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6 Things I Hate About American Culture
Americans have a lot of pride in being American. I do too. I like that our federal system gives more local control (or should). I like that we actually have excellent healthcare, even if I would like to see help for the poorest of the poor being able to access it. I like that we have the world's largest and most dependable armed forces, watching over our enemies and defending our allies. I like that Americans tend to have good morals, a good work ethic (not a crazy-ass Chinese work ethic, but a strong, reasonably balanced one nonetheless) and a strong sense of loyalty to their families and communities. I'm glad that America defends freedom of speech (or should), more than any other country in the world. I'm glad that we're less classist than Britain. I'm proud of this country, and everything we stand for.
BUT... I've never been one to love anything uncritically. This country has massive flaws as well as massive positive aspects. So, since it's more fun to be a bit snarky, here is my list of 6 things I just can't stand about this country's culture.
6. Too Loud/Extroverted
This is probably the biggest draw of Japanese culture for me, and other cultures. Sure, Japan has its loud pachinko games and lively dance music, but the general cultural climate most people talk about when they go there is one that emphasizes quietude. People are silent on the commuter trains. People generally do not approach strangers unwarranted in public.
Oh holy hell how I wish that were the case here! In America, not only does every American know they have a right to free speech, but many of us don't know when the fuck to shut up! It's like commuting past a bunch of hyperactive kindergartners whenever I go out in public. I'd be a lot happier in a country that believed silence is golden.
5. Lack of Curiosity/Intellectualism
One thing that kind of sickens me about most Americans is how complacent they are with their bubbles. They live their lives in small routines from which they rarely deviate. They might have inspirational quotes about creative or unorthodox thinking on their laptop screens, but they are not practicing a "think differently" mentality in their actual lives. Some of them are so complacent in whatever little niche they've found that they become very hostile towards outside criticism of said niche.
In American high schools, they usually have cafeteria seating arranged by "cliques" which are little social groups focused around hobbies and identities. The thing is, those cliques don't really go away into adulthood. Jocks become frat guys who become "bros". Popular bitches remain popular and bitchy. Nerds like me stay nerdy. Nobody really expands their thinking and sense of identity and purpose, or criticizes aspects of their niche they dislike.
In this sense, it kind of amazes me that people call American culture "individualistic" at all. Sure, we might be more lax about getting a tattoo or becoming transgender, IF you go over and only hang out with and socialize with other transgender or tattooed peeps. If you leave the comfort of your niche, you're a "freak" to everyone outside it. Criticize your niche and you can be ostracized from it, which is lonely. We are actually expected, I would say, to have a lot of in-group loyalty. It's just perhaps that there is a wider variety of in-groups we could join.
So, there's a decided lack of curiosity and what you might call mental awakeness in a depressing number of Americans. Learning new things might rock the boat, so they don't. Almost nobody reads after high school stops forcing them to. People rarely seem curious about anything that does not benefit them immediately to know, ie, stuff they have to know for their jobs. (That's basically why the TV show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader has so many losers, American culture seems to think learning is a thing you stop doing at age 18 or 22.)
For the "land of the brave" we seem to really cling to mediocre complacency and fear change, even if the change might be an improvement. I think this does the next generation of Americans a disservice. You're being bad role models for them.
4. Politicians and Politics
Americans have what I would describe as the stupidest political system on the planet. I really can't find nicer terms for describing it. People on both "sides of the aisle" have pointed out our system's numerous and ridiculous flaws, but Americans fear change so much that no improvement is ever made to correct said flaws. Here's just some things worth mentioning.
- Two party system. The term "on both sides of the aisle" is really just a frustrating reminder that Americans lack the courage and intellectual curiosity to try new parties or political ideologies, even when the old ones consistently fail us.
- Inability of Congress to get anything done (same with the Illinois state government).
- Our politicians are, for the most part, untrustworthy, unreliable, senile, sociopathic narcissistic LIARS. Everyone says this, and yet they keep managing to get elected because:
- The politicians are self-promoters who are better at making great speeches and getting elected than they are at actually doing the jobs they're elected for.
- Everyone on the right cares more about screwing over the left than what's best for the country. Everyone on the left cares more about screwing over the right than what's best for the country.
- The media does not care about facts. There's simply a right-wing media and a left-wing media, so you never get a truthful story. Some random yahoo on YouTube is a better bet than CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News. Oh, and each liberal outlet criticizes the unreliability of the conservative outlets and vice versa, but neither of them can look in a goddamn mirror.
The politicians also know nothing about the sh*t they're supposed to be governing. Healthcare? None of them have health-related expertise. Technology? Ditto. All of them are ignorant and complacent because all of them use their party's political platform as Truth to cling to whenever they don't know anything about anything and wish to hide their woeful ignorance. And God help the rare politician with the balls to challenge their own party! It's a disgrace to this entire country.
3. Unhealthy Lifestyles
No one wants to be mean to obese people, because obviously there will always be some with a severe medical issue that prevents them from working out. But you can't just expect me to believe that lifestyles play no role, either. Obesity is also just the biggest and most obvious indicator of an underlying issue; we do not practice the healthiest lifestyle choices. It's just a plain-as-day, common sense fact that we all eat too much of everything, do not eat enough good things, and do not move our bodies enough. This leads to all sorts of health problems.
I think the main issue is that, since we actually have great doctors, and a much lower wait time to see a specialist than other countries, we take medicine for granted. We're complacent like I talked about before with our unhealthy routines and resist change, even life-saving change, or change that could help save us from getting an expensive surgery down the road. But we don't think long-term, we prefer instant gratification, and then we pop pills when we're feeling like crap instead of taking steps to improve our lives so that we feel better about ourselves.
I don't honestly get the problem with fat-shaming either. Fat is not healthy or good. Obesity is the number one killer of Americans. Fat is the enemy. Fat is a death trap, gradually making you less and less mobile, and thus less and less capable of losing it. Nobody should be bullied for it, but we can't act like it's healthy either.
If you define your entire identity around a disease you could jumping-jack your way out of, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution. American culture has a decided lack of fat-shame, and I think that's a problem. Everyone is proudly displaying their sick, blimp-like bodies and yeah, it's good to have self-esteem, but I have to ask, what did you do to earn it? Why are you glorifying your own lack of virtues like self-control, planning, self-management, self-discipline, and your own vices of gluttony and laziness? Shouldn't they be a bit more embarassed?
In East Asian cultures, they don't do this. Being even a pinch overweight makes you "fat" and fat is considered the worst thing ever. Now, I think that is perhaps a bit extreme, but I think it is wrong that our country glorifies the unhealthy lifestyle that leads to so many deaths. Why celebrate something science has so decidedly and thoroughly linked to morbidity and mortality? Get on the fucking treadmill, America!
2. Pseudoscience and Superstition
While some people ignore preventative medicine altogether, an alarmingly large group has gone off the deep end with it, forming cults around bogus diets, food and exercise trends, and other "health" things that don't have a shred of scientific evidence to support them. Some are actually harmful.
Most of it is just BS misinformation being peddled to consumers to sell stuff, because well, it's a negative side-effect of having freedom of speech. A product can't be toxic and it can't claim to cure or prevent any disease without FDA approval, but there's a lot of wiggle room when it comes to diet and exercise snake oil salesmen. Maybe Americans are just naive, or like I said, lacking mental awakeness, but they do not seem to be skeptical enough about dietary claims.
The fact that there's so many bad diets and bad dieting "science" out there also has the effect of telling the fat people "don't bother dieting, it's all based on junk science", so then they go back to their unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. That costs lives and creates a real barrier for anyone looking to make real improvements to their health.
Oh, and don't get me started on the celebrity cults and the "if Gwenyth Paltrow did this it must be healthy" thing. Just stop... Here's a pro-tip: A BA in acting is not the same thing as an M.D.
Aside from diet, skincare, exercise, and so on fads that are all marketing, a lot of Americans also believe in some silly things such as ghosts, astrology, psychics, mediums, etc. I don't really care if people believe in that crap, but it is kind of embarrassing. I kind of feel like a society with such advanced technology as ours should be beyond such dumb beliefs.
1. Vapid Optimism
This is the one that irks me a lot. The book, "Bright Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich really hits this one on the nose. Of all the bullshit quackery embedded in American culture, none is as persistent or hard to avoid as the Calvinist prosperity gospel turned new-age pseudoreligion known as positive thinking.
I hate it, with a passion. No, seriously. Why? Because it unscientifically supposes that positive outcomes are caused by positive mental states, and that negative mental states lead to negative outcomes. Sounds good on the surface right? Nobody got to the top of K-2 without believing that they could when they started, right?
The problem is this is commercial, and it does not apply to the broader world outside of business success. Thinking positive things like "you can do this, you will get that promotion, you will be a great manager, you can ..." are awesome, in business. But that's also a huge slap in the face to everyone who suffers from negative circumstances, by implying that they brought these circumstances on themselves by not having the right attitude. Sure, a middle manager who strongly believes in herself will get promoted faster than one who lacks confidence. But, a third world orphan didn't choose a life of poverty and hardship, and they cannot wish said poverty and hardship away with a few good thoughts or saying a few nice things about themselves in a mirror. As far as I know, optimistic thinking doesn't regrow limbs. But you'd think it could, after a conversation with a typical American. *eye roll*
This optimistic mindset of Americans can be a good thing, but it can also breed the lazy compliance and lack of self-criticism I've talked about before in this article. Since they read bogus shit like "The Power of Positive Thinking", "The Secret", and "How to Win Friends and Influence People", they think that all they need to do is have the right attitude, and having the right attitude means minimizing flaws or problems and maximizing potential-thinking. That means it's prescribing lazily avoiding problems or potential future setbacks, rather than talking about them or dealing with them in a more rational way. Since we've become so use to praising positive thinking, we've all become babies who cannot handle constructive feedback.
That's how you get shit like the "Amy's Baking Company" episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
So yeah. There's a lot of things I wanted to get off my chest. Things I'm sick of seeing. Things I just want to shake some people and yell "STOP IT!" at them for. But, I like to see reality as a synthesis of yin and yang, of good and bad, and I see America's good as well as all of its flaws. There is no such thing as a perfect culture or country (not even Canada, you smug ice-noggins). We do need improvement and not complacency, though. We need to be more self-critical. We need to stop shouting down critics of this country as traitors and start listening to their criticisms a little more. This doesn't validate all of them necessarily, but think of it as like a king who refuses to listen to any of his advisors vs. a wiser king who accepts some counsel.
And stop not voting and not being involved politically guys! Sheesh!