By Ignacio Gutiérrez
February 18, 2008
Only in America can one earn a fortune for believing in themselves and their dream, be it standing in nothing but underwear briefs, cowboy boots and hat playing guitar in Times Square even through unforgiving weather for ten years and counting such as NYC’s own Naked Cowboy, Robert Burck.
“Everybody likes this story. It’s the American dream versus the sold-out America” says Burck. Hopefully he’ll win the $6 million dollar lawsuit filed against Mars Inc., the makers of M&M’s. They used his trademarked alter-ego in an ad displaying a blue M&M character in his indisputable likeness. Considering the amount of money, time and focus-group testing behind these multi-million dollar campaigns, it’s a wonder why no one from Mars Inc. or Chute Gerdeman, the advertising agency, bothered to contact Burck for permission to parody his character.
And it’s thanks to such short-sighted decisions made by top CEO’s and corporate management in boardrooms across the country that compel people to mistrust the very impetus behind the American dream – capitalism. Ask most people to define it, and you’ll hear some wildly disparate and inaccurate answers.
“It’s the art of making money”. “It’s every man for himself.” “It’s all about greed dude! Like, in that movie Wallstreet…”“It’s nothing but corporate corruption, and evil, and…and …global warming!!”
But its actual meaning is much less sinister. It’s simply an economic system that allows individuals the right to own property and create goods and services from that property in order to sell them for a profit within a free market. How it has become synonymous with consumerism, materialism, imperialism, fascism, corporate cronyism, and a multitude of other “isms” is one of the 20th and 21st centuries greatest misconceptions.
Considering our current economic woes, it’s imperative more people understand its infinite possibilities, as opposed to moralizing that it brings us these problems to begin with. The right to own, but most importantly, the right to create, has been the catalyst for the most effective , efficient and productive ways of solving society’s problems. Until people realize these crucial rights belong to them as much as any corporation, we’ll continue misguiding ourselves to experiment with other systems such as socialism, collectivism, communism and let alone totalitarianism, all proven to fail time and again for the simple reason they undermine the most important “ism” of all, individualism.
One has to admire the gumption of true individuals such as Burck who’ve taken destiny into their own hands, created their own jobs, and refused to depend on or demand government handouts that purport a supposed “common good”. He represents the cowboy in all of us, one whose nakedness is worth singing about.