Posts Tagged ‘american dream’

When our Puritan forefathers came to America they dreamed of a “shining city on a hill.”

Their secularized posterity dreams of a shining Porsche parked in the driveway.  But even that dream is fast becoming a dim memory.  The old myth went something like this:

Myth:  Work hard, get good grades, get a college education (preferably engineering, science, or medicine), get a good job and climb the corporate ladder with a stable company.

But today each of us must create his own dream.  The new reality is summarized here by John Van Doren:

American Dream or American Myth?

By John Van Doren

Doing all the Right Things and still Just Getting By?

THE ORIGINS OF THE MYTH
Post WWII US economic dominance courtesy of the “Greatest Generation”.

At the end of WWII, our fathers and grandfathers, what some call the “Greatest Generation”, created a period of unprecedented U.S. economic dominance in the context of the destroyed infrastructures of Europe, and Japan. For a time, the U.S. was to enjoy a global monopoly in trade and technology. The lack of any viable competition in the steel, auto, electronics, and other key industries helped to create an affluent middle class buoyed by strong unions and high paying blue collar manufacturing jobs. In large part, this helped to create the illusion of a mythical America, a shinning beacon of freedom and prosperity that would lead the world to a new promised land. This was a time of strong company/employee loyalty, lifetime employment with a single company, and one income households that could afford new homes in suburbia, new American made cars, and college education’s for their children.

The “myth” that grew out of this time, and what our parents told us was true (and it was for many of them) was to work hard, get good grades, get a college education (preferably engineering, science, or medicine), get a good job and climb the corporate ladder with a stable company. In short, work hard, do the right things and achieve the American Dream. This was the lesson learned from our parents and reinforced in our public schools for a whole generation of “baby boomers” and beyond. It became the proverbial conventional wisdom.

BARBARIANS AT THE GATE

The Rise of Europe and Asia, Globalization, and the Decline of American Economic Dominance

Any corporation (small, medium, or large) always seeks the lowest cost of labor, material, and taxes, and the most lucrative markets for its goods and services. Its loyalty is not to its country of origin but to its shareholders. There is nothing evil or sinister about this, it is just way corporations are structured and the underlying framework for how management is rewarded. In a global economy, initially this lead to the off-shoring of production.

So as the economies of the world began to recover and emerge after WWII, first we saw the loss of blue collar manufacturing jobs either to foreign competition or to off-shoring. Today, televisions and other consumer electronics are made in Asia, American auto parts jobs can be found in Mexico and China, the U.S. steel industry barely survives on tariffs, our textile industry is all but gone, and WalMart, the world’s largest retailer gets 70% of its goods from China.

Our dominance in the auto industry is a thing of the past. Chrysler is now a German company and GM and it’s bankrupt parts spin-off Delphi are on the ropes. As a result, those high paying manufacturing jobs that created the worlds most affluent middle class are all but gone. You might argue that this was just part of a shift in our economy from manufacturing to high technology and that education, reschooling, and the digital age created a whole new class of highly skilled technology or “knowledge” workers.

For a time, that was true and the “myth” held some of its truth. However, in a “digital” global economy, as Thomas Freidman would say, “The world became flat”, and the outsourcing of skilled technical and knowledge based labor to emerging economies with high levels of technical skills and education is accelerating.

This new knowledge based outsourcing includes everything from product development to software programming to the calculation and submission of U.S. individual tax returns. Even R&D once thought to be “safe” as a corporate “core competency” that must be held “in-house” is now commonly outsourced.

For example, major U.S. multinationals such as MicroSoft, Intel, Motorola, General Motors, IBM, Cisco Systems, Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline, and Astrazeneca all have major R&D centers located in India and China. Bottom line, if your job can be done with a phone and computer sitting at home or in a cubicle it can also be done by someone in India or China at a fraction of the cost.

In essence, in a digital global economy the best interests of the corporation are no longer in sync with the best interests of its “country of origin” workforce. This trend and the displacement and stress it will cause will only increase until some kind of global equilibrium and parity of labor costs and capital is attained.

Is this inherently bad? No, in the long run this will make for a healthier more abundant world for everyone. However in the meantime, expect a prolonged period of painful transition.

So where are we today? What is the state of the dream, the operating “myth”? Why are over 50% of American workers dissatisfied with their jobs? Why do 25% of employees report that they are just “showing up to collect a paycheck”. At some level employees sense that they are just pawns in a much larger game.

However, they don’t really understand the dynamics behind the layoffs, outsourcings, mergers, acquisitions, and rapid globalization that together make for significant job churn, stress, and suffering in the workforce. What this looks like for the “dream” today, are two income households without any real job security, high stress lifestyles with no time for family or personal growth, heavy household debt loads, and a general grind of just getting by from paycheck to paycheck.

BUILDING A NEW DREAM – YOUR DREAM

One with a basis in the reality of today’s world – not our fathers and grandfathers world.

I have no ax to grind here, my only point is that the U.S. economic, geopolitical, and social reality has shifted over the last several decades, but “conventional wisdom” about what constitutes a successful life path and career has not kept pace. Opportunity always abounds and the emergence of this new global environment is no exception, but not if you are still wedded to the “myth” of the post war American Dream and remain dependent on and at the mercy of a corporation whose decisions and strategies for survival may leave you with the short straw tomorrow. Sure, you can find another job with another corporation but nothing really changes. You are in the same global environment and just as vulnerable as before.

So what are your options? You’re smart, you have a great work ethic, and you’ve acquired a multitude of valuable skills during your career. One, you have to let go of your father’s dream, you have to step out of the box and build your own dream and not toil for someone else’s dream or some corporation’s “vision”. Let’s face it, the security you felt you had with a “good job” and a “stable company” was just a myth. Two, you have to find a new paradigm for your career and life path, one that puts you in control of your own destiny.

John Van Doren is former turnaround and startup executive in the manufacturing sector. His is currently an author and public speaker and hosts the Sustainable Dwelling blog { http://sunhomedesign.wordpress.com/ } devoted to exploring the concept of sustainability and resilience in a post peak oil world.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Van_Doren

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