The American Dream
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.