The American dream has changed over the years, but the fact is everyone’s dream is different and distinctly theirs. Over that time the dream has been hijacked by an increasingly control hungry hierarchy. This has become a society in which the top echelon believes they have the best ideas for a person’s best interest. In Howard Brody’s essay The Social Power of Healers he says:
If anyone in the United States runs afoul of administrative or legal rules-particularly within the school or court systems-it is this agenda which is most likely to be forcibly imposed by the state apparatus. It is this class of experts which is likely to decide who should go to jail, who should be committed to a mental hospital, who should be enrolled in this or that school program, and for how long, and what counts as having achieved benefit from being there (Brody 112).
If the state (government) controls all of these aspects of people’s lives, what kind of dream could America be? The American dream could be about wealth and power, but if the state apparatus is controlling this much of a person’s life, how much power could be wielded outside of that apparatus? In the essay Chosen People, Stuart Ewen, states “This dream resonates through much of American social history. To a large extent it has left its imprint on the aspirations and discontents of people and cultures around the world. The notion that each individual has fair access to status and recognition, and therefore can escape the anonymity and conditions of the common lot, has shaped the meaning and understanding of American democracy” (Ewen 185). This may explain how American democracy is seen by the outside world, but for the people on the inside looking out, the American dream continues to elude them because that very dream is being threatened by an overzealous government.
From the inception of this so called dream, it was not meant for everyone to reach. The advertisement of that dream was more propaganda to recruit more people (beast of burden) to slave in order to line the pockets of those already living that dream; with the increasing power of corporations within the American political process, that dream is becoming further away than ever before. As corporations and politicians work together to increase their substance, the common person is left to compete for the crumbs that fall from that proverbial table. Brody says “It seems difficult to dispute that there is hardly any scientific basis for making confident prediction of future violent behavior. Rather, there seems to have arisen an unholy alliance between courts and certain psychiatrists” (Brody 112). Make no mistake, medical institutions and the institution of the judicial system is the epitome of corporate politics. As citizens, when we turn a blind eye we put ourselves at the mercy of the corporate political system. “The rest of us, who can be allowed upon most of the time not to want to know what really goes on in courtrooms or in prisons, are inclined to leave this unholy alliance to its own devices and not to question it” (Brody 113). So in effect, we become complicit in the intrusion into our very own lives by an increasingly political corporation, which relies on the ignorance of the populace to pull back more and more of the American dream while we watch.
The American dream, the notion that social mobility is fluid has been disappearing ever since the phrase was coined. The notion that if a person works hard they can move up the social ladder, or the notion that everyone is equal, and has an equal chance at success, has not only been disputed, but disproven. Political corporations have been for centuries making it impossible to advance from one class to another. Stuart Ewen titled his essay Chosen People for a reason. Essentially there are those who are chosen to rule, and those chosen to be ruled.
In mid-nineteenth-century America the gap between rich and poor was widening, and the wealth being accrued in factory capitalism was inextricably linked to the impoverishment of those whose labor was being drawn into its sphere of influence. Class position was part of the social relations of power that were emerging. Class identity was not a matter of individual choice, but of the position one inhabits in relation to the forces of production (Ewen 188).
This was true for those who in those times were first class citizens, we should be clear that during this time a vast minority of people in this country were considered second class. People no matter the means of production were excluded from the rights of those whose right to the American dream was being trampled.
Once the American government went to bed with capitalism, the American dream (Social mobility) died:
Those who look beneath the surface of things, with unprejudiced eyes, are painfully conscious that wealth, though year by year still on the increase, goes now into fewer hands; that the results of industry are very unequally divided; that the advantages which machinery and division of labor bring, have been altogether in favor of capital and against labor, and that those evils are dangerously increasing from year to year (Ewen186).
Ewen quoted this from the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor’s annual report published in 1863. If in 1863 people had heeded this report, Americans may have had a chance to change the social construct of what we see today. By not reacting to this report Americans gave up their right to dream and resigned themselves to what amounts to corporate prostitution.