domingo, 7 de noviembre de 2010

Cultura y contracultura

Estamos ante algo más allá de un cambio político, para entrar en los valores, más amplios y profundos.

EL gran debate hoy en Estados Unidos no es si Obama cambia o no de política tras el descalabro electoral. Es
- si lo ocurrido el martes fue lo usual en las elecciones intermedias —retroceso del partido gobernante—
- o un vuelco en la escena norteamericana, al estilo de los que experimenta el país

cada cuatro o cinco décadas.
Y la opinión mayoritaria es que sí, que

- ese vuelco se ha producido,
- cerrándose el periodo «liberal» iniciado en los años sesenta del pasado siglo,
- para iniciarse otro "conservador"

Les paso los argumentos:
1. El cambio del mapa político es mucho mayor de lo que se ha dicho. Se habla de «ambas costas frente al centro». En realidad, ha sido la esquina noreste, en torno a Nueva York, y la esquina suroeste, en torno a California, frente al resto del país. El Sur —demócrata desde la guerra civil—, el oeste agrícola y centro industrial —demócratas ambos tradicionalmente— se han pasado a los republicanos.
2. Lo que hay detrás de ese vuelco es algo más que el desencanto con un presidente y las estrecheces de una crisis.

Es el miedo y la ansiedad de las clases media y trabajadora norteamericana ante su futuro y el de sus hijos, ante la pérdida de competitividad en el mundo y la frustración de depender cada vez más de subsidios.
3. El Tea Party no es ninguna novedad ideológica lanzada por cuatro radicales que engatusan a los incautos. Bien al contrario, sus consignas,

- menos gobierno,
- más individualismo;
- menos regulaciones,
- más iniciativa privada,
son las que han hecho Estados Unidos y las que suscriben tanto los republicanos, como la mayoría de los demócratas.
4. Dos ejemplos: en la archiliberal California la propuesta de legalizar la marihuana ha sido rechazada, y en Iowa, los tres magistrados que habían legalizado el matrimonio homosexual no fueron reelegidos.

Marihuana y homosexualidad, dos iconos de los años 60, apartados de la corriente general.
Es como

- si la vieja cultura viniera a reemplazar a la contracultura de moda.
O sea, que estamos ante algo más allá de un cambio político, para entrar en los valores, más amplios y profundos, al no quedarse en el gobierno y alcanzar a las personas.
La mayoría de los norteamericanos parecen haberse dicho que
- lo que les ha llevado a la situación actual,
- lo que les ha hecho perder riqueza, prestigio, confianza y seguridad
- es haber abandonado sus viejos valores,
- para adoptar otros importados, de Europa en general y
- del socialismo en particular.
Son éstas palabras mayores, por lo que habrá que esperar que el futuro las confirme o las rechace.

De momento, Obama tendrá que adaptarse más al Tea Party que el Tea Party a Obama, según el último dictado de las urnas.
José María Carrascal - "ABC" - Madrid - 7-Nov-2011
American Values

If you asked most Americans what the cultural values in the U.S. are, you might get some blank stares, or a statement of some basic beliefs. The question may seem simple, but the answer is quite complex. In a society as highly diverse as the United States, there is likely to be a multitude of answers.

American culture has been enriched by the values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. Consequently, it is impossible to be comprehensive. Nevertheless, a few selected values are at the core of the American value system.

Individual Freedom
The one value that nearly every American would agree upon is individual freedom. Whether you call it individual freedom, individualism, or independence, it is the cornerstone of American values. It permeates every aspect of our society.

The concept of an individual's having control over his/her own destiny influenced the type of government that was established here, and individual rights are guaranteed in the United States Constitution (the supreme law of the land).

These rights are so protected in our judicial system that, even though Americans may complain that criminals sometimes "get away with murder," most people believe it is better to free a few guilty persons than to imprison one person who is innocent.

While our economic system may be dominated by large corporations, the majority of American businesses are small, and many are owned by an individual or a family. It is part of the "American dream" to "be your own boss," and being an entrepreneur is one of the most appealing ways to improve one's economic future.

Choice in Education
Education is often regarded as the key to opportunity, including financial security. Americans take a pragmatic approach to learning, so what one learns outside the classroom through internships, extracurricular activities and the like is often considered as important as what is learned in the classroom. Consequently, lifelong learning is valued which results in many adult and continuing education programs.

Americans have many choices. In school they decide their major field of study, perhaps with or without their parents' influence, and students even get to select some of their courses. These "elective" courses often confuse foreign students who may expect a more rigid curriculum.

The belief that Americans should "be all that you can be" emanates from our Protestant heritage. Since the majority of the early settlers were Protestant, they believed that they had a responsibility to improve themselves, to be the best they could be, to develop their talents, and to help their neighbors. These convictions have not only influenced our educational system, but are often reflected in U.S. foreign policy. What some might consider meddling in other people's affairs, others believe is fulfilling a moral obligation.

The Family
Another aspect of American society that may bewilder non-Americans is the family. The nuclear family structure (parents and children) is so alien to most cultures in the world that it is often misunderstood. The main purpose of the American family is to bring about the happiness of each individual family member. The traditional family values include love and respect for parents, as well as for all members of the family.

However, the emphasis on the individual and his/her right to happiness can be confusing. It allows children to disagree, even argue with their parents. While in most other cultures such action would be a sign of disrespect and a lack of love, that is not the case in the United States. It is simply a part of developing one's independence.

Many foreign students and visitors are welcomed by host families, who invite them into their homes for dinner or to join in family activities. Frequently visitors are told to "make themselves at home" and, at times, may appear to be "left alone."

It certainly is nice to be treated as an honored guest in someone's home, but one of the highest compliments that an American can give foreign guests is to treat them like members of the family, which means to give them the "freedom of the house" to do what they want, to "raid the refrigerator" on their own, or to have some quiet time alone.

Privacy is also important to Americans. The notion of individual privacy may make it difficult to make friends. Because Americans respect one's privacy, they may not go much beyond a friendly "hello." Ironically, it is usually the foreigner who must be more assertive if a friendship is to develop.

The rugged individualism valued by most Americans stems from our frontier heritage. For much of our country's history, there was a frontier. That experience greatly influenced American attitudes. Early settlers had to be self-sufficient which forced them to be inventive. Their success gave them an optimism about the future, a belief that problems could be solved. This positive spirit enables Americans to take risks in areas where others might only dream, resulting in tremendous advances in technology, health and science.

The American frontier also created our heroes: the self-reliant, strong-willed, confident individual who preferred action to words and always tried to treat others fairly. Many of these characteristics are represented by the myth of the American cowboy, and the more modern versions personified in movies by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Sylvester Stallone. We can even look to "future" centuries and admire similar qualities in the heroes of the Star Trek and Star Wars movie series.

In addition to such basic American values as individual freedom, self-reliance, equality of opportunity, hard work, material wealth, and competition, we see a trend toward conservation with an emphasis on recycling and preserving the environment. Also there is a greater sensitivity to cooperation on a more global scale.

No matter what changes the next century brings or whether you agree with American values, the opportunity to visit the United States and to observe Americans first-hand is an experience well worth the effort.

Be careful not to be ethnocentric, but to evaluate a culture by its own standards. Be aware that you'll help shape American attitudes, just as they will influence you.

Thomas E. Grouling, Ph.D. - Deake University

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