Jul 5, 2010

My American Journey. Summer 2010. A Travel Diary - Is the American Dream Dead? Pros and Cons

United States of America, a land of prosper and opportunity where individuals are entitled to undeniable freedoms. American culture has propagated itself via Hollywood and popular media far outside its geographic boundaries and has established itself as a brand of quality and appeal quite well. On the whole, it has a glamorous exterior, but underneath all the glitter there are many faults, accumulation of negatives and ugly trends, that work on the background, aside from the spot light, unspoken aloud and suppressed.

The biggest downturn of this great country is its economic system (apart from its militaristic political views), that is made to serve the interests of large corporations. Corporations that fund the health care system, mortgage plans, political activities and et cetera. It is not without a reason that the US government has such warm relations with corporations, even when they turn against the people whom it is supposed to serve. Corporations fund a lot of the political life in USA and they get lobbyism in return. The government turns a blind eye to the fishy workings and policies of corporations and gets financial support in return.
American people are taught from an early age to believe that they are free, so much freer than all other peoples in this world that they are obliged to feel proud being Americans, so proud that they even feel themselves somewhat above all other nations. They have their Liberty and undeniable rights, along with a vast military force that can stand behind America's opinion should disagreement arise. Propaganda is so strong and the economic system so elusive, that even being in debt to the rest of their lives, Americans still think they are free. Of course, people in the rest of the world also take loans from banks and have debts, but the problem here is that being in debt is somewhat a part of the culture. People spend more than they actually make via credit cards and this is an integral part of American lifestyle and one of its core problems, that creates financial recessions and things like that.

Having a debit card here is rather awkward. And the interests and fees of credits are just undefinable, always subject to change and alteration. And in the end, good fortune forbid, should a person finds him/herself unable to follow up with their credits and loans, then they realize how abstract their rights and freedoms are and that corporations do not owe to serve people's interests, but they simply want to suck on people's money and nothing more nor less than that. If you fail to fall in the "eligibility" category you simply get denied a health care coverage, no matter how bad one may need it. Yes, I am saying this with Michael Moore's "Sicko" in mind. Of course there are some free social and health-care services in USA after all, like clinics and shelters, it is not all that grim. And if you can't pay your debts you are free to officially go bankrupt. There are a lot of lawyer firms here who offer their services to help people get debt relief by guiding them through the legal procedures of declaring a personal bankruptcy, not for free of course. So, personal bankruptcy is a kind allowance for people to get bailed out of their debts, however the side effects are very bad credit history, which is like becoming a social system outcast here in USA, that is, can't get credits and loans, which are pretty much essential to the average American. Though, there are yet other complaisant establishments that provide small credit amounts of one to two thousand dollar even to those unfortunate enough to have a bad credit history. The secret catch, I presume, are extreme interest rates for these generous services.
Unlike the corporate-level bailing out, where the bankrupt corporation gets relieved from its debts and gets saved, the personal bankruptcy is more like getting killed for the next seven years. Sometimes one may think that corporations have more freedoms and rights than individuals. The legal part of the banking system is not less amusing. Being in debt is not really a crime it turns out and residing illegally (thus not paying state and federal taxes, anatema) is far more serious criminal offense than merely having an unpaid debt to a bank. Of course, you don't want to have an unpaid debt to a bank, because then other mechanisms of the System switch on and a person gets reported to a centralized agency, who begins to monitor your financial activity and can bar you from having any contact with the banking system of USA at all for the next five years of your existence. And banks, being such pleasant and relaxing locations to spend your time at are not really something one would want not to have access to. I mean, you can always read a book or drink your coffee there, almost like a library with the main difference that you can't withdraw funds from your local library, restricted to knowledge only. So, there are no debtor prisons in USA and this is a good thing, otherwise the government would have had to spend a lot of money on keeping people there, it is much cheaper this way, not to mention the waste of workforce spending time in debtor prisons. Better leave prisons for the real criminals, the psychos, drug dealers and the like, the more intellectually deprived part of society that is.

So, anyway, money is such a strange thing. Very strange. Just some numbers on a paper that go through the System in binary form from procedure to procedure, processing and at the end pop out of the bank in, well, a more sophisticated paper form. So cool, so weird. Thank God for banks, so handy social institutions, helping people in need when they need it. Hermes bless all bankers, lol. Economy is such a strange thing, so fine, so complex, so precarious, I have never thought so much about it. And this is also strange, so materialistic, what is up with me?! Growing up is so ugly, such a banal thing.

America, overall, is a good place to be a banker, a merchant or working in the entertainment industry. Also a lawyer and psychologist, and, of course, a preacher. Preachers here make a good profit out of the American consumerism used to consuming without inputting much sense.

They have developed and established this commercial, consumer-oriented culture very neatly and have thus created a very favorable environment for businesses and trading ventures. Even though consumers get treated like mindless zombies at times. USA seems like a fertile ground for businesses, but not good to be the average worker. This is never good enough, coming to think about it. Maybe I think too much, passively. But that again, I can't say that money are my goal, nor what I really want. I do need it, but is not my goal, is not what I want to strive for, it should be just a consequence.
Money is a consequence when you work, for instance, showing up clearly in your paycheck, lol, but was it really money that you worked for or was it the work itself that gave you satisfaction in the end?! Ponder that for a while. Do artists create for money, or for fame, or for art itself?! Do politicians embark on their careers for money or because of their desire to bring change, to contribute to a betterment of society and, if possible, to the world!? Do preachers preach for money or for the joy of assuming authority over people, having official license to bring forth the word of the Divine itself to the ignorant masses?! Ahh, the old days of traveling hermit preachers are long over as well, as is free traveling around the world.

American culture is a peculiar thing. The pharmacies incorporate a grocery or super market elements only that they don't sell breads, for instance. I was perplexed to see that they sell cigarettes in the pharmacies as well, which seemed strange to me. In my country you go to the local grocery or coffee shop to buy cigarettes, not in the pharmacy, lol. You go to the pharmacy when you want to, say, stop smoking. Here they have fused these both, whether you want to smoke or stop smoking you go to the same place, it is less confusing this way, I guess. Also, I have heard about this, but now I confirmed it first hand, cigarettes here lit off when you don't smoke them, rather than burn up. Weird, I guess this is another convenience for the people.

Specialized fitness, herbal and smart food store chains are very popular here too, which is something I really enjoy. Even in the small grocery shops you can buy Muscle milk, protein bars and energy goodies like that. Some super markets and pharmacies have incorporated self-checking via automated procedure with specialized hardware and software, which renders the staff obsolete. I can imagine how uncertain they must feel scanning customers' items next to the self-checking points and seeing more and more people lining at the machines, rather than to the cashiers. This is not a bad thing, though I am wondering what all these people in the world will do when automation takes over peoples' work more and more, since the growth of the world population is a steady and progressive trend. At this pace, after 50 years humanity will be about 15-18 billion. Crazy. So many people breathing, talking about global warming, lol.

The future is an uncertain thing, it exists only in potential until manifested in the Present, so the trends today may as well turn out very differently. Depends on the amount of conscious planning humans input in their activities, something that we haven't done a lot in our past up until today. Life is a strange thing, I am constantly amazed by it in all of its various aspects. My life, well, it has been quite an interesting trip so far, with all of its positives and negatives, the learning, the knowledge, the realizations. So very interesting, but still so uncertain and somewhat undefined for the future ahead. Seems like an impenetrable fog of potential that can take just about any shape or none at all. Feeling like a free electron in search of the right nuclei to stick to and form an atom. Then we can find other atoms to form molecules together and in the end we may make ourselves a whole cosmic body with a lot of mass, LoL. There is so much symbolism in nature and the world around us, that sometimes makes you wonder how come everything resonates so well with our minds. So well, too well even. Maybe our entire perception of reality is based solely on the limitations of our senses, so that we can perceive it only in this narrow band evolution allowed us. Who knows what else is out there, intangible and completely undetectable for us, as good as non-existent.

The quick personal update is that I am acting irresponsibly right now, it is fun and playful and I really hope I don't get into trouble. Yes, I know that hope is mostly deprived of reason, but I don't really know what to do now. These two months here were completely twisted, that's one thing I can say for sure. I have a new roommate, by the way, a pretty cool and matured for her age girl from Brazil, we may move out together. Unless, of course, things develop completely otherwise. Not sure. Don't know. Will update on that soon. I am still fond of Michael, or more like the image of him I have created in my imagination. Just can't get him out of my mind. At times, when I think about him I get so hot, I feel burning love within, so strong. I am not sure if this is a good thing either, though amazing, so intoxicating. The last time I felt like this was a few days ago, just like that, he gets in my mind kind of suddenly, I begin *thinking* about him and these emotions just kick in, love and passion. Imagination is a powerful thing. I don't know if I will be able to sleep tonight as well, it is so hot for the past few days, especially yesterday. I was unable to fall asleep from this heat at all, this room, this house is just not right, when it's hot it gets extremely hot inside, when it was cold, it was really cold. I wonder what kind of materials have been used for its making, apart from cardboard. And I guess it has a pretty ridiculous price at the real estate market too. That is why houses should be made from brick, it keeps cool when hot and warm when cold. Ok, that was quick, now see a few interesting inscriptions around New York below and then write a poem, after that you can do something of your choosing! ;)


Anonymous said...

It takes all kinds to make a world.............................................................

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