A lot of people seem to think the American Dream is a success story. But I’ve never seen it that way. To me, the American Dream is not very different from Martin Luther King’s— “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed; We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” For me, it is important to note the difference between our nation’s spirit and its reality. There is hatred, fear, poverty, greed, and disillusion in our everyday lives—and my American Dream is that we fight these evils on a daily basis, pushing back against ignorance, defying bigotry, helping those who can’t help themselves, and always seeking a better life. Not a life full of cash and comfort and security, but a life full of care, understanding, and happiness.
During the age of Alchemy it was both a precaution and a tradition to keep one’s knowledge a precious secret, not to be shared. But modern progress didn’t start until we began to see knowledge as a legacy that scientists leave to humanity. The free exchange of ideas was the highest ethical position for a long time—during the Cold War there were scientists on both sides who got into trouble with their governments because they felt an obligation to share scientific knowledge with the whole world. These people faced firing squads or worse because their ethics wouldn’t allow them to keep information and research secret from ‘the enemy’. They felt that freedom of speech implied the freedom to speak the truth, to share scientific knowledge with everyone.
But the stranglehold on information was never fully realized by National Security policies—it required Money to suppress researchers’ and experimenters’ scruples against secrecy—the dread NDA, the Non-Disclosure Agreement, placed a lien on one’s livelihood as hostage against their openness and honesty. Nowadays we see Corporate culture holding their cards so close to their chests that we are deprived of medical safety, nutritional data, and side-effects, both medical and industrial. The corporations want to be more than ‘people’—they want to be people who can sue their whistleblowers for informing the public of information we are morally entitled to. If someone tells on me, I can’t sue—then again, I don’t ask people to sign any agreements before becoming friends of theirs.
Thus, I see in this instance another point at which Capitalism has encroached on human rights. Capitalism started out as freedom—doing business with anyone, for any product or service, regardless of their ‘station’ in society, was a guarantee to the middle class their trade could not be restricted. But centuries of lobbying and influence have carved out a ‘favored status’ for the biggest corporations that no individual American would ever dare to ask for. Capitalism has turned and bit the hand that fed it. And we all watch helplessly now as it begins gnawing on our collective elbow-joints on its way towards devouring our freedom and equality entirely.
So sadly I celebrate our day of independence from oppression by our former monarchial government—while asking myself how we can ever free ourselves from the oppression of the almighty Buck.