In the United States, a person can take credit only for what he or she has accomplished by himself or herself. Americans get no credit whatsoever for having been born into a rich family. In the United States, that would be considered “an accident of birth.” Americans pride themselves in having climbed the difficult ladder of success to whatever level they have achieved—all by themselves. The American social system has, of course, made it possible for Americans to move, relatively easily, up the social ladder.
Take a look in an English-language dictionary at the composite words that have the word “self” as a prefix. In the average desk dictionary, there will be more than 100 such words, words like self-confidence, self-conscious, self-contented, self-control, self-criticism, self-deception, self-defeating, self-denial, self-discipline, self-esteem, self-expression, self-importance, self-improvement, self-interest, self-reliance, self-respect, self-restraint, self-sacrifice—the list goes on and on. The equivalent of these words cannot be found in most other languages. This list is perhaps the best indication of how seriously Americans take doing things for oneself. The “self made man or woman” is still very much the ideal in the 20th-century America.
7. Competition and Free Enterprise
Americans believe that competition brings out the best in any individual. They assert that it challenges or forces each person to produce the very best that is humanly possible. Consequently, the foreign visitor will see competition being fostered in the American home and in the American classroom, even on the youngest age levels. Very young children, for instance, are encouraged to answer questions for which their classmates do not know the answers.
You may find the competitive value disagreeable, especially if you come from a society which promotes cooperation rather than competition. But many U.S. Peace Corps volunteers teaching in the Third World countries found the lack of competitiveness in a classroom situation equally distressing. They soon learned that what they had thought to be one of the universal human characteristics represented only a peculiarly American (or Western) value.
Americans, valuing competition, have devised an economic system to go with it—free enterprise. Americans feel very strongly that a highly competitive economy will bring out the best in its people and ultimately, that the society which fosters competition will progress most rapidly. If you look for it, you will see evidence in all areas—even in fields as diverse as medicine, the arts, education, and sports—that free enterprise is the approach most often preferred in America.
Date: 2015-01-02; view: 900