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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 3:08 pm 

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I liked both these comments:

dharma_bum wrote:

Quote:
I think the failure in the AD that HST saw was that too often when individuals reinvented themselves and realized the Dream and personal prosperity it became a protective bubble to shield them from the harsh realities of life. I think he saw wealth as disconnecting people and relieving them of their responsibilities as citizens to do good, look beyond themselves from give back to a country and belief system that had rewarded them. HST saw the emptiness of middle class prosperity that brought people to this obscene oasis in the desert to throw their money away when there was poverty, ignorance and injustice all around them
.

SAR wrote:

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But I think it is only that, A DREAM.
I cannot help see horrible downsides to this dream that drives America. Hard work = money. Which I do not think it always true. I see it as translating into a dream of money. And capatalism and private enterprise I find scary. The fact that money can be made from services that the population relies on for basic living. And that the country is not always formed and built in the interests of the people, but rather the interests of private enterprises. I think that is wrong. I think that hard work and belief of opportunity for all is good, but hat I mentioned above is what I see as the faults of the American Dream, or what I think HST saw as the failure of the AD(perhaps).


My thoughts are similar: "The American Dream" refers to the notion that in America, everyone is equal and everyone has just as much opportunity as everyone else to achieve prosperity and freedom--epitomized in a piece of property that's your own and a private domicile where you are free to do what you please--simply by working hard. (Of course, if you believe in this myth, then you need not be troubled with the fact that this country still has a huge underclass that cannot afford the basic things it needs to live: since we are all equal here, and all have equal opportunity, then anyone who doesn't succeed just isn't willing to work hard enough or simply has no interest in bettering themselves.)

In regard to Hunter's choice of Las Vegas as representative of the American Dream's dirty underside: The gambling palaces of Las Vegas are perfect, but partly inverted, emblems of the deceptiveness of the American Dream. Gambling is about the dream of getting rich without working, and therefore is the antithesis of the standard, Puritan American Dream, but the reason folks are tempted to gamble is that the gambling houses offer a myth of equality similar to that of the standard American Dream: supposedly, everyone has the same chance to have luck strike and become a winner. But we really know that the odds are actually enormously stacked in favor of the owners of the casinos, just as in a capitalist society in which everyone supposedly has an equal chance, the odds are enormously stacked in favor of those who are born into prosperity (or who own capital).

I really doubt that people making $12,000 a year can save anything, or even see a doctor when they're sick. But I also must confess that I'm happy to be sitting here at my computer and not having to test my theory!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 3:24 pm 

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Oops, I just realized that I went off so far on my quasi-Marxist rant that I forgot to answer the original question: did Gonzo and Duke find the American Dream? Yes, they found the willful deception at the corrupt heart of the American Dream: we surround our notions of the American Dream in clouds of noble ideas, like equality and opportunity for everyone, and try not to admit to ourselves that at least a part of the American Dream is a secret desire to be above and richer than everyone else. Gonzo and Duke revel in setting themselves up in a hotel room and like kings just calling up room service and having other people, their minions, bring them whatever they want. Duke admits that the red convertible is necessary to finding the American Dream, and knowing that the hitchhiker had never before ridden in one "made me feel like King Farouk." Hunter is exposing the inconsistencies at the heart of the American Dream.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 3:42 pm 
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I guess I am still convinced the "myth" can work - if only people are realistic about what constitutes a "good" life.

I've worked with the "underclass" for many years as a nurse first in Psych/Detox and now in surgery. When I went into nursing, I came from a lower middle class backround. My dad was a "telephone man" for the local telephone company, mom was a housewife. We always had what we needed, and I never considered myself poor, but we didn't have luxuries.

I worked my way through school, with 2 babies while my husband was working as an entry level engineer with same telephone company. (that's where we met) I was full of the notion that the American Dream was alive and kicking in my life. Soon hubby was making a great salary, as was I. We had the cars, nice house, vacations...all the goodies. But it didn't come easy...I was exhausted most of the time while in school, as was hubby. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, although.

As I worked with the psych/detox patients everyday - I saw the underbelly of our community...and amazingly....they came back every month! My righteous 60's liberalism took quite a beating. They were on disability (!) and would drink/snort/shoot-up their checks by the 10th of EVERY month, then come in to detox down to a more affordable habit. Every month. Without fail. They all knew the magic words to say in the ER....I'm suicidal. Bingo..you've got yourself a bed for 72 hours. Gulp.

I do have a point! :eyebrow: It is that these folks (minority and not) had NO INTENTION of ever getting a job. Why should they...they got their hospital care for free, food stamps, welfare (more babies = more money), subsidized housing, etc. etc. etc.

That's the death of The American Dream in my opinion...we need to take a HARD look at the current state of affairs in this country...and I'm a liberal democrat!

I think that's why I'm so defensive regarding the death of the AD according to Hunter...LV had absolutely nothing to do with the real America...a few thousand old folks playing the slots didn't bring down this country. The lack of people willing to take entry level jobs has. My hospital cannot find people willing to work for $8 an hour as kitchen help, or for $10 an hour as housekeeping staff....unless they're illegal. Now that is sad.

What constitutes a good life? A two car garage, big house, eating out every week, cable tv, internet connections....? I guess if that is The American Dream then some are left out. Personally, I believe The American Dream is being self-sufficient, owning your own home, and being able to put food on the table. I guess it's all in your definition.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:04 pm 

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Hi, CarrieKY--thanks for responding to my cynical post; I do respect your views and especially the experience with which you back them up. Pessimistic as I am about the American Dream right now, I'm heartened to hear that it can still work!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:10 pm 
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Endora, thanks for the info and the link. I'll check that out in a while :cool:

Oh dear, we're straying into the dangerous area of politics aren't we, which I guess is unavoidable really when discussing HST and FALILV. Anyway I'm interested in all the insights into other people's views but I don't really want to tackle them head on here, as it's not really the place.

One thing I would throw in though as regards the American Dream. We've said that the idea of equality and freedom etc was a big part of what most immigrants moved to America for, but it just occurred to me that that's not true for your black population. In fact their forefathers found the very opposite in America as slaves. And right up to the 60's they didn't share the equality and freedoms of the white American Dream. It took Martin Luther King to envision a new American Dream, one which included them. Maybe this also relates to the question of an underclass and the welfare question. Certainly the Civil Rights Movement would have been fresh in Hunter's mind in 1971, though interestingly black people don't figure in the book at all.



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:20 pm 
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Good point, sands. I think the American Dream is a bit of an Anglo-Saxon sort of idea but in theory it should include everyone. As much as Martin Luther King was able to bring about change much is left to be done. I think the underclass question does have a lot to do with it although as fansmom pointed out, according the radio program she listened to recently on NPR, the majority of welfare recipients in America are rural and white.

CarrieKY, I think a good life is relevant to where you are and what you are coming from? I agree with you that it is not necessarily about being rich and having all the creature comforts. It is about believing there is something out there that is better. Whether you find out it was all a fallacy or not it is the belief that the dream is real.

srt, you bring us back to the point that the American Dream is different for everyone - perhaps therein lies some of the inconsistency?



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:26 pm 

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Sands wrote:
Oh dear, we're straying into the dangerous area of politics aren't we, which I guess is unavoidable really when discussing HST and FALILV. Anyway I'm interested in all the insights into other people's views but I don't really want to tackle them head on here, as it's not really the place.

One thing I would throw in though as regards the American Dream. We've said that the idea of equality and freedom etc was a big part of what most immigrants moved to America for, but it just occurred to me that that's not true for your black population. In fact their forefathers found the very opposite in America as slaves. And right up to the 60's they didn't share the equality and freedoms of the white American Dream. It took Martin Luther King to envision a new American Dream, one which included them. Maybe this also relates to the question of an underclass and the welfare question. Certainly the Civil Rights Movement would have been fresh in Hunter's mind in 1971, though interestingly black people don't figure in the book at all.


I was thinking the same thing, Sands, on both subjects. As regards the American Dream, we don't like to mention that some dreams were built with slave labor or that some of those little pieces of property on which more modest American Dreams have been built were once occupied by Native Americans driven off their land. But, yes, we are getting dangerously political here. I had almost decided not to post on this subject at all because I knew I'd be in danger of stinking up the place, but-- darn it!--Hunter is totally, unabashedly, straight-for-the-jugular political and it is almost impossible to avoid that! I think so far we are all doing a very nice job of keeping the conversation amicable, and preserving the community here is of the highest priority, and so I will stop while I'm ahead.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:40 pm 
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You all are doing fine. How can one discuss Hunter without wading into politics? As long as we all respect each others viewpoints, which I think everyone here has done a great job with, no worries.



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 4:57 pm 
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Not another word, not one more word. I swear. :chill:


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 6:25 pm 
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CarrieKY wrote:
Not another word, not one more word. I swear. :chill:


:lol: No worries, CarrieKY! :chill:



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:38 pm 
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I think it is great that we are all sharing different view points it gives a real look into the AD, and why it is like it is.

S-R-T wrote:
then you need not be troubled with the fact that this country still has a huge underclass that cannot afford the basic things it needs to live: since we are all equal here, and all have equal opportunity, then anyone who doesn't succeed just isn't willing to work hard enough or simply has no interest in bettering themselves.)

I agree with you there, the dream is built on the idea that everyone has equal opportunities, but I think that is complete rubish. I know there are lots of stories like that, we are pumped full of these cinderella stories, "rags to riches" but I think the reality is completely different.

CarrieKY wrote:
I worked my way through school, with 2 babies while my husband was working as an entry level engineer with same telephone company. (that's where we met) I was full of the notion that the American Dream was alive and kicking in my life. Soon hubby was making a great salary, as was I. We had the cars, nice house, vacations...all the goodies. But it didn't come easy...I was exhausted most of the time while in school, as was hubby. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, although.

I think that is an example of the AD, but I don't believe that that would be true for everyone, for minority groups for people below the poverty line.

CarrieKY wrote:
I do have a point! It is that these folks (minority and not) had NO INTENTION of ever getting a job. Why should they...they got their hospital care for free, food stamps, welfare (more babies = more money), subsidized housing, etc. etc. etc.

But I do not agree with this, I think people who are like this just don't know any better, they are under educated, and if they really were given the same opportunities as everyone else they would not choose a life of addiction and having to depend on welfare to live.

But I do agree things have to change
CarrieKY wrote:
That's the death of The American Dream in my opinion...we need to take a HARD look at the current state of affairs in this country...and I'm a liberal democrat!

If proper systems were inplace to get people out of the poverty cycle there would not be such a problem. But ofcause the would not make money for anyone so... unfortunatly I don't think your going to see that happen anytime soon(cynical I know) But I really hope it can happen, HST had hope.



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:31 pm 
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CarrieKY wrote:
Bix wrote:
CarrieKY, I have to disagree with your statement that the people on welfare in the US have no intention of working hard to better themselves. My sister and I recently have been working with day laborers in our start-up business and - with no exceptions - they are struggling to work several jobs at the ridiculous minimum wage of $5.50/hr or whatever it is. Could you live and raise your family on that? Would you be willing to work two or three jobs at that wage in order to try to get a good life? I just think we really need to look more closely at the UK version of thinking about welfare - and the welfare of our country when we take care of our own who are wanting to contribute and be a part of this "great"? country.


A good point, that I can relate to. My disabled son was just lucky enough to find a job - at $5.50 an hour. I'm thrilled, because a job isn't all about the money you earn; it's also about self esteem. He needs a good dose of that right now.

In regard to living and raising a family on that wage? It would be mighty tough, but it CAN be done!

I'm constantly amazed at what people have decided are the necessities of life...cable TV, computers, internet, fast food...the list goes on and on..... Whoever said those things are necessary to live? You have to cook from scratch, watch local TV (if you can afford a TV!) do without...save your money...then buy those luxuries.

My folks were kids during the depression - we know the value of each dollar earned...use it up, make it last, wear it out or do without...


True, my children and I could exist on my wages alone. I have two part time jobs. Of course there would be more oodles of noodles and we would be living in a shack somewhere since we get food stamps and housing subsidies. I certainly would not be able to afford the better balanced meals and I would not be able to live in the apartment I have. My neighborhood is not the best but it's fairly safe during the day. I doubt that we would be able to afford more than heating in the winter so ac in the summer would be out of the question. But thats not a necessity. They didn't have that in the depression days. Of course there would be no medical insurance for my children- they get coverage now from the state. I have not had medical insurance for myself for the last 4 years. I do get my paps and mamograms through the welfare system though... so that would be gone too.

The reality is, many employers will not allow enough hours for their employees to qualify for medical insurance. My first job falls into this catagory. My second job, I work from home, because although I do qualify for childcare assistance, I do not want my kids raised by strangers. My homebased job depends on a computer... which I found in someone's garbage and had a friend revamp for me. My employer pays for my internet connection. I took my daughter school shopping at the Good Will and bought her fall wardrobe for under $40 dollars...she didn't get anything new this year. We took no vacations this summer, or last summer or the summer before... we did go to the park alot though. We have a 13 year old car that is paid off. I have no college fund for my kids nor retirement funds for myself and I'm 47.

People on welfare do not splurge, they take pride in the jobs they do, they struggle to make ends meet, and we learn how to scramble and scrounge... the vast majority of us are working poor

Let me say this again.... the vast majority of welfare recipients, those who get some kind of assistance from the various state and federal governments, are the working poor. Usually single mothers. It is nearly impossible to receive the traditional cash assistance (which in most states is only about 300 dollars per month maximum) basiclly only the disabled can receive that. The rest of us work and are subsidised by housing, food and energy assistance.

It does not make us rich, it does not make us extravagant, it does not make us lazy... all it means is that we are poor. Which, becuse of the ingrained concepts of THE AMERICAN DREAM, is considered somehow lacking. Shameful. There must be something wrong with those who can't or (we secretly suspect) won't succeed in America, because this is the land of equal opportunity. We all know that deep in our hearts.

By the way, I'm a rural white woman, single mother of 2.

Sorry about my little outburst... but not too sorry.



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:53 pm 
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JD101 wrote:
True, my children and I could exist on my wages alone. I have two part time jobs. Of course there would be more oodles of noodles and we would be living in a shack somewhere since we get food stamps and housing subsidies. I certainly would not be able to afford the better balanced meals and I would not be able to live in the apartment I have. My neighborhood is not the best but it's fairly safe during the day. I doubt that we would be able to afford more than heating in the winter so ac in the summer would be out of the question. But thats not a necessity. They didn't have that in the depression days. Of course there would be no medical insurance for my children- they get coverage now from the state. I have not had medical insurance for myself for the last 4 years. I do get my paps and mamograms through the welfare system though... so that would be gone too.

The reality is, many employers will not allow enough hours for their employees to qualify for medical insurance. My first job falls into this catagory. My second job, I work from home, because although I do qualify for childcare assistance, I do not want my kids raised by strangers. My homebased job depends on a computer... which I found in someone's garbage and had a friend revamp for me. My employer pays for my internet connection. I took my daughter school shopping at the Good Will and bought her fall wardrobe for under $40 dollars...she didn't get anything new this year. We took no vacations this summer, or last summer or the summer before... we did go to the park alot though. We have a 13 year old car that is paid off. I have no college fund for my kids nor retirement funds for myself and I'm 47.

People on welfare do not splurge, they take pride in the jobs they do, they struggle to make ends meet, and we learn how to scramble and scrounge... the vast majority of us are working poor

Let me say this again.... the vast majority of welfare recipients, those who get some kind of assistance from the various state and federal governments, are the working poor. Usually single mothers. It is nearly impossible to receive the traditional cash assistance (which in most states is only about 300 dollars per month maximum) basiclly only the disabled can receive that. The rest of us work and are subsidised by housing, food and energy assistance.

It does not make us rich, it does not make us extravagant, it does not make us lazy... all it means is that we are poor. Which, becuse of the ingrained concepts of THE AMERICAN DREAM, is considered somehow lacking. Shameful. There must be something wrong with those who can't or (we secretly suspect) won't succeed in America, because this is the land of equal opportunity. We all know that deep in our hearts.

By the way, I'm a rural white woman, single mother of 2.

Sorry about my little outburst... but not too sorry.


You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about , JD101. I just wish we had a solution. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I believe that you are on the path to the American Dream - and I don't think it has anything to do with equal opportunity anymore. It just has to do with getting to a better place. With getting where you want to be. And it sounds to me like you and your kids are on the way, thanks to you.



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 12:00 am 
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JD101 and SAR: I fear I have spent far too long with the leeches of society. I have become jaded, and I'm sorry if I offended anyone.

I am currently a single women, living in a small apartment with my physically and mentally disabled son (29) who just started a part-time $5.50 an hour job. My former husband, a paranoid schizophrenic, gambled away everything we owned, including my home. Thankfully, I have a good job, with health benefits, but my son does not. I am struggling to pay his current medical bills.

My examples of the feeling of entitlement that so many people on welfare exhibit is true. They want computers, cable TV, everything that I work very hard for - for nothing. I see them everyday, hear them complain everyday...and when I offer advice to maybe get them employment...you know what their answer is? "Oh, I can't afford to work...I'd lose all my benefits." That's what I'm talking about as the end of the AD...when we pay people so much to stay home that it behooves them not to work. That, my friends, irritates the HELL out of me each day as I drag my arthritic knees into work for another 8 hours on my feet.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 8:36 am 
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I think sometimes it is easy to paint with a broad brush and classify people based on our own experiences and what we see around us. There is a very large class of working poor in our country that are just above what is considered the "poverty" line and there are definitely abuses within the welfare system. Personally, I would like to see more of that money going towards educatioinal opportunities and access to health care. Thanks for sharing your stories JD101 and CarrieKY.



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Wow! What a ride!
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