The American Dream

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality Views: 4069

When we think about the United States from a distance, we tend to focus on its awesome military power, its popular consumer products like Coke and Nike, its slickly packaged films and music, and its often objectionable actions around the globe. 

What we lose sight of is the hard work, the fiercely competitive spirit, the ideological drive and the finely honed managerial skills that underpin and define the world's sole superpower. Recently, London's Daily Telegraph ran a long article titled 'The New Empire' in three parts by Graham Turner who had returned to Britain after spending five weeks in America talking to people in an attempt to discover how they viewed their country. 

He came back amazed at the views he encountered: the vast majority of Americans, for instance, are convinced their country is a force for good and acts abroad for altruistic reasons. They are therefore shocked to be told how the rest of the world views them. 

After 9/11, and now more recently in the aftermath of the war on Iraq, trying to fathom what the Americans are going to do next, and why, has become a cottage industry, with pundits from across the world offering their opinions. And if we are all concerned about American intentions, it is with good reason: next year, after the American defense budget will have increased by 16 per cent it will spend more on defense than by the rest of the world put together. 

Consider the implications of this sobering fact for a moment. Apart from the size of its military machine, no other country is now within a generation of the technology the Americans have at their disposal. Sustaining this hi-tech behemoth is an economy that churns out 30 per cent of the entire world's goods and services. To see for himself what made Wal-Mart such a successful retail operation, Turner went to a weekly management meeting of the world's biggest corporation which now has annual sales of around $250 billion. In a practiced ritual, the chief executive yelled to the assembled managers: "Whose Wal-Mart?". Back the resounding reply: "Our Wal-Mart!" Continued the CEO: "And who's Number One?" "The customer's Number One!" 

While this kind of corporate exhibitionism makes the rest of us cringe, it reveals the fervor and evangelical zeal the Americans put into their work. And when our mullahs talk about 'the godless West', they should reflect on the fact that according to polls, fully 94 per cent of all Americans say they believe in God. According to one report, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld pray every day. The growing rift between Europe and America is not just political: secularism and skepticism are deeply rooted in democracies like Britain, France and Germany, while Americans tend to wear their faith and fervor on their sleeves.

And yet, despite the overwhelming economic and military power at its command, America is not at peace with itself. While the rest of us did not see Iraq as a threat, a majority of Americans did and proceeded to eliminate its regime and its military. How many more threats does the sole superpower perceive and what will it do about them? In the aftermath of 9/11, the country has been awash with bizarre warnings ranging from a 'dirty nuclear device' to anthrax. Hundreds of thousands taped their windows shut and shops ran out of gas masks. For the world's biggest power, it's still dangerous out there. 

Many of these false fears are planted by the government to justify its aggressive policies abroad and spread by a compliant, gung-ho media. Indeed, the role of the media has been criticized by perceptive Americans who feel they are not being effectively informed: there is a growing concern, for instance, that they were shown a different war in Iraq than the rest of the world saw. 

Reporters, specially TV journalists, are seen as not being sufficiently critical of official policies. Fox News, in particular, is viewed as a jingoistic drum-beater for the 'American way of life' and is now the most popular news channel in the country. 

Driving this enterprise is an ideology based on the American version of democracy and free enterprise. Just as the Soviets thought Marxism was the best system for the whole world, Americans genuinely believe the rest of us will benefit from their way of life and are surprised when somebody says 'no, thank you'. Not that too many people do: millions around the world would like to be part of the 'American dream', and every year, hundreds of thousands make it to the United States legally or illegally. For most of them, this migration results in a vast improvement in the quality of their life as well as their hopes for a better future for their children. 

Pushing the 'American dream' is a vast entertainment machine that produces a relentlessly upbeat image of life in the United States. Soaps and sitcoms churned out for TV around the globe show clean-cut Americans to whom bad things seldom happen. 

There are large houses and apartments, late model cars, trendy clothes - above all, the good guys win. Unlike the UK, for instance, where TV series often show the grimmer side of life, Hollywood is mostly about the feel-good factor. Few popular movies show the loneliness and grimness of life in big cities; they focus instead on people making good against adversity. 

This glowing image of America makes it much easier to colonize the minds of the have-nots of the world. My theory is that the Americans do not need to bomb Third World armies: all they need to do is to drop 'green cards' on the impoverished soldiers to induce them to desert in large numbers. But this would scarcely allow the Pentagon to dictate its bloated budgets to Congress in the name of the 'war on terror'. 

In Orwell's 1984, there was a concept of perpetual war, and this is where we seem to be heading because there is no way in which the world can ever be free of terror. Each terrorist group has its own agenda against perceived injustices and wrongs, and with the globalization of goods and services, ideologically motivated violence has also gone global. And rightly or wrongly, since America is seen as being behind much of the world's woes, it is inevitable that it will be the biggest target, specially as attacks there would generate the most publicity. 

Graham Turner quotes Richard Parker, professor of religion and ethics at the Harvard Business School: "...This is the seminary which trains the clergy of capitalism. America ... believes its world view is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Just like Marxism, it's a globalizing system. Just like Marxism, it is highly intolerant of opposition and it brooks no opposition..." 

The next few years will show whether the new empire has learned how to temper its power and arrogance with a measure of humility and empathy. So far, with Bush in power, the signs are not good.

Source: Dawn

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality
Views: 4069
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Older Comments:
This comment is for J Miller I want to make a comment to your statement. I was born the USA but I feel your statement is like most Americans pretty much trying to defend the USA but there are hard factors you didn't seem to mention at all so sometimes we need to look at things without rose color glass. I will give some examples what about all our companies who choose to go over seas to make our clothes? and who works in those factories children who are like slaves. Also what about all bathrooms in the offices that most so-called Americans wouldn't do? and what about all the homeless men who can work but like being on Welfare instead of working?
everyday when I leave where I live I have to smell a human bathroom so will you clean this up J.Miller since we are trying to better ourselves?
sure someone can practice their faith but I am a Muslimah and I wear a scarf people tend to give me dirty looks but its ok people to be gay express themselves. Saying that our lawmakers and President is making bad choices is pretty weak statement, like most Americans who have not woke up like yourself J Miller there is a zionist factor going on and Israel is a part of our problem and the war with Iraq is only for the interest of Israel. It would be nice if America did take care of its self more and stay out of countries and just take care of America so J Miller I hope you can take off the rose color glass and wake up.

My comment is not so much for the writer of this article as it is for others who have posted comments. I'm curious to know where they get their impressions of Americans. And those who live in the US, judging everyone here by the fragment of people that they have met. Americans are in general hard working. We want to better ourselves so that we can make our country a better place. We welcome people of different races and religious backgrounds so that they too can understand what it means to live in a country where you are free to express your views, speak your mind, and free to practice any religion you choose. And yes this country was built up by one time we all were. Aside from Native Americans, we all came here from some other part of the world within the last 400 years. I know that America is far from perfect. I know our lawmakers and presidents make mistakes and bad choices. But all should keep one thing in mind: This country stands on the beliefs of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Contrary to what others in the world may believe, we do not believe we are "God", nor do we believe we are better than the rest of the world. We do however feel fortunate to have the human rights that so many others in this world are denied.

One should clarify what is Hard Work. For instance, sifting thru sand pits, bent over for 12-16 hours a day, looking for worthless pieces of stone day-in-day out, that is hard work. As is being bent over 12-16 hours a day in a rice paddy field. This what Asians and Africans do.

Now "working Hard" to buy the same produce for $1.00, getting it shipped over and after minor factory processing of it, selling the same thing to the end consumer in America for $16.00, thats what Americans do. One can only imagine, if I was making $6.00 profit sitting in my office, I'd be working dandy hard, whereas if I was making 10 cents on the same product, bent over all day, I'd be feeling rather lazy. Any wild adjustment for cost-of-living would not even come close to redressing that difference in profit.

If one looks at the American Economy, most of it is consumer driven, white collar work, advertising, storage, accounting, "information systems", packaging, music , arts , sports, "culture" these are things Americans work hard at, there is very little production, factory work, agriculture (as a percentage of the economy). Most of the production that is done in America, and there is quite a bit of it, let me not understate it, is done by? thats right. Mexicans. Ha ha hah.

Americans - hardworking? Pahlease!!!! Gimme a break. As someone who has worked among them for
years, Americans are very lazy workers. They did
not become so powerful by Hard work. Their powerful economy was built on slavery and immigrant labour and was already in place in the
early 20th century. The Baby boomer generation
after WWII onwards has been all lazy. The slaves did the hard work in creating the wealth of this nation. Now immigrants and off shore foreign labor is doing that job. And when an American has to do do hard work here in America, they are quick to unionize, adding an extra layer of laziness to the job. Perhaps you could say they work smart, so they do not need to work hard! I would say well said. But, unfortunately, some one across the globe has to work hard for them to work smart. One cannot simply work smart. The food has to be grown, the minerals mined, these are intensely hard labor tasks. As a final point, I am not saying ALL Americans are lazy, there are plenty of hard working folk, sure, but as a nation, in general, Americans cannot be considered hard working by any strecth of imagination.

Living in the "NEW EMPIRE" it is not hard to see the difference between "where I'm supposed to be and where I am". The Media, Movies and papers give a different picture of my life than what I'm living. Insha Allah I can leave my children with the deen and not let them be corrupted by the Great American Nightmare.

The American society is a melting pot of humanity.
Talk about the American Dream, the land of milk and honey, if we go down to the very basic and core of the US populace, I see people who are souless, who are still lost and looking for answers, people who dont have even the most basic instinct of why they are living in this world, people who have lost touch with God and a lot more of things that are missing in their life.
This is where we Muslims must propagate and preach, and spread the word of Islam.
We have a very pewerful and effective message, that is Islam.
We see conversions everyday, from the GI posted in Saudi, an expatriate in Singapore, and thousands of others who have seen the truth.
THE US IS THE MOST BIGGEST MARKET AND CHALLENGE for our missionaries to spread the word of Islam.
If Islam suceeds in the US, I dare not dream any more further.

America was built from the the hard work of immigrants seeking green cards and a chance to live the so called American dream.Personally, I admire their hard work and I see the success of America as a result of the hard work that came out of immigrants who came from all over the world.For those who disagree, understand that you have to distinguish between the American people and the American government.Many of us are immigrants and we are hard working citizens and we would like to raise a family and live in a house and be safe and practice our religion freely. Lets face it, although we may be discriminated against at times (which all minorities have had to face at one time or another before standing up for their right, which we have yet to do),for the most part, we are protected by the written law of the constitution.we have more rights here than in the "Muslim" countries that we come from.For those who challenge this view by pointing out the Patriot Acts and all the new immigration laws that are clearly unconstitutional, well those too can be challenged in the federal Supreme Court if enough Muslims had the guts to challenge them.Yes, we have to actually fight to regain our rights. No one is going hand them to us in a sealed envelope enclosing an apology for infringing on our civil liberties.fear keeps us away from taking such actions and we continue to blame America for all the evil she inflicts while ignoring our right to take an advantage of the written law.We could change this entire government if we really wanted to.And we could give all people equal rights.This is not irrational thinking or optimism or hope, it is the truth because it is in the history of this country. It has been changed over and over again by people who were oppressed for generations. First African Americans, sure they don't control the government, it is controlled by white men who are mainly puppets with Jews holding the strings.But aren't Jews the smallest minority in the world?Think.

The writer seems to be confused in his vision of writing such article. Having true Islamic spirit, I am not against the materialistic progress achieved by Europe rather I appreciate it. But It is 'hell of Saddad' for me if they prevail their own law on the law of Allah. It seems that European Glaze has blinded your eyes and you presume that Green Card will attract the Muslim world. Muslim World does not need European lust but it is lacking true Quranic spirit. Go deep in Quran & Sunnah, review Islamic history, you will observe that they were not impressed with the lust of Roman, Qaisar-0-Qisra and Iranian civilisation, rather they created their own history. You think Bush,Cheney Rumsfeld are at 'Haq' because they physically offer prayer. Forget, such 'salat' also is not authentic. If our soul is bent before Allah, our action will represent it. At last I would like to give a theme to your article "True Islamic thinker wants a european body with Islamic soul."


I cant take a side and say I agree or disagree. Because this view is a very different view. I did hear about it from a British author who write "Formal and Informal Empires". So in this regard, I dont have a view so far.
All I would like to say is "Power comes with responsibility. You dont like responsibility, stay away from Power." And one thing for sure, when you have power, you cant complain!

The reason the rest of the world did not see the threat is that the threat was directed towards us.

the reason we don't drop green cards on enemy soldiers, well there are too many to enumerate. Let's try one: we don't want to invite our enemies into our homes. think of the thugs who caused 9/11. Why do we want more.

Let's try another. Many immigrants soak up our benefits without actually returning anything of value to the USA. They don't assimilate, they land on welfare, they use up our helath and education budgets, they drive down wages.

The U.S. ideology is: We don't need be blessed by God, because we are "The God".

I don't see the purpose of this article...claiming to say that the Muslims living in countries other than the US are desperately awaiting the opportunity to come to the USA, if you drop them "green cards" is a very premature, and unnecessary thing to say. You are making a story out of nothing. What you are describing is not related to what you said you would talk said you would mention your encounters of people outside the US and their opinions, and thoughts of the US and it's actions upon it's foreign policy, or lack thereof. I am not saying that Muslims shoudl not come to the USA, but I sincerely hope you are not trying to say that Muslims living in the middle east and pak, india, palestine, kosovo, or any other hot spot in the world...are desperately seeking to come to the USA to live the "AMERICAN DREAM." I do not agree with the purpose or use of this article AT ALL. THank you very much.