Home > Uncategorized > Hey, this guy’s a Minnie!

Hey, this guy’s a Minnie!

Today my roommate asked me if I was a minimalist. He asked it with a touch of disdain in his voice,  as if I were a spy, observing the lives of good god-fearing American consumers and reporting my findings back to the other minimalists in our pursuit of world domination. Wait, I guess world domination wouldn’t be very minimalist of us.

I asked why, and he replied “because you don’t have a car and only own one suit.”

I told him I had bought three pairs of shoes today and that seemed to relieve his concerns.

But of course I can’t just leave it be. Isn’t it strange that owning a car and many suits is the standard to which we hold ourselves?

Are we such a monoculture that any derivation from this expected lifestyle is given a title, some epithet to distinguish us, to warn the others? “Hi, have you met my friend Simon? He’s a minimalist.”

(I think I’m starting to channel a Seinfeld episode, sorry. It was unintentional.)

This post, admittedly, is a direct result of my move to the suburbs. People have called San Francisco many things, mono-cultural is not one of them. So let me focus the recipient of my tirade then. The burbs.

But it’s not really just the burbs, it’s the American dream, a concept that seems to thrive here, on the western outskirts of San Jose. Whoever managed to embed the idea into the heads of 300 million people, not to mention the hoards of desperate would-be immigrants, really had a gift with words. The land of abundance. Richness. Money. Happiness. Cars and suits.

I just looked it up – it was James Truslow Adams. My apologies to Americans, my history is spotty. He was a writer and historian. Ironic, two professionals that very rarely actually lead to achieving the American dream. But he came from a rich family and spent some time as investment banker.

But as I read further, I am most impressed, and realize that the fault was not with his words, but with our crooked interpretation of them. The suburbs are very crooked indeed, like suicide bombers acting in the name of Allah crooked. Hmmm, perhaps a little extreme.

He said that the American Dream is this: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

It is not a dream of motor cars.

Nor, in my dream at least, suits.

  1. leila
    August 20, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Delightful imagery and much appreciated social commentary. I really love this piece.

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