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The Superficiality of American Society

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by speed, Oct 10, 2006.

  1. speed

    speed Member

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    Young man/woman arrives in a new town/job/group/family, said person is welcomed with greetings, smiles, random small talk about nothing important. Person is perhaps invited out for lunch, happy hour, or to a sporting event. Person engages in more generalized small talk, taking care not to offend anyone with any serious discussion or ideas: no religion, politics, philosophy, or eccentric behavior. Person then perhaps makes a few close friends with one or two of these new persons; perhaps said person joins a clique in new found circumstances. Person then continues to be affable and friendly to those persons closer relations were not formed with. Person continues with the greetings, the odd infrequent outing or lunch with other persons. Person then moves to another job, city, or divorces and finds another family, and does this all over again, with a new set of actors.

    Is person a floating island? Are all persons floating islands?

    What societal forces cause this very general, but very typical American story to happen? And why is this the case?
     
  2. SoundMaster

    SoundMaster Member

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    Are we certain that this is typical only in America? Does this aspect of human nature not exist in other countries, or, at the very least, in other Western countries? Are Americans so unique that they're either sub-human or super-human? Heck, one look at classic Japanese culture tells us that this phenomenon is greater elsewhere (the false pretenses).

    IMO, there is a tremendous level of superficiality in everyday life here, but I've not spent enought time over-seas to judge it's uniqueness - or lack of - to America.
     
  3. speed

    speed Member

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    Well, since Im American...

    I think it would be fascinating to read examples, stories, thoughts on other countries and cultures , as well as their thoughts on America.


    Just some of my observations:

    I know from my travels, I've observed American society is perhaps the worst when it comes to superficiality. But Ive only been to most of South and Central America, and almost all of Europe except the British Isles. Ive never set foot in Asia, Africa, Australia, or the Middle East, not to mention Ive skipped alot of European and South American countries (really, who wants to vacation in Bolivia?) But i do know from middle eastern and Indian friends, how important community is. The first thing I was told after talking to Indian colleagues in grad school (where they made up more than half of the program) was that apparently I was the only one who wasnt superficial. I still think thats the nicest compliment Ive ever received.
     
  4. Omnis_Sathanas

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    Americans are bred to be hedonists--as soon as a lifestyle is no longer pleasurable, it's time to forge a new identity! Get a bunch of new commodities that allegedly express who you are and then socialize with people involved in this subculture exclusively.

    I've had very few close friends here (and some among them have even grown up in other countries) due to this sort of mindset. When most people here are only concerned with shopping/entertainment/sports there's really nothing to talk to them about. There's little to nothing in terms of a forum for true cultural and ideological expression; even at universities (I'm attending one now) most students seem to have adopted a fast food mentality towards education. These are just signs of a greater movement towards cultural decay within nations that become highly developed and forsake much of what historically has created true communities in the past.
     
  5. judas69

    judas69 god is in the radio

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    What would make this routine less superficial?
     
  6. speed

    speed Member

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    I'm intrigued by your mention of the sub-culture. This seems big for Americans; no, all humans. To find unique identity, many Americans turn to some obscure or cliquish sub-culture, and totally adopt their ways. Instead of becoming unique or individual, they actually become terrribly repressive and conformist. Metal is a perfect example. Its so very fascinating how many persons identify themselves with metal and some metal culture. Indeed, the human impulse to identify with a group instead of ones own set of beliefs, is equally fascinating.

    Where do you go to school?
     
  7. SoundMaster

    SoundMaster Member

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    I've always agreed with this. The avg metalhead is no different than the avg kid at school who jumps on the current trend, really.
     
  8. Demilich

    Demilich Remember

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    I'm interested in how you have come to the conclusion that anyone who involves themselves in a subculture totally forfeits the capacity to express themselves individually.

    I have long hair and wear black jeans & tshirts sometimes. Does this mean I have no personality or individuality?
     
  9. speed

    speed Member

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    Yes! Because all metalheads have to have long hair and wear black jeans and T-shirts to be part of the "metal" group or subculture(do they still make black jeans? I havent seen any in a long time). And lets face it, no other men in our culture have long hair but metalheads.

    Its a superficial discussion, as you apparently have picked up on.
     
  10. judas69

    judas69 god is in the radio

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    Well since no one responded or caught my point, I'll respond.

    Nothing. Human life, like all life, is superficial.
     
  11. Omnis_Sathanas

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    I go to Rutgers, but based on what I've heard from teachers pretty much all American universities (even Ivy Leagues) are now like this. My observations aren't only restricted to where I'm at now. My high school was even worse and the kind of people I meet in random encounters at most places are just as bad.
     
  12. A Dying Breed

    A Dying Breed Member

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    False. Long hair is also common among pro wrestlers.
     
  13. OldScratch

    OldScratch Member

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    I'm fairly certain Speed was being facetious.
     
  14. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    So was A Dying Breed.
     
  15. speed

    speed Member

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    Well this thread is getting off track, and becoming idiotic; and Im contributing to the nonsense.


    The central theme is to question why Americans are so goddamn superficially nice, but so totally distant when it comes to close relationships.

    I personally think it has something to do with our capitalistic nature. De Tocqueville observed and wrote about the very same tendencies in American society in the early 1800's.

    Everyone is a potential customer, person who can help one climb the latter, etc. And everyone is looking to improve their own circumstances--be they employment wise, or materially. And this is further enforced by Corporate culture, which strives for friendly non-confrontational relations with its potential customers. Or is it the egalitarian democratic nature of our society?
     
  16. Silver Incubus

    Silver Incubus Dead Hands Justin

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    Isn't it natrual that people with the same interests to group together? I would think that it is a form of the tribe mentality that has been around longer than consumerism.

    Being a rebel in the conventional terms means going against what is normal. It would make sense that people rebelling against the same things, would be apt to be the same. I may look like the typical metal head, but there are many reasons that the way I look are not superficial. I have long hair, but only to headbang.As part as my proffesion as a musician, it definately helps to have longer hair when playing music on stage as it increses the energy and responses fo the crowd, which serves a function to having it. I don't see it as necessary to liking one form of music or another.Hippies have long hair, and I certianly am not a smelly vegan hippie. I wear bands shirts yes. Why? Well not because I have to as part of some metal look, but because I'd rather support muisc I like then some clothing company telling people how to dress season to season. I don't wear black jeans, I wear cargo pants. Why, because it serves a function more then fashion. For some people, metal is a look, for me it isn't, because I can wear a tux or suit, or business attire and it doesn't change the content of my character, and so for me at least, things or such a superficial nature have no meaning to me.
     
  17. Smoof

    Smoof Vacancy

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    It seems you're pulling information from your own personal existance (Well, yeah, Smoof,) and then drawing conclusions about the rest of Americans.
    Perhaps it is a large percentage, but I have had no problem in my own life. I have many close friends in which I know their religious views, values, etc, etc. A few that I discuss philosophy with, politics, etc.

    I don't typically engage in smalltalk, but rather seclude myself from others unless I feel the need/want to come out and make myself and my ideas known. And as stated, I have many close relationships with people I know. Sure, Americans are superficial, but I do think that you're coming to a rather fallicious conclusion when you suggest everyone is like this.

    Also, I have no experience with other cultures either (outside of the US, that is,) however, I doubt it is very much different. Why should people immediately come up to others and begin speaking of religion, politics and philosophy? Does this happen on a regular basis? If someone immediately comes up to you preaching Jesus, do you engage in a discussion with them, or do you think they're "a bit weird" for coming up and being so open with you? Why shouldn't people be closed off and distant from others? Why shouldn't they begin with superficial small talk? In this way, people get to know each other a little better and are able to judge whether or not that would like to befriend this person and discuss larger issues.

    Small talk is not merely superficial. It's park of the "greeting process." Bluntly, it's a humans way of sniffing each others asses.
     
  18. speed

    speed Member

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    Indeed. I had no intention of making this a discussion of absolutes, or anything. Just a fun talk about society. You know, even great thinkers have been fond of making such general comments and small talk about the problems of the age.

    I agree with you on the small talk bit, but my little story, outlined a person who had gotten--surperficially of course--to know other people, but found that even with familiarity, these other people had nothing else to discuss.
     
  19. MURAI

    MURAI -

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    One strong criticism of multiculturalism is the lack of any real culture at all. Eventually, the groups will form nothing but a grey form of it and each group will lose any distinction. The exception to preserve any culture are being a member in a large, tightly knit ethnic group (i.e. the Chinese), being in a religion circle which demands strict obediance (i.e. Muslim), or joining a subculture. Still it is hard because identity of religion and subcultures has become easily bought. Christianity in the States has become something just to make face than any actual religious devotion. Subcultures are more difficult to form because it is so easy to buy things from it with E-Bay and malls. People actually become dumb enough to think they can buy an identity by buying products.

    A good point of multiculturalism like in the States or Canada is being able to create an efficient society. Since people are from everywhere, you cut to the chase by making an accessible, mainstream culture which meets the bare essentials of a society (entertainment, food, shelter etc). But again, lacking any substance.
     
  20. OldScratch

    OldScratch Member

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    The trouble is, it doesn't generate much efficiency either. In fact, just the opposite is true. America, in many areas is morphing into a polyglot land of social and cultural confusion - for native and immigrant alike. And contrary to being easily accessible a great deal is only becoming increasingly complex and inefficient. I have a friend who recently retired from the NYPD and he can spin horror stories for hours of the cultural chaos in many parts of the city. Communication issues abound, otherwise routine calls become dangerous and frustrating due to "cultural" misunderstandings, etc. And this is rapidly spreading into the suburbs, bringing the social and municipal chaos with it.
    Recently, lawsuits have been filed against various Police depts. in the South, for failing to demand that their officers speak Spanish to accomodate the large illegal local populations!
    I like your opening statement best. Multiculturalism is basically a social-illusion that stands in direct opposition to the idea of culture itself. The more "Diverse" we become the more superficial we become - this is no coincidence. What's more, there isn't a person alive who can convince me that the Western world has gained a single positive thing via this multi-culti canard! I will nobly deny myself the glories of the Mongolian Barbeque and sacrifice my enrichment by exposure to transplanted Senegalese tribesman, Santeria ritual or Mariachi music in favor of that nasty ol' plain vanilla culture of old!
     

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