“Brother, Can you Spare the Time?”

By Thomas Kochman - 12.12.2009

Charles Blow’s comment in his op ed column “Paranormal Flexibility” of Americans “bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma,” reminds me of a quote from American composer Virgil Thompson who said, \”American music is any music written by Americans”.

These statements speak to a hallmark and feature of U.S. culture, not only “individual freedom” but also “primary control”, which is shaping the environment to accommodate oneself, as opposed to “secondary control”, shaping oneself to accommodate the environment.

This view has many corollaries. One is that within the U.S. individuals don’t have to accept the givens.

If God, fate or society has dealt you a hand that you don’t like, it’s very mainstream U.S. to say, “I want a new deal,” as opposed to, “I need to learn to manage these cards as best that I can.”

Mainstream U.S. folks tend to look at difficulties as “problems to be solved,” as opposed to “situations to be accepted.”

This cultural difference also leads to different sets of expectations on how individual and social problems should be addressed. Read more »