American Beliefs and Values

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AMERICAN BELIEFS AND VALUES

There are some ideals and values rooted in the country’s history and spread by media (films, TV) that many Americans share.

1. Individualism – has strong roots in America. Individualism is understood not only as self reliance but also as economic self-sufficiency. It has been a central theme in American history. Many years ago most Americans were farmers whose success depended not on cooperation with others but on their ability to confront the hardships of land and climate on their own. Success was measured by individual resourcefulness. The idealization of the self-reliant individual translated itself into the celebration of the small businessman who became a financial success on his own. 2. Volunteerism – means helping people through privately-initiated or government-sponsored agencies. Volunteers are highly motivated workers who organize themselves to solve a particular problem or meet some social need. Volunteer fund-raising groups step in to help the needy in all spheres: there are groups that hold clothing drives for the poor and homeless as well as groups that organize car washes and bake sales to raise money for school. Volunteerism reflects Americans’ optimistic pride in their ability to work out practical solutions themselves. 3. Progress – is very important to the Americans. In this immigrant society progress is measured as family progress over generations. Many Americans can boast that with each succeeding generation since their first ancestors arrived the family’s status has improved. The classic American family saga is all about progress: the great grand parents arrived from Europe or Asia with nothing, worked hard, gave their children good education and so on ….. The idea of progress is an important part of the American Dream 4. The American Dream – this term is used to describe “the life that is better, richer and fuller” as American writer T.J.Adams put it in 1931. The American Dream is popularized in countless rags-to-riches stories and in the portrayal of the good life in films and on TV. It teaches Americans to believe that success can be achieved through hard work, family loyalty and faith in the free enterprise system. However throughout America’s history reality has taught its citizens that the American Dream is not open to all. Although the media has always popularized the success stories like one of Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) who became a millionaire in his 20s, most people understand that there is no use trying to be like him. One succeeded, the millions failed. The Family background also matters a lot. The rich people have much more opportunity, the poor can succeed but they need luck and there is no guarantee that goes with it. The rich start out a step up. Many young Americans actually feel deceived and as a result…. 5. The Downshifting Movement was born. The Downshifting is a social trend in which a person lives a simple life to escape from the stress and overtime. We are surrounded by the BUY NOW culture. There are slogans like MAKE LOTS OF MONEY, BUY A BIG HOUSE everywhere. But once you get in it, there is no way out. With the cost of living constantly rising you will have to work harder and harder just to stay in place. As American philosopher Tracy Smith put it: it is a rat race of obsessive materialism. You just don’t have time to enjoy life. The Downshifting is very popular among young people in their 20s and 30s. It implies staying at your parents’ after college, finding a 9am-5pm 5 day a week job not far from home and spending free time watching TV or surfing the Net. Some say that working part time would be even better. American writer Susan Faludi who explored the Downshifting in her books put it in this way: young men feel disenfranchised because they do not belong to the world of 25-year old Internet millionaires with whom the media are so enthralled. In reality the average income for men 25 – 35 in decreasing according to...
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