As citizens of the True North, we’re not fully sure how our friends south of the 49th parallel got the patent on this but the American Dream is an internationally famous concept and we bet you don’t even realize how much it influences your behaviour.
The American Dream is the belief that anyone can obtain great success regardless of where they begin. Rags to riches. You can grow-up and be anything you want. Lately this cultural expectation has lead to a sense of entitlement within North America that got us in trouble, but the foundations of the dream still remain: there is always hope for a better life.
As North Americans (and we feel like we can be a little cheeky here since Matthew is a dual citizen – hence the picture. American friends don’t be upset by it. You fought your way to independence and we talked our way there, but now we’re the best of neighbours), we often grow-up thinking our lives will for the most part improve. The Dream teaches us to hold onto the hope for something more. We’re influenced by it. Even if you have abandoned the Dream because it failed you; you’ve been influenced by that rejection.
In recent years the Dream has come under fire for being the source of false hope rather than the launching pad for endless fortune. We’re disillusioned with our old companion the Dream, but what would happen if it went M.I.A.?
In Central Europe, and especially in Poland, people know the Dream exists somewhere westward, but it does not reside here. It seems that mainstream, traditional culture has accepted that the present state of things may be as good as it gets. Of course we’re painting a broad brush stroke, and we’re not saying that the Dream is good or bad, we’re simply inviting you to think how different your worldview would be if you didn’t see the possibility of personal or societal improvement. If the Dream is the hope of something better despite the odds, how would your thought life, expectations and actions change without it?
Seriously, take a moment to ponder.
Now imagine this concept, or lack of it, is culturally pervasive. As a foreigner in that environment your optimism and belief in change is downgraded from sincere and well-intended to simply the cultural foolishness of a westerner. How do you engage people? In the absence of the hope offered by the Dream, we can offer an enduring hope that comes with a guarantee. This hope has the ability to reshape personal lives and reform culture. Our challenge is putting aside our confidence in the Dream, and allowing ourselves to be motivated by a better kind of hope. That’s the difference between being charitable and being transformative.