Weird Americans

a dish Jersey Royal potatoes - simply boiled

a dish Jersey Royal potatoes – simply boiled (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135

The article above is about how social science research assumed that Americans were like everyone else in the world– right up until someone tried a classic experiment on some people in south America who REALLY didn’t think like us. And, in my opinion, that was a good thing.  It’s just a reminder that if you feel weird as an American, it might mean you’re not weird as a citizen of the planet. It comes back to one of my favorite quotes, from the radical 60’s psychiatrist R. D. Laing, which I believe I’ve mentioned before– “To be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society is a dubious achievement.”

I’m not going to belabor the point, because another slant would be to just say that people are different in different places– who’s to say that one way is fundamentally superior to another? The interesting thing for me about the article was that it highlights the role of culture as well as the persistence of cultural values. As a guy whose forefathers & foremothers mostly come from the British Isles, I’ve always said that honoring my cultural roots would mean eating boiled potatoes and roast beef, then coming to your neighborhood and making a series of increasingly bad (for you) trade deals up until you suddenly realized your neighborhood is now my colony. But at the same time installing a good sewage system and encouraging democracy. Life is a mixed bag.

This blog is supposed to focus on the wellness of the individual. But the point here is that the wellness of the individual is intimately tied up with groups, with culture, and it’s especially true here in the U.S. that people are inclined to see themselves as being at odds with their own culture. But then again, Americans have a culture that places a positive value on being at odds with one’s culture. Cool paradox,  huh? All of us individualists are going to hang around together. In fact, we’ll start a movement! Hey, wait a minute…

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About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
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