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ETpro's avatar

Are Americans too poor to dream, or getting poor because we refuse to dream?

Asked by ETpro (34605points) April 4th, 2013
21 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

This question grew out of my listening to Neal DeGrasse Tyson’s brief video about Americans having stopped dreaming of exploration back at the end of the 1970s. His talk reminded me of this ad from NBC’s Lean Forward campaign. Are Americans giving up the future in favor of present-tense greed? Are Americans willing to kill the goose that laid the golden egg in hopes of getting all the gold right now? America, with just 5% of the world’s population, still has the largest economy on Earth. Are we really too poor to dream, or are we getting poor because we’ve started listening to those who refuse to dream, those who want all the pie for themselves, and want it right now?

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bookish1's avatar

We’re often rich enough to buy technology made from China, with materials from the DRC, and it does the dreaming for us now.

josie's avatar

The latter.
What can you say about a civilization that in the space of a half a century takes a huge bite out of the scourge of human tyranny, goes to the moon, then loses interest in a fog of moral confusion, self indulgence, and relentless whining.
Hopefully, it’s just a phase

thorninmud's avatar

We dream, but we no longer dream collectively. The focus of the dream is now entirely individual. We’ve been sold on the idea that fulfillment = satisfaction of your desires (an impossible task, as it turns out, but the effort is what keeps consumerism humming).

Gone are the days when we thought in terms of harnessing our collective will to get big things done.

Seek's avatar

I’m way too poor to dream right now. Too busy running on the hamster wheel trying to catch up to all the demands this ridiculous society puts on me.

Seriously – food, shelter, health should not be this goddamn hard to achieve.

gasman's avatar

Dreams are no good if you’re too ignorant to make them happen. Innovation and imagination are fueled by knowledge. We need to improve the school ethic among American children and their parents, as was once the case in the US, so collective knowledge can be increased and maintained again. Everything else follows from that.

majorrich's avatar

I believe the generation following the Greatest generation lost their ability to see outside the box they built for themselves. As a nation, we have become intellectually lazy and educate our children to pass a test, not to wonder how things work, or what’s beyond the next hill. Children who show exuberance in school are labeled ADD and drugged so that they conform and are easier for a lazy education system to schlep them along to pass a test. Corporates punish innovation because it threatens their positions of authority and money. The “I don’t pay you to think” school of management prevails, and vision is quashed. Those who dream of the stars are marginalized and starved out and only the dumb survive.

YARNLADY's avatar

I think questions the ask about “Americans” are out of order. The vast majority of the people in the U. S. A. are just as ready to dream as they ever were. When examined on a local level, we have the same abilities and ambitions we had in our grandfather’s time, in our father’s time, and now in our children and grandchildren.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I think that a lot of Americans are caught-up in trying to keep a roof over our heads & food on the table…. the every day realities that most of us live with. This does not leave very much time for dreaming & I think that too many Americans have down-sized their dreams, because they do not expect things to get better for the middle class (especially since it appears that corporations, *ie: the Military Industrial Complex, have taken over our government). There is no longer any funding available for NASA, so our dreams of going into space have evaporated. We are polluting the only planet that we have to live on, so we no longer have dreams of finding a little beach house, or finding a little house in the mountains, or finding a little house on the edge of the desert where you can see the stars at night. I think that we have seen so many of our dreams destroyed, that we are (really) afraid to dream anymore – we are afraid to dream of better for our children & our grand children (especially if we have daughters and/or grand daughters). We seem to be staring into the face of REALITY & the reality is managing to keep our heads from being submerged & managing to stay alive, with (hopefully) our health intact.

Pachy's avatar

Comment withdrawn.

ETpro's avatar

@bookish1 Sad but true.

@josie I hear ya, man. The eternal optimist, I too hope it’s just a phase. Sometimes it takes a national tragedy the likes of the Great Depression then Pearl Harbor to get us all pulling together.

@thorninmud & @KNOWITALL Interesting point. Perhaps building the great society required we ride the back of the Consumerism tiger, and the doggone beast predictably turned around and ate us up, dreams and all.

@Seek_Kolinahr & @Linda_Owl I know that feeling all too well.

@gasman There is no question that the dumbing down of our educational system is a piece of the puzzle.

@majorrich All sadly true.

@YARNLADY I stand by the question as worded. If we’re all still the same, why no more big dreams?

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room Well, thanks for trying. Maybe you can dream up a good one tomorrow. :-)

gondwanalon's avatar

It takes more than just dreaming about success in order to succeed. You need patience and hard work to go along with your dreaming in order to succeed. Poor people who stay poor seem to be laking in one or more of these three aspects of behavior.

YARNLADY's avatar

@ETpro What evidence leads you to your conclusion?

ETpro's avatar

@gondwanalon People are poor for lots of reasons. Some have low IQs. Some are disabled. Many just grew up in households mired in generational poverty and never got the education at home or in slum-area schools to let them break free of poverty.

@YARNLADY The evidence is presented in the three linked videos in the OP. What are our big dreams today? In the 50s, Eisenhower focused us on building the Interstate Highway system. In the 60s, Kennedy focused us on putting mankind on the Moon and returning safely. In his 1986 State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan tried to rekindle the big dream with his Low Earth Orbit New Orient Express. “And we are going forward with research on a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low Earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.” But that never happened.

We stopped dreaming the big dreams and doing big things back in 1970. We say we’re going to Mars in 2030, sixty years after we stopped doing big things. But will we? The evidence is all around you. Where are the awe-inspiring dreams? Where are the big things we are now doing?

Blueroses's avatar

I understand your point, @ETpro

You specified Americans, but this applies to all of the allied first-world countries: We need to teach and understand history. Do we think this is the first example of a generation that comes after a few generations of struggle, to behave like entitled and careless fools?

It’s a civilized world pattern. One that always leads to revolution and changes in fortune for nations that thought themselves invulnerable.

We, America, are merely pre-teens in historical perspective.

ETpro's avatar

@Blueroses Your point is well taken. Austerity it the new watchword. The developed world can’t afford to do anything that doesn’t further enrich the wealthiest among us at the expense of all the rest.

YARNLADY's avatar

There are huge advancements in the health field, artificial heart, prosthetics that mimic real limbs, electronic communications in a dizzing array, and so on and so on.

Paradox25's avatar

This is why I consider intuitive thinking to be just as important as analytical thinking. We perceive our ideas and mental images through metaphors, and in fact I don’t believe that many scientific advancements would have been made without some type of intuitive or creative thinking.

We are getting poor because we refuse to dream on a large scale in my opinion, but I think there is some truth in the former as well. A business savy person will usually rob or obstruct those who’ve done the thinking for them because in the end it is money rather than great ideas which end up ruling. Look at Tesla, he died penniless.

ETpro's avatar

@YARNLADY We have a complete failure to communicate. And BTW, the USA is at the bottom of the developed world in healthcare outcomes. The only thing we lead in is cost per capita. There, we are almost double the costs of the top nations.

@Paradox25 Excellent point. Both are needed.

rojo's avatar

@ETpro thought I would pass on to you George Carlins’ thoughts on the American Dream:

“There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got… because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now… the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right.
They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fuckin’ years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ‘cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.
The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good, honest, hard-working people: white collar, blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good, honest, hard-working people continue — these are people of modest means — continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don’t give a fuck about them. They don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t care about you at all! At all! At all! And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American Dream, ‘cause you have to be asleep to believe it.”

ETpro's avatar

@rojo I had not heard that rant, and wow, is it ever the truth.

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