It’s been 10 years since I devoted a week to the theme of The Rot Within(September 17, 2007). Back in 2007, I listed 16 systemic sources of rot in our society, politics and economy; none have been fixed. Instead, the gaping holes have been filled with Play-Do and hastily painted to create the illusion of shiny solidity.
We live in a simulacrum society in which the fading scent of the American Dream is more a collective memory kept alive for political purposes than a reality. Even more disturbing, the difference between a phantom prosperity (or in homage to the Blade Runner film series, shall we say a replicant prosperity?) and real prosperity has been blurred by layers of simulated signals of prosperity and subtexts that are carefully designed to harken back to a long-gone authentic prosperity.
This is the reality: the American Dream is now reserved for the top 0.5%, with some phantom shreds falling to the top 5% who are tasked with generating a credible illusion of prosperity for the bottom 95%. While questions about who is a replicant and who is real become increasingly difficult to answer in the films, the question about who still has access to the American Dream is starkly answered by this disturbing chart:
Despite a ceaseless propaganda campaign declaring all is well with the U.S. economy, the Status Quo is fragile–and voters know it. Not only do they know the economy–and their financial security–is one crisis away from meltdown, they’re also fed up with all the official gerrymandering of data to make the economy appear healthy.
The Economy Is Better — Why Don’t Voters Believe It?
The American Dream–characterized by plentiful jobs offering living wages, security and opportunities to get ahead–is over, and voters know this, too.People are realizing the U.S. economy has changed qualitatively in the past 20 years, and claims that it’s stronger then ever ring hollow to people outside Washington D.C., academic ivory-towers and ideologically driven think-tanks.
By financial independence, I don’t mean an inherited trust fund–I mean earning an independent living as a self-employed person. Sure, it’s nice if you chose the right parents and inherited a fortune. But even without the inherited fortune, financial independence via self-employment has always been an integral part of the American Dream.
Indeed, it could be argued that financial independence is the American Dream because it gives us the freedom to say Take This Job And Shove It (Johnny Paycheck).