May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Time for a New American Dream (my first +5 /. post )

Here is something I posted on a slashdot poll the other day, which asked, "Who is to blame for the US financial situation?" I was responding to someone who blamed the American Dream. It's the first thing I've ever posted there that got modded to +5:

What we need is for people to start redefining the American dream.

Here's a start:

1. A modest two-bedroom home (house, apartment, or condo) within walking distance of a municipal train line powered by electricity.

2. A home that is energy efficient, and powered by local power off the grid.

3. A job within half-hour's travel from one's home. (Perhaps by electric car/scooter/motorized skateboard, but preferrably by public transport or bicycle.)

4. A grocery store with good produce, and some good restaurants, all within walking distance.

5. And a 30-hour work week.

6. A cute puppy, if you're into that sort of thing.

7. A modest wardrobe of clothes that you really like, with a classic style that matches you, so you don't need to buy into next year.

8. Three or four pairs of good shoes (dress, sports, knockabout, boots).

9. Well-maintained and funded municipal lending libraries and public workshops for tools, so that not everybody needs to own a reciprocating saw and a compound miter saw for those once-a-year projects, or try to set up and maintain their own home recording studio. (If you're super-serious about that avocation, then yes, you have your own private workshop out back, but often, owning and maintaining your own is more of a hassle and a waste of resources.)

10. A clean and safe park within walking distance.

11. An electric guitar or piano or something of your own to cherish, that reflects an authentic manifestation of your true self and your avocation.

12. An internet connection that is as robust as a phone or electrical connection, and secure, and as simple to access as a (70s-style) television.

13. A community, a job, and a government that supports me more and counts on me, but doesn't exploit me.

14. A partner and friends to enjoy life with.

That, to me, is the American dream. I could care less about impressing you that I'm keeping up with the Joneses. I'd rather impress you by being me, and by allowing you to be you.

While I offer that as a hope and as a new vector for us all to pursue, I recognize a few things:

First, it would require a little bit of reengineering our politics, government, and economy, so that we could establish these "sharing" things. It would also require a little bit of backtracking with respect to the draconian pursuit of individual achievement in the USA.

Second, this is not just a dream for the USA. This is something I'd like to see for everyone alive in the world.

Third, we may need to cut that dream back even more, unless we can get our population down a bit further. My list, while much more modest than the old American dream, may still not be sustainable, especially when we consider the trees, the bees, and the orangutans. Read Sustainability by John Cobb for more info on where I'm coming from.

And fourth, this is just my vision of how things ought to be, and I haven't elaborated on many of the complexities of these goals, so please try not to read in arguments against them or support them without spending a little time thinking of what they might mean to you, and what kind of backstory I would add in support of these goals.

lyrics: "Angel flying too close to the ground." -Willie Nelson

chant/prayer/mantra: "Change is coming. Now is my time." From Forty-six and 2, by Tool.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

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