I've lived in an affluent area - Santa Barbara county - for quite some time, so over the years, I have become acquainted with a number people who have achieved what we call the American Dream. In our times, this is defined as: social respectibility and/or career success, financial assets, material possessions, home ownership in beautiful neighborhoods, etc. And many of these people, I would eventually discover, are surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) unhappy.
America was once the alternative to other countries and cultures where one's social standing was determined by things such as birth, class, property, and wealth. Ironically, not only are many Americans unhappy (in spite of our affluence and freedom), but we have become the very thing we were originally trying to escape.
The American Dream seems to figure so prominently in the collective imagination, I just assumed my 91 year-old friend Julian Moody would have a lot to say about it. It turns out he had very little to say about it and he surprised me further by revealing he hadn't even become fully aware of the concept and term "American Dream" until the 1960s. And the association of the American Dream with material achievement appears to be a curiously recent phenomena.
Julian, in a way, was the perfect person to discuss the American Dream with. He was very much of a pragmatic orientation and had a disdain for philosophical, political, and religious discussions. Our brief discussion concerning it really drove home the point that the American Dream is basically an illusion.
(See topic "The American Dream vs. True Wealth" in Brandy's and Julian's project: Dialogues with Julian Moody: On Life, Business, Sustainability, and Other Things.)