we’ve lost our way in America. Politicians like to invoke the American Dream, but it is the Dream has led us astray. We’ve come to where we are because we’ve “put the ladder on the wrong wall” as Joesph Campbell once put it.

He was talking about how people can spend their whole lives working towards something only to realize that what they got isn’t what they truly want or need.

Sound familiar?

For the entire time I’ve been alive the people of this nation have been pursuing a vision of the future that has led us to a most unsatisfying present. While we have technological marvels all about us, their presence does not soothe the soul.

Televised calls to return to the old religion put the lie to both the old ways and the new.  Today’s problems can’t be solved with yesterday’s answers.

The Dream we’ve been chasing has been a pretty simple one, easy to understand and act on. It served us well for deacdes, and for a minute there it looked like we were all going to get there together. In the 90’s there was that awesome surge of prosperity, and when it faltered the loose credit of the 00’s came along and made it possible for those who might never have a shot at being homeowners to live the Dream at last.

Of course, those bubbles burst. But a more apt metaphor would be that we woke up with a terrible enthusiasm hangover and a bad case of reality. It was a nice dream while it lasted, but it proved to be no way to live.

The far right wants us to double down on the old dream. The far left wants to tear the instituitions of power down to their foundations. The moderates don’t have a fucking clue as to which way to turn. We have an imagination deficit in this culture, which is so ironic it hurts, given how much effort is put into our flights of fancy.

We need a fresh vision.

We need to start dreaming again.

The tomorrow that I want to live in is built on the rock of three simple values:

  • Sustainability
  • Liberty
  • Innovation

Now I’d rather put it in a different order. I’d rather put Liberty and Innovation first and let Sustainability take up the rear. Only we don’t have that option anymore. The past few generations have been so irresponsible with the stewardship of our society that we don’t get to be so carefree.

It’s been a good run, and we’ve had quite a few laughs along the way, but its time to put on the big boy (and girl) pants and get to work. Because a society where no one thinks about the impact of their actions beyond themselves is no society at all. And I can hear the anarchists and the ultra-right libertairians gearing up for a “fuck yeah” and getting all kinds of mentally horny for the overthrow of society.

To which I say: I’m sorry high school sucked for you. It sucked for me too. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay trapped in those mindsets forever.

Alright. Low blows. I’ll admit it. Doesn’t make them any less true.

We need to take these tools that are being developed as ways of turning us into more docile consumers— a breed of human satisfied with our liberty being defined as a buffet of cereal brand options— and use them to bolster our understanding of each other as real people. With individual hopes and dreams, who also have collective goals and responsibilities.

The relentless pursuit of self-interest has been revealed as a night terror. Let’s find something better to drive us.


Written by njnelson

May 8, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Posted in PhilosophyGuy

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