Americans and their political culture

CULTURES PRODUCE CERTAIN TYPES OF PERSONS

Ozodi Osuji

     Whereas one should not stereotype a whole nation, my perception is that the typical American is conservative in his core beliefs (in his political ideology). He has been raised to believe that his country is the best in the world; he likes the US Constitution and political institutions; his political and economic socialization impressed on him that capitalism is the best economic system in the world. As psychologists would say, the typical American, with few exceptions, has internalized, interiorized and introjected his country’s culture; he is now a walking-talking symbol of what America stands for in the extant world.

      The typical American is conservative; only a few of them are so-called liberal (actually, liberal means anyone who supports political liberty, individualism and democracy but that is not how the term is used in the USA); the American liberal is essentially a conservative who grudgingly accepts the need for using the government, the taxpayers money to provide limited services for the poor.

     Push a member of the Democratic Party and he is like a member of the Republican Party! America has only one political party, the White American Conservative Party.

      In Europe, the term conservative is understood differently from the way it is understood in America; members of the Tory Party, the British Conservative Party, in the USA would be called communists!

     The term socialism makes the American’s blood pressure to go off the roof. But if you ask him what he understands by socialism, he has absolutely no clue what it means; all that happened is that the gatekeepers of the American political establishment have equated socialism with the devil and, in as much as people fear the devil, Americans fear socialism.

     The American does not know that socialism means cooperation by people in accomplishing certain goals that experience teaches are best done through the collectivity rather than by the individual alone; he readily knows that capitalism is competition whereby we all compete for access to available scarce resources, and a few get most of them, which he deems social and economic realism; that is just the way it is, he says, but he does not know that what he thinks is the way of nature is merely his people’s accepted views on the most efficient way to distribute and allocate  goods and services in the human polity, not nature’s dictation.

     No country in the world completely escapes from socialism. America provides shoddy public education to all its children through secondary schools (the rich send their children to private schools where, I am told, attempt is made to give kids real education). Senior citizens above age 67 are given some kind of pension, the barest minimum and what they get in the era of inflation is not even able to feed them; they are also given shoddy Medicare that despite it the typical retired American spends more money out of his pocket for medical services than he did when he was working (how about giving the people complete Medicare, not the smidgeon that they are given?).

     The point that I am making is that, willy-nilly, America practices some kind of socialism; however, the folks that call themselves market driven politicians, those propagandized by such mediocre economists, such as Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago school of economics (and the capitalism infatuated Russian woman, Ayn Rand, the lady equated capitalism with political freedom) would like the public not even to pay for education at any level and not pay for  pennies they pay their old people. 

     Americans accept capitalism; their brand of capitalism is self-centeredness, not objective economics, if there can be such a thing as economic science; when capitalism was proposed as replacement for Mercantilism it could be called an advancement in human economic thinking but at the present it is a retrogression.

    (For the records, I accept both capitalism and socialism, and social democracy as practiced in the Scandinavian countries, countries that are the most civilized in the world.)

      Observing how Americans have knee jerk acceptance of conservatism and capitalism, I have no choice but to conclude that the polity has gotten the people to be the way they are through socialization.

     American minds are stunted because of their refusal to use their minds to do serious thinking.

    It is escapist from realism to live well while many people are homeless. The average American quickly tells you that we live in a competitive world and those who can compete win and losers suffer and eventually die off, and that is the way of nature.

     In nature is survival of the fittest! For additional measure, they tell you that Charles Darwin, a real scientist, said that much.

     There is another way of explaining the specific American warped manner of thinking. It is rooted in their refusal to be philosophical; they sweep serious existential issues under the rug and do not think about them.

     As Ernest Becker (1973) pointed out in his book, The Denial of Death, most Americans do not think about death. They run around thinking that they will live forever until age catches up with them and, instead of becoming wise old men, they revert to childishness in their old age.

    Why would they not regress to child state? They had filled their minds with sweet sounding ideas during most of their lives so that serious existential issues are not thought about.

     When eventually the American Empire joins older ones in history’s garbage dump, folks can wonder how a scientifically and technologically advanced society managed to keep most of its people operating with minds fit for children?

    The reason is because every culture produces a certain kind of person. Nigeria, for example, given the acceptance of corruption and criminality as part of the culture, produces corrupt persons who are not invested in the truth; most Nigerians will tell you lies without batting an eye; they believe that they have deceived you into believing in their lies. Most non-Nigerians see through Nigerians’ flim-flam, amoral lifestyles!

DISCUSSION

      A typical American is a man that I will call Donald; all that he thinks about is how to make money, build houses to make money from, and eat excellent food. Ask him certain existential and phenomenological questions, such as what we are living for, where did we come from and where do we go to when we die, and he is not interested in those questions and tells you that the questions have no answers and that you should not bother him with them. He prefers to fix his car than worry about God.

     American evangelical Christians are like Satan worshippers; Jesus Christ asked his followers to love people, but these American brands of Christians teach hatred of non-white folks, especially hatred of Black folks.

    He is not interested in philosophy; he has some passing interest in science, especially applied science; he sees the uses of technology in improving our lives. Talk physics and he tune you out, but talk medicine and engineering and he listens, for he appreciates what applied science does for him, improve his life.

     The composite American defines his self as a mere ego and body and wants to make the most of those and die; he does not worry about his fate after his death.

    Placing the typical American on the conservative end of the political spectrum helps us to understand the shocking phenomenon of their electing fascistic and autocratic Donald Trump as their president; Trump is a man that by all indices of civilization is a bushman, and a pathological liar. How could civilized Americans elect this uncourt liar, well, now we know; he is an American conservative; his people voted for him; they were not looking for a decent man who is interested in serving the general public’s welfare but a champion of their self-centered approach to living.

CONCLUSION

      I gave up on Americans long ago; I now accept them as I see them to be, folks who are mostly actuated by the here and now world but not by serious issues.

      In the past, I used to think that I understood the American political culture, but the January 6, 2021, insurrection disabused me. The people are capable of the most primitive political behavior.

    At their universities where they pretend to teach philosophy, they do not use it to teach students on how to ask questions and seek answers; they merely regurgitate what Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aureoles, Horace, Machiavelli, Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Berkely, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, William James etc. wrote a long time ago (the writings of Karl Marx is anathema; such existential philosophers like Kierkegaard, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, Jasper  confronts  his mind with the possible meaninglessness of our existence, he would rather only look at the positive, on cheery side of life hence he is not interested in existentialism).

    Why should you ask questions on economics when the eighteenth-century ideas written by Adam Smith, in his book, The Wealth of Nations, has already answered all questions on economics (Milton Friedman did not advance any new idea that cannot be inferred from Adam Smith, his writing on taxation and monetary policies are elaborations of John Maynard Keynes ideas).

     America elevated capitalism to high heaven rather than see it as what it is, an opinion on how to organize the economy, and it is not the only idea on that subject.

     One must relate to people as one sees them; one should not take flight into political idealism that tries to change people and improve them, that would not help when one is dealing with Americans.

     Americans are steeped in their brand of political conservatism and economic capitalism. They tinker on its edges but are not willing to accept the fact that their political economy is antiquated. Only a major disaster, not just depression, will force them to grapple with the fact that they are living in the past and they try something else, such as injecting robust socialism into their economy (such as providing all young persons with education through university and vocational colleges and providing all people with publicly paid health care).

Ozodi Osuji

January 22, 2022

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