In the early days of blogging I remember writing about the ‘American dream’, and how the idea of it became somehow confused with immigration. There were many articles in the controlled media about how immigrants were compelled to come here because of their lack of material goods, compared to our excess. And the idea was emphasized that the ‘American Dream’, immigrant-style, was about acquiring ”stuff” and owning a house with a yard.
Now? It seems many Americans are supposed to consider themselves lucky to live in a barracks-style facility, with an open plan, and little privacy. In the staggeringly expensive cities, housing is scarce and many people work for low wages, as rentals become increasingly expensive. It’s hard to make ends meet on a barista’s earnings, or a less-than-full-time office drone job.
Take a look at this example of housing in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, at $60 a night, or $1,200 a month. The most obvious question is: with an open plan, how can this be a co-ed facility? What about privacy? How many of us would be comfortable with sleeping in close proximity to strangers, minus barriers or enclosures? What with the prevalence of, say, bedbugs in even four-star hotels (so we read, or hear) how will that kind of problem be prevented or dealt with? And what with the return of communicable diseases that were once eradicated, is communal housing hygienically desirable?
However, the definite scarcity of housing compels a lot of Americans to make choices they would not have made, not so long ago. Now there’s a lack of housing — a lack of housing for the low-wage or medium-income worker can afford. This forces a lot of people to settle for the lack of amenities, and the cramped quarters.
I notice that some people believe the housing issue is a problem only for people in the overcrowded cities, but in smaller communities there is a market, apparently, for those tiny little sheds that are being sold as actual homes, though they appear hardly large enough for a bed and a table, and what about indoor plumbing? About four miles away from me is a ‘community’ of little cabins, very roughly put together, apparently built by or for people who have been priced out of the rental market.
Are people now going to become inured to a much lower standard of living, to be housed either in rabbit warrens, or ‘pod’ dwellings, or in those ‘capsule’ style high-rises as in Japan? Will single people without the means for a real dwelling be content to live in shed-like houses, such as those being offered by the roadside now?
The city denizens excepted, many of us grew up with a concept of the wide-open spaces, and a horizon that stretched on forever. Does anyone remember an old song called ‘Don’t Fence Me In’? The lyrics speak of “land, lots of land, ‘neath the starry skies above….”
Now what with the ever-decreasing wages for many working Americans, and the skyrocketing housing costs, the old American dream of a roomy house with a nice yard, and two (at least) cars in the garage is receding into the long-ago past. If present trends continue our standard of living will decline as we have no choice but to downsize and lower our hopes and expectations. Are we “too spoiled”, as our moral betters keep telling us, and are we expected to atone for our past sins as a ‘spoiled people’?
I am sure there will always be those who prosper. It’s “an ill wind that blows nobody any good,” as the old proverb says. But it would seem that the standard of living, for the common people, will likely decline in the near term. And our quality of life is already diminishing.
And I need not explain just why our standard of living is suffering.
I do hope I’m wrong. I don’t want to see people living in modified dog houses, or crammed into high-priced tenement houses in cities; what a contrast to the life we knew not so very long ago. Material things are not the be-all and the end-all; we can only hope that we learn to appreciate the non-material good things of life.