Topic: Perspective essay
Details: In his opinion piece “Five Lies Our Culture Tells,” David Brooks questions many of the core beliefs of American society. He believes these “lies” have led to a spiritual and emotional crisis.
In tracing the origin of this crisis, he outlines five lies he believes to be at the root of many of the challenges and divisions Americans face today. Here are excerpts from four of them:
· Career success is fulfilling. This is the lie we foist on the young. In their tender years we put the most privileged of them inside a college admissions process that puts achievement and status anxiety at the center of their lives. That begins advertising’s lifelong mantra — if you make it, life will be good … The truth is, success spares you from the shame you might experience if you feel yourself a failure, but career success alone does not provide positive peace or fulfillment. If you build your life around it, your ambitions will always race out in front of what you’ve achieved, leaving you anxious and dissatisfied.
· I can make myself happy. This is the lie of self‑sufficiency. This is the lie that happiness is an individual accomplishment. If I can have just one more victory, lose 15 pounds or get better at meditation, then I will be happy. But people looking back on their lives from their deathbeds tell us that happiness is found amid thick and loving relationships. It is found by defeating self‑sufficiency for a state of mutual dependence. It is found in the giving and receiving of care.
· Life is an individual journey. This is the lie books like Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” tell. In adulthood, each person goes on a personal trip and racks up a bunch of experiences, and whoever has the most experiences wins. This lie encourages people to believe freedom is the absence of restraint. Be unattached. Stay on the move. Keep your options open. In reality, the people who live best tie themselves down. They don’t ask: What cool thing can I do next? They ask: What is my responsibility here? They respond to some problem or get called out of themselves by a deep love. …
· Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people. We pretend we don’t tell this lie, but our whole meritocracy points to it. In fact, the meritocracy contains a skein of lies. The message of the meritocracy is that you are what you accomplish. The false promise of the meritocracy is that you can earn dignity by attaching yourself to prestigious brands. The emotion of the meritocracy is conditional love — that if you perform well, people will love you….
The article concludes: No wonder it’s so hard to be a young adult today. No wonder our society is fragmenting. We’ve taken the lies of hyper‑individualism and we’ve made them the unspoken assumptions that govern how we live. We talk a lot about the political revolution we need. The cultural revolution is more important.
Considering this perspective, write an argumentative essay that defends, challenges or qualifies Mr. Brooks’s assertion that the “lies our culture tells” has led to a personal and spiritual crisis in America. In your answer, make sure to define what YOU think the beliefs and values that define American culture are. Please reference at least two outside sources of your choice and one example from American culture. Two sources should be used in the Confirmation Section and one source should be referenced in the Refutation Section.
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