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When did "American Dream" start to = "excess"?

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Self-publishing is one of the many examples of people using their ambition, ingenuity, creativity, and drive to achieve a personal – and even professional – goal. Self-publishers utilize every creative skill they possess (or, if they don’t have a particular skill, find and pay experts) and spend weeks, months, years on creating, designing, and marketing their work. They become a one-person small business.

So why is self-publishing still, in many circles, one of those phrases that’s said with spite–and not a little bit of spittle?

I have a theory that it has something to do with the shifting understanding of the American Dream.

During an episode of Oprah I watched last year, Oprah said she was grateful. She had been allowed to live the American Dream: she was once poor, and now she’s rich.

She went on to say that the majority of Americans believe they can “have” the American Dream. And then an expert on her show said 85% of these Americans are incorrect – they will NOT achieve the American Dream, because they won’t experience financial wealth.


Then, nor were, I suspect, the first immigrants who came to America – and who were filled with hopes and dreams of a different future – benefiting from the “American Dream” if they didn’t end up living in mansions with six cars in their six-car garages.

They must have cursed their decision to come here when they ended up living in a one-bedroom apartment, instead.

They must have been, like, so disappointed? Maybe even ready to turn right around and go back home to their oppressive countries, where wearing something like a cross could result in the worst kind of persecution. I mean, who cares if you’re allowed to wear a cross if you’re not, like, wearing it while sweating pure pleasure in a ten-person hot tub overlooking the world you’re quite sure you own? What good is having the opportunity to get an education (or express a personal point of view, or pray to your own god or not believe in a god, or start your own business, or get paid a reasonable wage, etc.), if you can’t do it in the hottest, trendiest, $2,000 jeans?

Here’s how I see the progression (for lack of a better word) of the “American Dream”:

American Dream #1: “The Original” (images 1 – 6)

American Dream #2: “Revised” (images 7, 8 )

The American Dream #3: Today (images 9- 14)

The new “American Dream” ideal – dangerously infecting our youth culture – seems to also have infected a portion of the writer community.

In that particular community–the one that steadfastly maintains indie-publishing is for hacks–“success” is not defined by creating, working, learning, striving, and producing something of quality. Rather, “success” is only achieved if the highest tier (traditional publishing) is reached.

Kind of like how you’re only living the “American Dream” if you’re rich.

I don’t know – maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the time has come for something of a re-evaluation.

A reminder that whatever a person’s ultimate goal – be it to have the tannest skin in all the land, the most diamonds in one ring, a taco stand, or just enough money to support a passion (and maybe, someday, be able to afford a silver Mini Cooper S) – it’s not the end result that defines the American Dream, but the opportunity to work toward whatever is desired while living a life of relative freedom.

And if opportunity and freedom is what it’s all about, then I’d say a hell of a lot more than 15% of Americans are actively living the American Dream. It’s probably closer to 100%.

Indie-publishers, while certainly fantasizing about a traditional publisher (the everyday man’s big house and six cars), should be no less respected for their individual efforts and smaller-scale success than should the family down the street running their own bakery with just enough customers to keep it going.

Image sources:

1. pbs.org/rootsinthesand/images/archives/toamerica/workers.jpg
2. peacebuttons.info
3. http://www.newmediamusings.com
4. http://www.participatorystudyseries.com
5. www.worldnetdaily.com
6. http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au
7. http://images.jupiterimages.com
8. http://www.ngcsu.edu
9. http://www.mysimon.com
10. www.xultrasoft.com
11. angie.datavibe.net
12. motorauthority.com
13. minutillo.com
14. www.joe-ks.com

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Still, don't ya kinda wanna

Still, don't ya kinda wanna have a two plane garage?