Mark Palermo

The Machinery of Mass Dreams

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives


As a college instructor, I am in daily contact with young people. I’ve seen them come and seen them go for 25 years: high and low achievers, foreign students, hippies, slackers, punks, scholars, jocks, preppies, Goths, grungers, gangbangers and science nerds. Nowadays I am witnessing the latest generation of students coming through the pipeline. They are called Millennials, and they have distinct characteristics: They are technologically savvy multitaskers. Their style is collaborative and laid back. They are asertive and optimistic. They often know what a Roth IRA is before they are 20. They prefer to communicate by text messaging. And the guys tend to live with their parents until they are 30 and can spend an entire weekend in their pajamas playing video games.

But more than ever, I see Millennials who are easily caught up in manufactured dreams of mass culture and it concerns me. In America we sell dreams. Whether it’s Mary Kay, Coca-cola, Amway, Marlboros, Rocky or Rock and Roll, the marketing of dreams is what we do best. Dreams are the engine of the system. They can propel us to overcome wretchedness, ignorance, poverty and drive us toward the objects of our desires. But dreams can also lie.

We tell the young that there are no limits to what they can become. We point to success stories like Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Michael Jordan as examples. Even a hundred years ago, the Horatio Alger stories symbolized the promise of America. The narrative sounded right then and it still rings true. And so we disseminate it to the world, and reap the profits.

The problem is that today’s Millennials live vicariously through electronics and digitized, artificial reality. Their inner world- unlike yesteryear- is formed not so much from human interactions, but by non-contextualized bits from TV, texting, Internet and video. And here lies the crux of the problem. Reality testing is often delayed, with undesirable consequences.

We insist they can become whatever they want, but we will never tell them what is in their way, like poor schooling, environment, parental upbringing, lack of money, social class, weak academic skills, ethnic and racial origin and the negative voices these things can generate in their own heads. It is not that these barriers can’t be surmounted- they often are- but in America, we make believe these barriers don’t exist. As a result, I‘ve seen young students bounce along on waves of vicarious euphoria for a season, then typically hit the wall and fade into some subterranean service worker realm, dismissing their own potential lives. Thus broken on the wheel of mass culture and schooling, they typically fall in as production line pyramid builders for the New World Order.



I’ve seen too many Millennials who are sure that their destiny is to become rich, but don’t know how it will happen. Who want to be programmers but don’t know their multiplication tables- and don’t care to learn them. Who dream of owning a Ferrarri, but don’t think to take the steps make it happen. Who believe school is unimportant because Bill Gates dropped out of college.

On the other hand, I have observed foreign students who came here from more elemental cultures where no hyped-up, feverish inner narrative of achievement clouds their way, who gaze into the future with less insulation between themselves and the grim realities of the poor. I’ve seen girls of 17 with an adult sensibility which women here often don’t have until 40, if ever. Young men who come here with only the clothes on their backs not knowing the language, yet who are fiercely ambitious, and at the same time, grounded and realistic.

Choosing a vocation is probably the most important decision a person will make, and judging from the number of broken, bitter and frustrated adults, too many have chosen badly or not at all. And usually not because they were dumb, but because nobody gave them the antidote to the noisy, inefficient, machinery of mass dreams; machinery which produces more heat than light, while grinding away the soul. Listening to discarnate, ephemeral voices hypnotically reaffirming the myth, they ask themselves, “How did I screw up so much? If this is the richest country in the world, if I can be anything I want, why haven’t I created another Microsoft? Why aren’t I rich?” The slippery downward slope of self-doubt often results in an unwanted journey on a well travelled road-with an inner dialogue of oblivion playing inside the head like a tape rcording: “What’s wrong with me? They must have been right, I never had any talent.”

It’s not that dreams are a bad thing. On the contrary, to live in America you need a dream, especially if you are young. But an active dream is a process of visualization, planning, and action taking. Without the engagement of the will, a dream is merely a mass culture-induced fantasy. And that’s all it will ever be. A surprising number of Millennials don’t know the difference and it may take them until they are 28 or 30 to come around- typically after a bad marriage and a dead end job, which is why it’s good to learn-early- that your ship can’t come in if it never leaves port.


April 2009