The American Dream: Hyper-Capitalist America
Ideals of capitalism and the American identity are historically intertwined, with the origins of capitalism attracting the support of egalitarians who a) genuinely campaigned for an equal America or b) were opportunists looking for a façade that they were willing to use, as seen in this 1950s film America’s Distribution of Wealth, a form of anti-communist propaganda expressing hate for everything un-American.
“The Miracle of America,” the brainchild of Truman’s government and corporate giants, aimed to further support its capitalist ideals. The campaign was projected on 250 television and radio stations, 7000 billboards, 13 million lines of newspaper and allegedly received 1 billion impressions. They aimed to foster support of capitalism through showcasing global struggle as seen in the Comes The Revolution! leaflet; “If we continue to make that system work then other nations will follow us. If we don’t, then they’ll probably go communist of fascist.”
Millions came to America in search of the “American Dream,” the idea that every citizen has an equal opportunity to be prosperous through work, initiative, and determination. It was not marketed as a guarantee of being a citizen but rather an admonition—it suggested that increased productivity results in economic freedom and ironically, asserts capitalism’s collaborative nature. Dr. MLK Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was deeply rooted within the American Dream, albeit a vision of racial harmony:
“I have a dream that one day on the hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
The American dream was not about the individual but collective wellbeing as seen in Dr. King Jr.’s speech. But at what point does individual ambition end and the collective begin? While the term’s meaning and purpose continue to change, can it continue to be used to further the capitalist agenda?