The current #letsblogoff asks: Is there a reason to be optimistic?
I have heard it said: be personally optimistic and globally pessimistic. I get that. My best life is still ahead of me and my family’s working through these tough times. That makes me personally optimistic.
Global situations strike me as less rosy. In the mid 1970s, Linus Pauling told me and my eager college-mates ten ways people might destroy the planet. Whoa, we were shocked! He started with nuclear weapons. Then I recall over-population, hunger, water, trash – really? Death by waste?
I had never thought like this. It sounded epic. And I took it to heart. From that day forward, I understood the fact that we live in catastrophic times. Disasters seem to occur with increasing frequency.
How to stay optimistic despite constant threats? To me, that’s the heart of it.
What times were worse than the Great Depression? Financial woes at all levels, joblessness, shanty towns, even the weather pitched in with the Dust Bowl. That’s when we invented the idea of the American Dream. We needed a strong dose of optimism.
Actually, the American Dream contains two parts, moral and material. We believe that all men are created equal, our moral thread of egalitarianism. And we believe that anyone can win big, from rags to riches, the Horatio Algiers story. We love the underdog, success through hard work and thrift, the puritan work ethic.
The American Dream embraces opportunity and reshaped America as a nation of hopes and dreams. It is after all, the first country to make “the pursuit of happiness” a constitutional right.
Most importantly, the American Dream seeded the largest middle class in history. After nearly 80 years, it’s essentially a national motto.
Over decades of growth and prosperity, we narrowed the definition to “keeping up with the Jones.” A new home, new car, new tech, trips to Disney World. More things, more consumer debt, boom. The Dream becomes Buy Stuff. No Way.
Now the American Dream has been boiled down into one thing: owning a home.
If you narrow your definition to just one idea, and then it becomes more difficult, the entire idea is destroyed. In other words, the house becomes the dream becomes the country. Lose your house and you lose your sense of identity.
The American Dream is not merely home ownership. That’s a total rip-off. We lose the gist, the heart and soul of it. We are stuck on materialism without the moral thread, the hope and optimism. That’s not the dream, that’s imbalanced, a nightmare.
American Dream ReShaped
Long before the idea of the A.D., Americans deeply understood hope and equality. We had imagination. And we had confidence. I’m not willing to live without those.
So let’s imagine: What do you do with the highest GDP in the world?
You educate everyone, you feed, clothe and house us all, and make damn sure we have health care and are not overloaded with debt. You wipe out poverty, declare a war on crime and make peace with the rest of the world.
More than that, you leave a better place for future generations, a clean and vigorous environment with bright green, livable cities. And invest continually in new ideas, inventions, innovations that improve quality of life and feeds commerce and jobs. That’s the path to long-term prosperity and opportunities.
Our dream needs to emphasize social and environmental goodover materialism and hope over hate and fear. And assume responsibility for our neighbors. We are in this together. Not just in the US, but the global community.
It’s not just an American Dream; it’s a World Dream.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.”
To me, that’s optimism, the belief you can make dreams into reality.
What’s optimism for you? How do you make your dreams become reality?
Here’s some of my favorite people’s thoughts on optimism for #letsblogoff.
Images: Music video: Balance by Aceyalone; House on Milwaukee Apt Finders/Prowess R/E blog; “God Bless America” by Seward Johnson; urban farming on Time Magazine; India children by Vincent Desjardin on Flickr cc; trash by D’arch Norman on Flickr cc.