03Sep

The American Myth of Success

In America, we teach that everything, at every point in our lives is a choice.  This translates to an idea that if you are facing hardship now, you must have made a bad choice then.  After all, the world is so perfect, only a bad person is not successful.  We reinforce this myth in a thousand different ways.  We place the athlete on TV and listen carefully while he describes a life of struggle until he made the choice to work hard and become a star athlete.  These stories always end with the familiar refrain “If I can do it, anybody can.”  Indeed, there is some truth to this saying, however, it is, in no way, a universal truth.

“You can do it, just do what I did.”  First, have you ever been subject to a parent’s or a friend’s helpful advice about you correcting yourself?  Perhaps you are over-weight and your friends are full of recommendations for you about how you can lose all of the weight.  They are disappointed that you don’t follow their plan and may even suggest that familiar refrain “I did it, why can’t you?”  Why do people believe that their own experience is the norm?  Why do people believe that if they have done something that is very hard and been successful that anyone can follow in their footsteps of success?  Not only is it a falsehood, but, it is egocentric to think that your personal experience is generally applicable to anyone and everyone.

“If you can’t do it, there is something wrong with you.”  The next concept worth examining is this idea that the American definition of success is easily identifiable and doable as a matter of what is normal.  Out of this concept comes the idea that if you do not follow, or you are not successful on the American path, there must be something wrong with you.  You are the fault in all such cases.  Everyone will remind you of this idea, by asking you “what happened?” and before you can put your story into words, the other is already launching into advice about what you could have done better (as if you have not really tried) and telling you stories about their own such success.  The most interesting part of this, is that it is fabrication and a myth. 

We do not always fail because of our own efforts (and this is important), secondly, often the one who gives advice is the one who needs it.  Who has not received advice from someone who has no business giving it?  I know someone who has never successfully looked for a job and actually gotten one in a timely manner, nor at the rate of pay that she felt was acceptable.  This person was often giving advice about getting a job because she had so much experience searching for a job.  Searching for a job is quite a different thing than actually getting a job.  Yet she felt that she should and could give valuable advice to other job seekers about attaining a job.

“Your shame keeps you from seeing that the system is rigged against you.”  Once you have failed in any way, you may see yourself as less than.  You believe that you are less than capable, less than acceptable.  You will blame yourself and in many cases blame others.  Because you believe the myth: the system is perfect and therefore a lack of success on your part must be either your own or someone else’s fault.  This is where it all breaks down.  The fact of the matter is that the American system is rigged against you, but your shame and anger keeps you from seeing and recognizing it.

From beginning to end, there is no limit to the manipulation and tricks that are placed in your path to keep you from earning and keeping enough money to have anything more than just enough cash to get by.

Coins

From birth, all financial truths in America are stacked against you, unless you are already wealthy ~ in that case such truths are stacked in your favor.

You are born in a hospital, that charges astronomical prices at its whim.  Your birth is paid by an insurance company that profits greatly for its shareholders rather than taking care of the sick.  There is no profit in caring for the sick, as a result, health insurance companies have become expert at NOT paying for health care.  Hopefully, you will not be sick, nor have any disabilities, because either of these can and will bankrupt your family.  Refer to the fact that hospitals are for profit and health insurance companies only answer to shareholders and you will understand why your family will be bankrupt if you are sick or disabled.

Next, you will need an education.  Since the government is riddled with bureaucracy and the educational system must pay a cadre of MBAs just to stay in business, you parents will be forced to purchase everything the child needs for school and more to supply the classroom.  If you want to earn more than minimum wage (below poverty level) after high school, you must go to college.  Good Luck, you will need lots of money and lots of information about how to attain that money and how to manage the loans.

While you are planning and doing, life is happening.  You got a speeding ticket, it cost you $583.00.  Your mother got sick, you had to fly home, purchasing tickets at the last minute $794.00 (for that price, no leg room and no luggage).  Your apartment complex had a flood and all of your books and electronics were destroyed, you had insurance, but it wasn’t good enough (recall that insurance is for profit).

So now you are 23 years old and you have a college degree and $66,000.00 in debt to pay off.  You’re not sure if you have made the right decision about school and you don’t understand why you’re still broke.

You can’t find a job and you are angry.  You need someone, something to be angry with.  You listen to the news, you watch TV and you decide that immigrants are to blame for lack of jobs in America.

And this is the breakdown.  You haven’t done anything wrong and you haven’t done anything bad.  You made the right decisions, but America didn’t keep it’s promise.  It’s not because of immigrants, it’s not because of any single politicized source.  Instead it is because of corporate greed and the fact that our political system has bowed down to the greed and has become an instrument for that greed.  There is no reason that our minimum wage has stagnated for almost 30 years, no reason at all, except that Walmart has made sure that politicians do not raise the minimum wage by paying them off with cash.  The cash that Walmart uses to pay off the politicians is cash that they steal from their own workers.  They do this by keeping them from earning a living and by keeping them from having any workplace benefits (such as healthcare).

If you need to blame someone, blame the system and then jump in and let’s do something about it.

 

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