As we all know, the media propaganda in America is that our country is a land of freedom and opportunity where anyone can be what they want to be, live their dreams, be the best they can be, become rich and successful, and live the American dream of owning a home. This idea is incessantly conveyed by our culture, media, education system, and political establishment. It is a necessary illusion to keep everyone functioning in their place. And we are constantly fed success stories of individuals who thrive here.
However, despite the ideals of this image, here’s the big picture about how things work in America and how people live. The reality is that in America, only a few people truly live the American dream. Those at the top who control the flow of economic resources and production capital (in socialist philosophy terms, they are referred to as the haute bourgeoisie class) are also the ones who get most of the resource flow even though they don’t need it. And it’s not just with the CEO’s. The top sports players and top Hollywood stars in this country who get 20 million dollars per film or per season are easily getting extraordinary amounts of money that they don’t even need. That’s how things have always worked, especially in a capitalist country. Karl Marxs prediction that capitalism would fail might have came true if a middle class hadn’t been created in this country to act as a buffer zone between the high and low classes, giving the low class an incentive to move up to something higher so that they won’t overthrow those in power. (Some intellectual historians have even argued that colleges and universities were created to create a middle class. e.g. Zinn, Chomsky)
In reality, the majority of people in this country live in slavery to their jobs just so they can keep up with never-ending bills and make ends meet. They never live the American dream. And the myth of individual freedom for all in America is just that, a myth, perpetuated to appease and motivate the masses of people, making each person feel important. Most people in America work at least 8 hours a day at a full time job, and what little time is left at the end of the day is spent at home with their families, making dinner, getting children ready for bed, and then going to bed to start the next day the same way again. There isn’t really enough time for people to develop themselves intellectually or spiritually. And thats why mainstream Americans do not seem as evolved or enlightened as mainstream Europeans for example, to put it bluntly (no offense to anyone intended). Europeans in general obviously have a lot more soul and intellect than average Americans, particularly among the young population.
In fact, here is what the typical life of the typical married stable man in America is like, as I would describe it:
The ideal life of the typical married stable American man:
He has a wife, some kids, a mortgaged house, two cars or SUVs, many bills to pay, and a stable job to support all of it. Each morning, he and his wife get up, get the kids ready for school, make coffee, and then they both go to work (or at least he does). After a 8-9 hour workday, he comes home and tries to relax in front of the TV, but often has very little time to do so, because he might have to help make dinner, talk to his wife and kids (which usually consists of clicheish pep talk around the dinner table), help do household chores, help the kids with their homework, get the kids ready for bed, and then go to bed himself, often still exhausted. The next day, the same routine simply starts all over again.
On weekends, he gets a little more freedom, but not by much. Instead, he has to spend a large part of the weekend catching up on household chores, cleaning the house, or doing yard work. If he can manage to do a family outing, it is often too stressful to enjoy. Not only does he have to constantly watch and discipline the kids from getting out of hand, but he has to think about his budget for the family outing, driving and planning where to go, humoring the kids, lecturing them and giving them clicheish pep talk, making sure his wife is pleased with the outing too, and making sure they get back home in time before the kids bedtime. Thats why these family outings are usually exhausting and more stressful than fun.
Sometimes, he and his wife also go out to social events sponsored by schools, companies, churches or the community. But even then, these events tend to be rigid, routine, dull and clicheish. In addition, around the people at these events, he puts on a contrived pleasant face to be polite, regardless of whether he likes them or not, and others at the events do the same to him as well. People at these events dont deeply enjoy them. Instead, they simply pretend to. Deep down, they know it is just a light distraction from the routine monotony of their daily lives.
In the background of all this are the constant pressures and demands of the bills he has to keep up with as well as the savings he has to allocate. He has to deal with the big house mortgage payments, utility bills, taxes, car insurance payments, medical insurance bills (unless his company pays all or most of it), food and gas expenditures, credit card bills, entertainment/luxury item expenditures, the needs and wants of his kids and wife, etc. In addition to all this, he has to also try to save up some money for his retirement or his kids college fund.
Each day that goes by, each week, each month, each year, etc. is pretty much like the above. Thats life for him. Eventually, he may start asking himself Is this what life is all about? Is this all there is? Then he may start feeling like a robot leading a mechanized life with no freedom. Not only is he a slave to his company, but he is a slave to his wife, kids, house, cars and bills as well. Sadly he learns that there is no true freedom in all this. Not only is this life routine and stressful, but mind-numbing as well. Eventually, he may start to long for the life he had before when he was single and could do whatever he wanted without his current stresses that enslave him. He may long for the time when he was young and single and could choose from many paths in life without anyone tying him down, as well as his freedom to pursue sexual or love conquests with new and exciting women. He may still love his wife and have affection for her, but the romance and passion may be long gone, and they stay together simply for financial commitments and for the sake of the kids. In fact, he may even start to envy the life of the traveling backpackers to overseas countries who, although are poor and on a budget, nevertheless live a life of adventure and mind-expanding freedom.
To cope with this mind numbing routine and stress, he may find ways to distract himself. He may seek acceptable forms of escape such as becoming a sports fan and watching football, baseball, or basketball. These spectator sports provide a temporary distraction from his inner emptiness. Or he may develop other hobbies such as reading, or becoming a handyman on cars and houses (like Tim Allen does on the sitcom Home Improvement). And of course, he must constantly convince himself that his life has meaning because he is doing what God and his country told him he is supposed to do by raising a family, and that it is all for the good of his kids and wife who are depending on him. No matter how dull, stressful, or mind numbing his life is, thats what he has got to tell himself every day in order to tolerate and endure his conditions.
The above is a sad grim picture but this is the case with many American males, and this is all underreported by our media of course. Some may find this routine lifestyle comfortable, but others loathe it because they realize that their minds and souls will never be expanded by it, but instead contracted into robotic conformity without freedom.
Nevertheless, Americans generally live mind-numbing lives in mind-numbing environments (especially in suburban America) that do not cultivate intellectual or spiritual growth. Contrary to the US propaganda about itself, in reality the American lifestyle for the most part is MIND-NUMBING and ISOLATING. All most people pretty much do is go to work and watch TV at home. They have few real interests. So much for the American lifestyle. There arent many experiences or interactions to expand your mind and soul like there are in other countries. As a result, for people like me who seek to expand their mind and soul, the American lifestyle constantly SUFFOCATES us. Its conformist culture CONTRACTS ones mind and soul rather than EXPANDS it (hence those who feel suffocated by this contraction do not feel free to be themselves in America). The reason is because America is a generally stable and conformist-oriented country. Its economic system is dependent on people who rigidly conform to it. It is the kind of country where those who cant conform and/or are misfits are deprived of almost everything, while those who conform well are rewarded. And differences are treated and seen as taboo (despite our propaganda) rather than as attractive or interesting.
In order to keep them motivated with these conditions, people in the US escape into TV at the end of their days. They are encouraged to go to church (as black slave owners in the 19th century also encouraged their slaves to go to church, using religion to give them something to live for and feel content in their position so they wouldn’t rebel), read self-help/New Age books, go out and buy material things (sometimes on credit) that give them a temporary fleeting sense of satisfaction, indulge in junk food, and are given daily network media entertainment in the form of television shows that are complete trash in quality and substance. These are all ways that our society distracts and stimulates the majority of people so they can maintain their meager existence in a mind-numbing consumerist society, and serve the interests of those at the top. Many people in the country feel empty, and seek distractions in shallow stimulation because they don’t know what else to do. Some don’t even realize that they feel empty, because they just get keep busy distracting themselves with something. And plus, you aren’t supposed to feel empty if you have a job, house, and family, which represent the ideal life. Nevertheless, many in the US live a thin line from becoming depressed or mentally ill. Now, I dont blame the American people themselves for this. It isnt their fault, but rather the system they live under. Like everyone else, they are just trying to make the best out of their circumstances according to the system set in place.
As a consequence, people who thrive on the intellect or soul often struggle and feel alienated in mainstream America, because the lifestyle, environment and conditions dont cultivate such things. Instead, they cultivate a staunch conformist and materialistic consumerist mentality. Just look at the general architecture in America such as suburban homes, strip malls, corporate buildings, franchise stores, etc. and you will see that it all symbolizes and represents a conformist creed and mentality. America in comparison to other countries seriously lacks both culture and soul. Its all about materialism and conformity. Most peoples primary interest is money and business, and their youths are wasted slaving away for the production capital owners just so they can retire in their 50s or 60s. And the school system in America is designed to prepare children to become dollar commodities, rather than helping them grow as human beings at all. And thats because in America, people are judged by their productivity to the economic system.
These things are well known to many foreigners. For example, a Russian girl from Moscow had this to say about the USA:
To be honest i don’t like usa at all, i can move there but only if it is strongly needed (if i fall for an american). Many of my friends was there(with families or for student exchange Work&travel usa) and say something similar to: “they have no culture, but the money… money and nothing more is interesting for them”, Doesnt sound inspiring..
In addition, an Ukrainian American lady on my email list had this to say as well:
There are many things that can be said about main stream American culture (or non-culture, I should say), but the bottom line is that it is a paper plate consumer focused culture … All things are judged in value according to their “use” or productivity, and then thrown aside when they are used up or no longer producing … Usually, the corporations decide what is to be valued, and the people, with blind faith and obedience, look to the corporate conglomerates’ commercials and their commercial sponsored media for the answers to everything …
There are no parents in America; there are only property owners. There are no children, spouses, partners, friends, or lovers; there is only property. Americans don’t really have freedom or independence; they have dependence and bondage to their cars and other properties.
Also, back when I was in college, a fellow student from Greece that I was friends with used to tell me: Americans have no inner life. All they do is consume, consume. He had a good point. Our consumerist-oriented society constantly focuses on material desires and perpetuates our pursuit of them, our general focus becomes on the outward rather than the inward. As a result, we lose touch with our inner selves, have no true self-confidence/self-esteem, and therefore have fragile egos that get insulted or offended easily. Thats why Americans seem to feign outward happiness, rather than have true inward happiness, due to our societys focus on outer material desires. Ive heard it said that there seems to be an inverse relationship between inner happiness and material assets. In fact, according to studies, the country rated with the happiest people in the world is Nigeria, which is a poor country by materialistic standards.
Perceptions like the above are a lot more common than you might think. Ive heard many such views from Europeans. And Id estimate that about 80 to 90 percent of Europeans feel that way about our lifestyle. Now, America may be a country founded on great ideals and principles about democracy and freedom. However, the way people actually live in America is quite different. Most people spend most of their time in cars, houses, and corporate buildings. They have no time or interest in cultivating their soul or intellect. And the few who do cultivate their souls or intellect are seen as weird and nonconformist by the majority.
In America, CONFORMITY is the bottom line. It is at the true root of its culture. Not freedom or individualism, but conformity. The materialistic system in America from every angle pretty much PRESSURES and DEMANDS us all into CONFORMITY. Whether its conformity to your school, workplace, team, peers, friends, etc. the fundamental underlying principle in American life, business and politics is conform, conform, conform! Otherwise, you feel in danger of feeling unaccepted and inadequate, as if youre not a complete person, which is what most people fear. If you look at the big picture of how things are in America and the lifestyle of mainstream people, you will see how the principle of CONFORMITY is at the root core of almost everything we do. And you will see that individual freedom and self-expression is just hyped garbage that has nothing to do with how things run here. There is very little room or reward for true creativity or self-expression in America. As a consequence, the environment and social conditions we live under in America force you to adopt a conformist mentality, rather than a creative one. There are at least several reasons for this. One, America is one of those countries where people dont generally like those who are different than them (though politically, they pretend to). Two, pragmatically, an individual alone does not have the resources or power to really do anything, even to survive. Instead, the individual must join and CONFORM to some type of COLLECTIVE body, organization, or group with such resources that will support him/her in order to function or achieve anything.
One of the places where this is the most true is in corporate America, where conformity is the bottom line. Within corporate America, you can easily sense and smell the vibes and energy all around that spell conformity, conformity, conformity. Theres no question about it. Unfortunately, those who cant conform or dont know how to, are too individualistic or expressive, are not considered a good fit and consequently thrown out to become losers with no income. In fact, its usually true that those who are able to conform their wavelengths and lifestyle to an organization or corporation have a much easier time financially and making ends meet, while those who have problems conforming usually have constant financial problems and face a constant uphill battle to make ends meet. Therefore, that more than anything means that those who conform are rewarded while those who dont are punished in America. Thats why I say that America is all about conformity. And thats why our public schools try their best to make students conform to their system, even if it goes against the kids nature. Its simply for their own good.
In fact, conformity is even more important than honesty. And contrary to the old adage, honesty has never been the best policy. In fact, more often than not honesty gets you into trouble and is used against you. But conformity gets you much farther. What this means is that being yourself can get you into trouble, but pretending to conform gets you accepted. That is a very sad state of affairs.
Even my own dad, who has always led a very stable life, admitted that I was right about this. In an email, he wrote:
I totally agree with this. Conformity is the key to success and accepted in the society, not the right or wrong issue, not so much about be yourself, or unnecessary honest.
In addition, even after conforming, in order to keep your job, you pretty much have to center your life around it and make its needs your top priority. The reason is pragmatically obvious. If you dont live and breathe your work and center your life around it, your company will simply replace you with someone who IS willing to do that. Its as simple as that. In order to compete, thrive, and expand in the American economy, the company has to have employees who are willing to live and breathe their job. And in order to insure your long term economic stability, youve got to place your companys needs above yours. In effect, you are forced to be a servant for your own good. Thats how it is.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that in America, people judge their lives by their career status. On the other hand, Europeans judge their lives by the richness and variety of experiences theyve had. (I tend to share the mentality of the latter of course.) In much of Europe, in work situations you get 2 hour lunch breaks, many jobs end around 4pm, and you get a LOT more time off throughout the year. Health insurance is also free there. In the Middle East, I’ve heard that you would almost have to commit a felon to be fired (in contrast to how American companies fire people easily for any reason, often just for bad chemistry with the management). And even if you didn’t show up for work, all they would do is dock your pay. You can come back later and have your job back. America has way too much of a career oriented mentality. Those type of values may have helped make America rich economically, but they’ve degraded the population’s soul, including their quality of life, and their spiritual and intellectual development.
One comment from a reader of an earlier version of this article, summed up life in America in a nutshell:
Interesting to read your writing on America….after 20 years living on the US, I gradually have come to a similar conclusion. Now I tend to see US as an extremely luxury prison, and experience life here as a shell, hollow with little content except if your life is all about making money or being fully committed to a career…
Now, I dont mean to over-generalize here. I know that America is a diverse place, but in the big picture of things, that is how it is. And to make things worse, most people in America dont like people who are different than them which fosters the need to conform even further. Perhaps the conformist mentality we are forced to adopt in America contributes to a general dislike of what is different? Who knows. But its especially true in California where I grew up. There, even among the diverse populations of minorities (whites are now a minority there, by the way), most people prefer to affiliate and date only within their own race, making it one of the most racist places in the world socially speaking (though not politically speaking of course).
On a related point, the few who thrive in this system are given all the praise and glory, whereas those who don’t thrive in these conditions are PERSECUTED, directly and indirectly, in many ways. They are made to feel inadequate, since they are compared to others who thrive, and deprived of resources and social status. They are also told either directly or indirectly that there is something wrong with them. It’s an unfair ungodly punishment on those who don’t thrive or fit in or find a niche in our society. This constant psychological pressure is what makes our egos in America so fragile since we are constantly compared with others, forcing us to compete with them in order to prove our worth rather than accepting and loving ourselves as we are. That is one of the unacknowledged costs of capitalism despite the benefits. In capitalism, there are only winners and losers. Its an inherent part of the system. And as already discussed, the second contributor to our fragile egos is our dominant focus on outer material wants, which causes us to lose touch with our inner selves which might otherwise have given us a rock solid inner confidence under our egos. This combined with our individualistic isolationist values make it even worse, causing mental illness, loneliness, and many to be dysfunctional. Our economic system and culture is Darwinistic in nature. Those who thrive are rewarded, while those who don’t are unfairly punished and/or persecuted, and not because they did anything wrong. Many artists and creative people, unfortunately, fall into this latter category.
In fact, I think that nowhere else in the world are people who don’t fit in are stripped of ego and self-worth the way they are here (by society and culture, not by the government). It’s no wonder that we have the highest rate of mental illness in this country, and that most of the serial killers in the world are from America too. Do you think thats due to pure random coincidence? I dont think so. Its due in part, simply because no one country or economic system brings out the best in everyone. Contrary to what American propagandists say about our country being the ideal land where all people have a better life and can make their dreams come true, the reality is that America brings out the worst in some people. Its just a fact of life and a fact of nature.
Competition is the basis of our culture and economy, and therefore becomes our mentality as well. This means that people either have money, or they are striving to be better than everyone else. This competitive mentality eventually leads us to become more “stuck up” toward others than we would otherwise be. We evaluate others in terms of their worth, and compare ourselves to them. This creates a rivalry mentality that leads fellow human beings in our country to see each other as opponents or adversaries. And sadly enough, having a lot of money and material possessions changes your attitude toward others, making you more spoiled and “stuck up”.
On the other hand, countries like Europe/Russia are accustomed to a more socialistic system that is less individualistic and competitive in nature. Therefore, people’s mentality and attitude are going to be different obviously. In poor countries, people don’t have as much money and material possessions, so therefore they are not so spoiled and “stuck up” as people in capitalist countries. What they lack in material assets, they make up for in personality and soulfulness. It’s a simple trade-off here. In the US, it’s vice versa of course. Therefore, it is not realistic to expect them to be the same as us (and thank goodness for that). And that’s one reason why people in general in Europe/Russia are more open and friendly. Therefore, the major factor in why European/Russian women are so much friendlier and open has to do with the economic/social system they live under and the mentality it produces, and not because they are desperate to leave their country.
Let’s face the dreaded politically incorrect reality here. In America, everything is all about MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. It’s always the bottom line, no matter how you try to sweet talk around it or look at things through rose colored glasses. Now I’m not saying it’s all everyone thinks about, nor am I saying that it’s all that is important either. What I am saying is that it pretty much CONTROLS, RUNS, and GOVERNS everything that functions, runs, operates, etc. in life and society. Not that it should be that way of course, but that’s how it is. The power of the almighty dollar rules in our society. Now, deep down in our SOULS, we know that it SHOULDN’T be that way. And in our spirits, we know that God did not intend for life to be all about money. But the problem is, that’s how things really ARE right now. That’s how things are set up to run and operate in this world. It’s part of a global large scale system that no one can do anything about, and everyone has to conform to. So we have to live and deal with it. Therefore, we have no choice but to conform to it in order to live, function, pay bills, feed our families, have free time, do what we want to do, and retire someday.
Clearly, America’s culture, lifestyle, values, and mentality are almost completely materialistic in nature. The country is almost completely controlled and run by industries of mass consumerism. These aggregate industrial powers in America control everything; capital, resources, jobs, politics, your lifestyle, your freedom, your values, your culture, etc. in more ways than you know. Their power, control, and influence are completely insurmountable. They’re here to stay, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. In most cases, the US no longer has to use military power to conquer other nations. It can just control them economically in a variety of ways to get what they want out of them, using propaganda for excuses to do so. As a result, the other countries of the world, in order to compete, are also forced to adopt more materialistic values and consumer-driven systems as well. (Already, much of Asia has fallen into a highly materialistic-driven lifestyle and mentality, e.g. Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, etc. while Europe, Europe/Russia, South America, and Africa generally still have very soul-driven, cultured and family-oriented mentalities and lifestyles, fortunately.)
Therefore, we can conclude that the US has led and made the world much more materialistic minded than it once was. That’s one of the reasons why so many foreigners and intellectuals dislike or are critical of America, which our media never ever talks about. Our media NEVER broadcasts any counter-culture viewpoints, ever, but only viewpoints which are conventional, clicheish, politically correct, and that reflect a materialistic mentality (it would probably be over the typical media puppet’s head and intellect to do so anyway). Therefore, there is almost no diversity of viewpoint broadcast in our media, contrary to the diversity that exists in real life. Some think that is a good thing of course, with all the technological improvements and comforts that capitalism has brought. However, in my travels and experience with people, materialistic people are just not as evolved, interesting, happy, or pleasant to be around as non-materialistic people. And dont think Im alone either, a lot of people Ive met have similar observations. Also, having a strong materialistic lifestyle and outlook is the antithesis to the soul and intellect. Furthermore, what is the point of slaving away your whole life just so you can have freedom in your retirement age? The precious years of youth are wasted in such conditions. It makes no sense, and almost no one in retrospect is glad they did so. These issues are subjective of course, but that’s my opinion on it.
Now the thing is, most of the rest of the world outside of America is still not as materialistic minded as we are. Most other countries do not see career and money as the ultimate aim and aspiration of existence like we do. They simply don’t have to! In many countries, people’s mentalities are focused around culture and family solidarity. However, due to America’s economic influence, expansion, imperialism, etc. over the world, and the tendency of US foreign policy to try to convert the rest of the world to become like us (under the name of democracy and freedom), the rest of the world is fast becoming like us (not that they should anyway). (For some reason, our foreign policy makers and propagandists think that we are the role model for the rest of the world to copy and emulate.) Hence, the rest of the world is fast becoming consumption driven, materialistic minded, and capitalist in structure. Eventually, people in other countries will also be forced to center their existence around money and career too. They will have no choice. And it will be all in the name of “progress”. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s what the mechanized impersonal capitalist systems that control the flow of all resources and capital is turning the world into. Just look at how things have developed in the world over the past century, and you will see how obvious this all is.
Now, on a deeper note, I happen to believe in karma, and also in the Greek and Chinese saying that “everything should be in moderation”. Therefore, I feel that extreme things when prolonged, eventually collapse and result in a major toppling shift at some point. This means that our extreme “life is all about money” principle is too unnatural to sustain forever, and that at some point eventually, there will be a radical reformation or revolution of the status quo of some sort, whether karmic or pragmatic in nature. In other words, the imbalance of all this prolonged must inevitably cause some sort of upsurge of the status quo, whether mentally, spiritually, or economically. The system we have is just too unnatural and imbalanced to sustain forever in my view. I am not trying to make any specific prophecies here, just my general observation on the big picture of things.