Amanda Stivala Composition 1030-72 Summary and Response 9/24/12 Growing up in America one doesn’t really question our customs or the daily lives of the people here. Everyone kind of has a precedent for our everyday live and no one really tries to break the mold on that. Poranee Natadecha- Sonsel argues that Americans are unlike many other countries because they have a certain individualism about everything they do in their culture.
In her article, “The Young, the Rich, and the Famous: Individualism as American Cultural Value”, the author reiterates over and over again that the way Americans value their individualism really impresses her. She names a few examples of American individualism such as conversational topics, privacy, and family life. Ms. Sponsel further evaluates each subtopic thus shedding more light on her argument. One of the author’s many arguments about American individualism is how they converse with other people.
Associated essay: ”On Compassion”
She notes that when asked the time old question of, “How are you? ” , Americans most of the time have one set response only and don’t reveal much information about how they really are that day. Ms. Sponsel seems taken back by how Americans don’t really appear to care about how the other person is feeling and just blurt out the automated response of, “I’m good, how are you? ’. She often references the customs of her culture back in Thailand and how very different it is from American culture.
She notes how open they are with everyone they talk to and pretty much tell their whole life story to everyone they meet. America’s individualism set’s them apart from many other countries, not just Thailand and every country has their own way of doing things. Ms. Sponsel is a well educated anthropologist, so it is her job to study a culture and watch how it operates which is why America’s such individual culture really shocks her. America has a culture unlike any other where privacy is a main component. She emphasizes that even from a young age privacy is introduced into our lives.
She points out that unlike other more traditional countries, America is one of the few countries where an infant is given their own room separate from their parents and are progressively taught to become independent emotionally and economically from their families. She once again references Thailand and their family cultures by saying that in Thai families all of the members of the family stick together and take care of each other and the children of the family really aren’t given independency until they get married and move out.
Ms. Sponsel tries to show the extreme differences between the two cultures to emphasize America’s individualism. In response to Ms. Sponsel’s article about American individualism, I do agree for the most part with that she has to prove when she says that America is very different from the other cultures throughout the world especially the Thai culture she constantly compared America to. What she fails to recognize however, is that America is a cultural melting pot.
Most Asian countries are homogenous and really haven’t become integrated, so sure it’s easy to have one steady flow of the same culture there. However, in America we have so many different cultures so it’s really difficult to conform to one specific race’s cultural norms. Some of her sub arguments in relation to her main point are a little far fetched to me though.. One of Ms. Sponsel’s big issue is that Americans are very private especially in the home and with their own families. I don’t understand why she is stunned that American children are taught to become independent at such a young age.
The younger you learn that, the better equipped you will be for the real world once you become an adult and then you won’t have to rely on your parents to help you with everything. The Thai culture that Ms. Sponsel always refers back to seems to not want their children to be independent at all, let alone leave the house and move out when they married adults. Americans have such a busy and fast paced life, being sheltered from that type of individualism would affect their lives in very negative ways.
One really prime example of how her culture can show evidence of being overprotective of their children unlike Americans can be is, when Ms. Sponsel said that when she was working at an East-West summer camp one of the supervisors brought their 10 month old child and when the baby tried to walk it fell right down. Naturally the baby started crying, but it wasn’t the baby’s parents that went to go help the baby, it was all the Asian students. The parents knew that the baby would be fine so they left it alone and eventually he got up and started walking again.
It’s a perfect example of how American’s individualistic culture norms are just totally opposite of other cultures, we know that one day that baby is going to have to get up and get over it so why not start at a young age so they get used to it instead of coddling them like the Asian culture or any other culture different than our would have done. Overall, I do see some very valid points provided by Ms. Sponsel about Americans and their odd sense of individualism, but also on the contrary she does have some faults where she overlooks some key aspects in her argument.