Sean Clenista

What Do You Wanna Be When You Corrupt

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” A common question teachers, elders, and adults ask adolescents to get a taste of who we are. The little boy or girl’s enthusiasm and optimistic responses are entertaining to the old. They chuckle to themselves as they hear the cute responses like wanting to be an astronaut or an actor.

This chuckle is, in reality, a laughter. A pure laugh and mockery in the face of the little kid because, inside, they know the truth. There is absolutely no way these little kids who grew up in a community where no other kid looks like them, or the kid who does not have the presence of parental figures, or the kid who was diagnosed with behavioral setbacks, will ever get further than where they already are in life. Because the real setback here is the society created by the elites. The 1 percent that’s pure business and purpose is to benefit off the lives of those same children who are now struggling adults. The 1 percent and the increasing wealth inequality gap are both responsible for the disillusionment of the American Dream. They are why the question “What do you want to be when you grow up” is a fun little icebreaker and not an achievable working goal. By distorting the idea of success, simplifying the means to achieve wealth such as their own, and blaming instability on laziness rather than acknowledging the impossibility of accumulating comfortable wealth, the 1 percent and the wealth gap exterminated the American Dream. 

Success is subjective. No one can measure success. To one, it is the ideal comfortable life with a family. And to others, it’s making it to the next day and seeing the sun and moon rotate above their head. However, in today’s society, there is a visual representation of success. The wealth gap made success an endpoint, an ongoing sprint with no breaks to hit the finish line. Rather than allowing everyone to achieve their own means of success, the wealth gap defined it as ownership — the ability to own your own means of transportation, to own your own business, to own yourself. 

One way we unknowingly check if we have hit that idea of success is with  bars and graphs. Comparing our status to that of a green line riding a rollercoaster with two-axis labeling: average wealth per household and the year. Buckle up because the rollercoaster will take you to its ups and downs and loops and hills, but just like every rollercoaster, it brings you back to where you started. Articles, headlines, and pushy notifications make it all a simple game: if you hit the green, you have won in life! And if you didn’t, well, try again next time. However, these articles are harmful. They display the wealth gap in a way everyone can universally understand but distorts the idea of what success really is. People can find fulfillment without needing to have to win the game. Because the 1 percent and wealth gap have put a finite label to the word success, it causes the death of the American Dream.

The 1 percent loves to share their story. They talk about their lives as if all they had to do was follow some quick tutorial that they could pull up in a Google search. But the part they don’t add is how you can only succeed if you’re white … or a man … or born insanely rich. But most importantly, you can only do this if you have a small loan of a million dollars to begin with. One way the 1 percent screwed over the American Dream is by simplifying the means to get there, and their favorite strategy is to bring up their good ole one in a million. 

Stories we have heard over and over again really push the idea that the American Dream still exists. Typically, they convey the idea that this one guy did that one thing, and, boom, he became a millionaire. The problem is that reiterating these success stories — Facebook being created in a garage or Goggle originating as a college project — gives the idea that success is easy, which alters everyone’s perception. What these stories fail to do is bring up the hundreds of millions who tried their shot, and how it never landed. We hear more about how hard they worked by being the son of a billionaire rather than how that family proceeded to scam entire industries and profiting off insulin or water. They are killing not only the American Dream but also the Americans. 

The true anger and resentment doesn’t come from any game other than the blame game: blaming financial instability on laziness rather than acknowledging how truly impossible it is. The cycle of poverty, which is merely invisible to the top 1 percent of wealth owners, is a fictional book in their library. What’s worse is their influence. They have come to interject the idea that the reason for debt, inflation, or high taxes is not because they own all the wealth but because your tax money is going to the one struggling family that benefits from social services. Or to the immigrant family working three jobs in a household. Or to the kid that pursues so-called worthless passions such as art or music and does not contribute to society. It is incredible that these three and millions of other examples have had more light on them than any of the multibillionaires who avoid taxes and play the system’s loopholes. 

Misleading self-proclaimed influentials love to point the blame on how lazy a person is. They claim to work harder or to change pathways. They fail to realize that a person’s upbringing, racial experiences, and home life are variables to that claim. Working harder doesn’t directly correlate to an income or a salary. Fast food and retail (the scapegoat of all their arguments) ironically requires more labor than any of them do. The rich and 1 percent are professionals at disguising impossibility with the mask of laziness. 

Ultimately, the rich play society like a carnival. The flashy lights and grand stuffed prizes toy with people’s lives. No matter how much money people spend, they’ll never win. By crafting the ideal picture of success, generalizing the pathway to accumulate money, and pointing the figure at work ethic, the 1 percent has corrupted the values of America.

Sean Clenista is a Filipino student openly fluid in gender and sexuality. He is a multi-talented author, activist, actor etc. with a purpose to advocate for today’s most controversial social issues pertaining to students of color. His purpose is to change the face of education to include the voices of talented authors of all backgrounds. His dream is to be acknowledged globally for his work and to be an internationally famous reality TV star.