"If you can dream it, you can do it". - Walt Disney
"Never give up on accomplishing your dream. No matter what happens, have some
hope in your life and know that you can do anything you want to"
"As long as you've got passion, faith and are willing to work
hard, you can do anything you want in this life."
The motivational quotations above come from a vast heap of similar quotes that aim to reinforce the illusion that anything in life is possible if you just strive hard enough for it. Personally, I don't believe it. Usually the quotes are spouted by successful people who through good fortune and useful connections - as much as hard work and self-belief - rose from the human soup in which the rest of us swim to walk in the light.
Try spinning this yarn to a NEET teenager hanging around on a deprived Sheffield council estate - "Not in Education, Employment, or Training". Try telling it to a Filipino child whose community has been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan or to a young person with Down's Syndrome. Or a Syrian refugee or a victim of AIDS or a seventeen year old single parent or a steelworker who has just lost his job. The idea is plain cruel - like a carrot dangled in front of a donkey.
Of course all of us - no matter what our circumstances - can achieve small dreams that will enhance and progress our lives. We can save up for holidays or volunteer at a charity shop. We can paint our doors a different colour or paint watercolour landscapes, teach our children to read, put food on the table. We can revise for exams and pass them and in coastal villages in the Philippines we can reconstruct our shacks. Yes these small dreams are achievable for everyone. And that's all very healthy, very good. We can all improve our lives.
But very few of us can become the new Richard Bransons or Sir John Gielguds, Dolly Partons or Mother Teresas. There's room for very few fashion leaders, rock stars, astronauts or prime ministers. And besides - as well as all those so-called high achievers that the celebrity-obsessed world seems to worship - we also need bus drivers, street cleaners, hotel maids, assembly line workers, nurses, men who will climb down into a city's sewers to maintain them. Unsung heroes. What kind of a world would it be if everybody reached the top and floated around there bathed in the sweet light of "I made it" dreams fulfilled? Who would change the sheets or deliver the bread?
The illusion has become like a modern religion. The vast majority of people are made to feel that they exist in the shadows of what might have been if they had only striven harder - been more like Walt Disney or Henry Ford. But in life the reality is that you do your best, tick off small dreams and sometimes try simply just to live or live simply - putting aside all that tiresome striving, that chasing of rainbows.
There are seven billion of us and it's like a vast pyramid. Nearly all of us form the the base and the middle sections. Very few can occupy the apex. There just isn't room.