Business Insider, an online ezine that really does have some great information for entrepreneurs and business people, has been branching out and now offers human interest pieces. Or what they think are human interest pieces. See, in business, for some reason, rankings and numbers on subjective scales are all the rage (it would be helpful if the data was current), and Business Insider is putting its spin on what they think is fascinating, and hopefully helpful to Americans.
The problem, though, is that lot of the material is actually very anti-American (and based on readers’ comments, ticking off their main audience) playing to the crowd that believes that the US is just one of many countries and life here is just not as good as it is other places.
Having travelled a bit and truly enjoying experiencing other cultures, I do like to read these lists and compare them with what I have heard both abroad and from friends who hail from other countries. (That doesn’t mean I particularly care for what is said, or more specifically, how it is said because so much of it is superficial.)
One list that ticked me off this past week was Things Americans Do That Just Seem Bizarre to the Outside World. First off, there was no mention of who in “the outside world” is commenting on this or where they live. Secondly, there was no commentary on why or how any one or more of these items came to be part of the culture. Minor, little details that might go a long way in understanding, but are inconvenient when trying to convince Americans that we’re just not normal compared to the rest of the world.
One of the points in that list that I’ve heard before is we drive everywhere – that was a choice over mass public transportation made on multiple levels decades ago. As spread out as we are in the US, driving is just the way it’s done, and at this point it’s not going to change. Driving everywhere, like some of the other items on the list, is based on the American emphasis on convenience and comfort. That’s a huge part of the culture. The bus and train systems developed in Europe are fantastic when one is there, but would be prohibitively expensive to do here, especially if people won’t use it. Besides, the interstate system was inspired by the superhighways that Hitler built, so really we borrowed that from the Europeans.
Also, on that specific list, there are some points that are valid, like the VERY unhealthy form of puritanism espoused here that objectifies the human body and equates nudity with sex, and pumpkin everything, but the rest is just a difference in culture. We have cheerleaders. Most of us girls aren’t perky and athletic enough to qualify. So what? Americans have been sold that we need to have straight, white teeth and spend a fortune making that happen. What exactly is wrong with that? And knowing the base price of an item BEFORE the taxes are added on is just honest, to an American way of thinking. That’s how we find out how much of our money is going down the rathole of government.
Life is just different here. And a note to some of the Kiwis, Aussies, and Europeans I’ve met over the years – if you want to be taken seriously by Americans, learn the state names. Please. Several had never heard of my home state. (Knowing the Wizard of Oz and baseball references is another story and will require a cheat sheet.)
Then came the list with the 15 countries with the highest quality of life as determined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Who? (Short answer: the OECD is a global organization determined to keep the standards of living among industrialized countries high.)
The US ranked 6 on the list, and the only positives listed were annual income, living conditions and space considerations. No mention of happiness or life satisfaction – characteristics of living that Americans are actually told daily that are less than ideal and we should search for something better.
Most egregious, though is probably the list of Seven States That The Rest of America Would Like to Kick Out Of The Country. The choice of states to kick out? Delaware? It’s a tax haven. Florida – what? Rhode Island – aside from some insanely rich people living there, why? Either Dakota – huh? Indiana…well there are a lot of Cubs fans. Mississippi – because “Lowest average life expectancy, poorest, fattest, second highest teen pregnancy rate and highest teen birth rate, one of the lowest high school graduation rates and still a lot of opposition to interracial marriage being legal.” No, no prejudice here. Also no mention of California, Taxichusetts, New York, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey or Maryland.
This is not to say that that Americans are perfect and our culture doesn’t have some quirks that really are strange (like having everyday dishes AND china that we never use, and that the truly minimalist style that is quite identifiable world-wide), but if we are going to follow the idea of multi-cultural diversity, why not celebrate the aspects and details of American life that are unique and unparalleled, like, decent air conditioning, just in time delivery, the societal expectation that helping others in a disaster will be reciprocated if the need arises – that sort of stuff.
We’re different. Just as Italians do not hand cash to a cashier, but put it on the counter; just as Mediterranean countries take a long lunch during the heat of the day and work a later second shift; just as the French know their own wine; just as…we’re all different. What’s wrong with that?
And why call our culture bizarre? Hmm, Business Insider?