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Monday, September 28, 2015

To Dream To Be

So, I've been mulling.*

If the "American Dream" is to be American (yes, U.S. American), what is essential Americanness?* Grant it for a bit; set aside the "there is no fully shared set of traits and values," and even the "nationalism isn't for me." What do "we"* dream to be?

In my project studying Bollywood wedding films and economics, in a set of massively successful cultural artifacts (movies), "The Indian Dream" is for Indianness. That is, characters, narrative, and aesthetics assert what is true Indianness and work to present it and its achievements as normal, inclusive, and conflict-free. This (irrefutable religion, costume, relationship standard, consumer goal) is Indian; happiness and success for individuals are attainable through pursuing and participating in these cultural things. Not for the sake of the thing (big house, religious ritual, perfect blend of modern and traditional marriage), but for the sake of tangibly settling the ancient concern of what Indian is and being it.

We do this, we humans and particularly socialized beings, in essential need of identity group essentials. Pasquale, Vanier, Sojourner Truth, Krista Tippett. "Real Americans," "be a man," "(in)human monsters."

Yet the dream figure. . . it's not just a plan and a goal, right? Or we'd hear speeches about and raise ourselves to pursue the "American Plan and Goal." It's a dream, a bit of reality heavily funhouse-mirrored through angst and recent consumption (like, in the metaphor, what you ate before you went to bed) and memory. And yet it must be unified, if not uniform.

So what is the dreamy American these days?* 

* Nothing new here, just a little nostalgia for now.
* Oh, it depends on what our definition of "is" is.
* Culture is the stuff that makes us, us; myths are the stories we tell ourselves over and over about ourselves.

1 comment:

Brian Glenney said...

I just gave a talk on a similar question. But I was dumb and posed an answer. I like just the posing here...so true...so un-American. We can only dream