One of the great, abiding myths of our times is the enduring fable of the American Dream.
So what is the American Dream?
The American Dream postulates that no matter your origins or social class, there are no limits to how high you can soar if you set your sights high and work hard in America.
Alas, that’s one of the great lies of our era.
Goebbels would be proud.
With rare exceptions, the American Dream of reaching the glorious rainbow of riches and fame at the end of the journey is stillborn for the majority of less fortunate Americans, more fiction than reality.
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (2012) is a fine documentary that exposes the myth of the American Dream to the countless schmucks who still believe in it.
Directed by Alex Gibney, the documentary’s two fundamental premises are that most Americans do not have the equal opportunity necessary to realize their dream of prosperity; and the system is hopeless rigged by a tiny minority of corporate chieftains working in cahoots with the politicians (mainly Republicans but includes a lot of Democrats as well).
Like any sane, thinking individual, I completely agree with the two premises of the documentary.
What is Park Avenue?
Park Avenue is a two-way boulevard in Manhattan where the well-heeled live on the Upper East side.
I have walked across this stretch of Park Avenue on several occasions and sometimes espied the well-dressed doormen rush to open the doors of the BMWs and the occasional Rolls Royce stopping in front of the multi-million dollar apartment complexes.
But where Park Avenue extends across the Harlem River into South Bronx, it’s a different story – of deprivation, high unemployment, failing schools, difficulty in access to food, low living standards and high infant mortality.
Using one building on Park Avenue in the Upper East side – 740 Park Avenue – where the super-rich live as a sample or case-study, the documentary delivers a stinging indictment of the American system that abandons millions to misery and deprivation while a small section live in unimaginable opulence.
Some of the residents of 740 Park Avenue represent the dregs of humanity – David Koch, John Thain, Stephen Schwarzman, all multi-billionaires who have unfairly benefited from a rigged system. This building is home to more billionaires than any other building in America.
Leveraging American politicians’ desperate need for cash to win elections, these corporate chieftains and many of their ilk have rigged the political and tax system so badly that it’s now completely subservient to their interests while ignoring the legitimate needs of millions of average Americans.
The documentary notes that the gains made by average Americans in the post World War era, i.e. from 1947-1977 has evaporated in the 1977-2008 period thanks to the collusion of the wealthy corporate chieftains and politicians at various levels.
The result – By 2010, 400 people in America owned more than 150 million Americans combined mostly because of favorable tax policies and the largesse like bailouts bestowed by the government on this tiny section of Americans.
Today, in America hedge fund billionaires earning billions a year pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries or a librarian at a county library or a firefighter risking his life. No kidding.
Tea Party Nonsense
Even the Tea Party, the so-called grassroots revolution from below supporting low taxes and less government regulation, is a creation of these vested interests.
I have never believed in the appealing story of the Tea Party movement springing from grassroot protests of small town America.
So I was more than glad to see that this documentary clearly talks about the nexus between Americans for Prosperity (an organization funded by the Koch brothers) and the Tea Party.
One of the great failings of the American media is to expose the Tea Party movement for what it is – a fraud perpetrated on the American people.
In plain English, the Tea Party is no more than a Rent a Crowd, a sight common at Indian political meetings where slum dwellers yell slogans in favor of their “leader” for Rs 100 and a bottle of cheap liquor.
But for the support of the world’s greatest scumbag Rupert Murdoch and his trashy Fox News TV channel, the Tea Party would never have seen the light of the day.
One of the failings of this documentary is highlighting the role played by the right-wing media and the government bureaucracy in screwing the American people.
My two countries America and India are as different as chalk and cheese.
In language, food, crime, corruption, music, color if its people and in countless other aspects, the two countries are poles apart.
But in one respect, the two nations are so alike – the majority of people in both countries are blithering idiots.
Every day, the majority of the people in both countries are brutally raped by a tiny minority (primarily the political leadership, large corporations and the medical system).
Yet the dolts go about life with a stupid smile on their faces.
Worse, many of these schmucks even sing paeans in support of their oppressors. How else can you explain the Republican Party getting 50% or more votes in several states in election after election.
Park Avenue is a fine documentary but one that’s wasted on unthinking Americans.
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream is available on Hulu (free, with ads) and Hulu Plus (for paid subscribers, no ads).
I strongly encourage my American readers to watch Park Avenue.