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Archive for October 12th, 2008

As I was reading at the car inspection place waiting on my two month overdue inspection to finish, I couldn’t help but overhear Fox News on the waiting room televisions. John McCain was talking at his rally in Indiana about how it was the definition of the American Dream to own your own home. (And just to let you know that I’m not targeting McCain on this, Obama says similar things all the time).

At the exact moment when I heard McCain say that, I read in Master of Mysteries by Louis Sahagun (the biography of 1920-50s LA spiritual leader Manly Palmer Hall) the following excerpt,

‘A nation is an inert mass also if it has no appropriate and adequate idealism, any culture that is materialistic cannot survive because it lacks vital principle.’ 

And while I enjoyed the biography because it was a carnival side show of the wacked out new age beliefs that some of these “spiritual leaders” had, it is impossible for me to blanket judge these early century philosiphers because of their looseness with science. They did have some valid insights into human nature and American idealism. But Sahagun added some interesting notes of his own in the following paragraph which truly allowed the passage to register with me,

“But no sooner had WW2 ended than Americans with dependable union jobs… became absorbed with single family tract home and automobiles for no money down.”

An interesting insight delivered through the vehicle of synchronicity. 

That revised American Dream of the 1950s which embraced rampant consumerism has become the bane of modern society. As other cultures gain economic prosperity they seek to emulate our non-sustainable lifestyle. I’m far from a neo-malthusian thinker, believing that all resources are finite and that price plays no factor in human decisions, yet there is a fundamental physical truth to reality. Entropy will eventually change our forms of energy into less usable states. 

The problem with the current American Dream is clear to me: rampant consumer driven materialism and a desire to own too much.

Now I don’t fault the poor or the rich for seeking a more stable lifestyle. That is their right and an acceptable one at that. Yet, the means by which we have sought out that stability has resulted in a plethora of problems. Environmental degradation, externalities passed on to third world nations, a “need” for all these ridiculous electronic gadgets and such. A belief that simply being American means a right to cheap energy and world domination is meeting its end. And justly so, it simply was an illusion. 

I hope that Americans take this opportunity of financial crisis to look upon themselves and to examine their place in this global society. Are the ideas that we hold about our nation valid, or a mirage sold to us by generations of manipulative “patriots”? 

The idea that every American should own a home is problematic on many levels, it limits economic redistribution, keeping labor away from the jobs that need it. It also drives many people to volutarily enlist in slavery, running up debt that can never be paid. 

An interesting insight from my recent trip to Austria was the number of co-family homes and renters. Austrian home ownership is usually only for the most wealthy and those that can truly afford it. Why are these countries having the same problems we are? They either tried to emulate us or invested in our housing market from abroad. A move which has revealed itself as a fatal mistake. 

Let’s prepare for a new America, maybe not even one offered by either of the major political parties, where we can break free of the materialistic shackles that bind us. 

 

An example from Austria of multiple families living on the same property

An example from Austria of multiple families living on the same property

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