Is the American Dream dead or alive? It’s a question that Americans never expected to be wrestling with in the twenty-first century. After all, this was supposed to be the century when our dreams of living in a futuristic society would become a reality. As the tide slowly turned, we entered the Age of Vampires, causing the light to go out in the Shining City on the Hill.
When our science fiction writers imagined us living in a dystopian world, they expected the collapse of society would result from some type of natural disaster, pandemic disease, advanced robots supplanting humans, an alien invasion, overpopulation, food shortages, or repression by a totalitarian government. Never in their wildest imaginings did they foresee it would be a financial disaster brought about by the “selling out” of America that would cripple the nation, leaving it bankrupt and unable to fulfill the promise of the 21st century.
Throughout history, stories abound about vampires feeding on the lifeblood of humans as depicted in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. They often seek out faithful retainers, who will protect them and do their bidding. In literature, these vampires have become symbolic of the aristocrats and oligarchs living off the labor of their tenant farmers and laborers. It is how they sustain themselves. They continually drain the life out of the people, until they rise up in protest and drive them out of town. Oftentimes, it takes a great hero to lead the way and drive a stake right into the heart of these parasites. Because these vampires are immortal, they disappear and reappear at different periods of time.
From time to time, these vampires have been known to dwell among us. Revolutions have been fought and laws instituted to protect citizens from their predatory nature, but to no avail. As explained in my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, one reason why these vampires are able to thrive is because they seek out retainers who hold positions of authority. Oftentimes, these retainers place the interest of the vampires above their constituents that elected them to office. This usually results in the citizenry losing control of their government.
In Interview with the Vampire, Louis is a young plantation owner in the South, who is bitten by the vampire, Lestat. They become immortal companions. Lestat feeds off the plantation slaves belonging to Louis, until they rise up and drive the two monsters out of town. At first, Louis still retains a sense of morality and chooses to feed on animals, rather than on humans. However, Lestat convinces him that he is going against his vampire nature, which forces Louis to come to terms with his true being.
Similarly, we have witnessed the rise of a new breed of vampires, who have colluded with our elected officials to flatten the world to the point where Americans have to compete for jobs with the other 99% of the world. In this way, corporations no longer have to pay a living wage to workers. This imbalance forces the U.S. government to step in and supplement benefits to prevent these workers from slipping below the poverty line. Not surprisingly, their greed has opened the door to the exploitation of American workers by the other 1% of the world.
What is even more insidious is that by outsourcing jobs and moving their companies offshore, these corporate elites no longer feel an obligation to pay their fair share of taxes. They pursue their own self-interest to the detriment of the nation, while still enjoying the privileges and protections offered by the U.S. government abroad. They operate without allegiance to any one nation, while using America as a platform from which to exert their power and influence around the world.
In Wall Street, Bud Fox is a young, ambitious Wall Street stockbroker, who is taken under the wings of his hero, the powerful and ruthless stock speculator, Gordon Gekko, who lives by the motto “greed is good.” One day, Bud shares some insider information about his father’s company that favors Gekko in a buyout deal. When he learns that Gekko plans to raid the employees’ retirement fund and liquidate the company, Bud feels betrayed and turns him over to the authorities, even though it means a prison sentence for himself. Bud returns to the values he learned from his working class family, after discovering who the real “takers” are in society.
Ironically, it was the idealistic young people of America, who were the first to recognize and denounce these shapeshifters. They organized the Occupy Wall Street movement to raise awareness about the growing inequality, shrinking opportunity, and rising Social Darwinism in American society. They could foresee the imminent threat to the nation, with so much wealth being concentrated in just a few hands. As a matter of fact, one need only check the Forbes list of the richest people in the world to realize that it is filled with the names of multibillionaires, with no room left anymore for the multimillionaires.
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens writes about the plight of the French peasants and the atrocities committed against them by the aristocracy during the eighteenth century. It is not until they find the courage to unite and fight their oppressors in the French Revolution that the tide finally turns in their favor. Needless to say, the French Revolution is one of many battles that the oppressed and exploited have had to fight throughout history, to gain their freedom and end the reign of vampires.
The tragedy of our times is that America thrives on dreams, but once people feel hopeless about the future and stop dreaming, or only the 1% can afford to turn their dreams into a reality, then the country is doomed. In fact, we have already gotten a glimpse of the dystopian world these elites have in store for us. While they enjoy record profits, workers’ wages have stagnated. While they pay less in taxes, the middle class pays more. While they harvest the assets of companies for profit, workers end up losing their livelihood. While five billion cell phones are in use around the world, not a single one is made in America.
In the end, we have to decide what will be the new normal in society. If the nation’s creed is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then why are so few people experiencing it? We cannot move forward as a nation, until balance is returned to the system. By restoring the American Dream, we will be returning light to the Shining City on the Hill. By rising up in unison to defeat the vampires, we will be acting as real life heroes and ensuring that good triumphs over evil.