The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. The definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931 says, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
A dream that stands shattered today. Ninety nine percent of the population of the United States has grouped themselves into the underprivileged set that is not a part of this great legacy. They say that only one percent of the population has ended up with all the benefits of the last ten years of economic growth and that it is they who control the wealth of the USA. In fact, this ideology of dividing the nation between the one percent and the 99 percent has entered the vocabulary of journalists, voters and politicians in the presidential election campaigns and is rapidly gaining ground.
What has happened to the American Dream? Does it no longer exist? This dream (so to speak), is all about the pursuit of happiness through wealth and people are not ashamed to admit it. However, one year ago, a rebellion against the wealthy started a protest and called themselves ‘occupy wall street’ (OWS). The main issues they protest against were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the supposed undue influence of corporations on government - particularly from the financial services sector. The OWS slogan, ‘We are the 99%’, addresses the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the US between the wealthiest one percent and the rest of the population.
Joseph E. Stiglitz in his book ‘The Price of Inequality’ says, “Nothing illustrates what has happened more vividly than the plight of today’s 20-year-olds. Instead of starting a new life, fresh with enthusiasm and hype, many of them confront a world of anxiety and fear. Burdened with student loans that they know they will struggle to repay and that would not be reduced even if they were bankrupt, they search for good jobs in a dismal market. If they are lucky enough to get a job, the wages will be a disappointment, often so low that they will have to keep living with their parents.
While 50-something parents worry about their children, they also worry about their future. Will they lose their homes? Will they be forced to retire early? Will their savings, greatly diminished by the Great Recession, carry them through? They know that if they face this hardship, they may not be able to turn to their children for help.
From Washington comes even worse news: Cutbacks in Medicare that will make access by some groups to healthcare unaffordable are widely discussed. Social Security, too, seems to be on the cutting table. As older Americans face their sunset years, the dreams of a comfortable retirement seem a mirage. The dreams of a prosperous, better life for their children maybe antiquated as something out of a 1050s movie.”
So, has America lost the plot? Is it no longer the land of opportunity? For this writer, it is a clear case of the Americans not understanding their brand vision and personality and the key to brand success is understanding the whys to a brand’s existence rather than the hows and whats.
For the past ten years, the people in America were devising methods on how and what to do to increase their wealth and their government in a way supported this. Thus, moving away from the backbone of their economy, which was the main street towards the rather superfluous world of Wall Street?
The pursuit of wealth rather than happiness became the sole objective and thus the subprime mortgages; the housing bubble and even the propagation of uncontrolled globalization came to pass, which eventually worked against them. Today, Americans are screaming to bring their jobs back home, which were lost due to globalization, forgetting that they were the very creators of this system. Globalization was a way of creating opportunity for the West but somehow the formula worked against them!
But getting back to the American brand, it is clear why it has lost its position on the world stage. The Americans do not understand the whys of their existence! Primarily, Americans have lost their collective value on how to do things and their commonly held beliefs are divided in a ratio that is now clearly branded as 99:1. They have surely lost what defines them and they can no longer connect with their brand ethos.
Today, Mit Romney and President Obama are battling for the hearts and minds of their voters and the battle lines are drawn between the rich and the poor, the underprivileged and the privileged, the greedy and the foolish and all hopes in the electorate are for the betterment of their position post elections.
If one recalls the slogan Barack Obama used during his previous campaign ‘change we can’ - the American voter knows that that change did not happen. Things have in fact got worse but the other option, which is a Republican, may not bring much relief to the 99 percent either.
The answer, the majority of the Americans seem to think, still lies with Obama because he is in the lead for now (even marginally). But all this election rhetoric by these two candidates is not in any way healing the wounds of the shattered American Dream.
Primarily, the Americans have lost their collective strategy which is enshrined in their constitution which says ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….”
When 9/11 happened, the entire nation came together to battle a common foe (rightly or wrongly) and create synergies, but as the clock ticked on, this great nation squandered away its opportunity and lost focus of its brand identity and vision. Today, the 9/11 synergy has turned into 99:1 disunity and it is doubtful that whatever change in the leadership will be a redeeming factor.
The need of the hour now is to actually go back to basics and examine their brand identity and the spirit of the Americans as constituted by their forefathers and that this writer believes would be the paradigm shift.