Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What makes American so special.

On this 4th of July 2006 - which celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain - I would like to stress the point made by a recent article read in The Economist this week on what makes American values so special. ("special" as in "unique" not necessarily as in "better").
It has to do with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Contrary to common opinion, it is not so much "life" and "liberty" that makes the Declaration of Independence so unique but rather the "pursuit of happiness". It is true that one of the particularities of American life is that people are in constant pursuit of something: Americans are always energetic, always on the move (they are known for their relentless mobility), always engaged in something, always wanting more.
The downside is that many Americans have confused happiness with material possession to the point of making huge sacrifices, including friends, marriage and children. So sometimes, it seems that "the pursuit is self-defeating".
The Economist also ventures to link the rise of anti-Americanism (see our previous posts here and here) to this ideal. Of course, as often said, "many people dislike Americans because of its failure to live up to its stated ideals" but also because:
For some Europeans, the pursuit of happiness in the form of monster cars and mansions is objectional on every possible point, from asthetic to ecological. You cannot pursue happiness with such conspicuous enthusiasm without making quite a lot of people around the world unhappy.
As they rightly sum it up: it's the pursuit, rather than the end product, that makes Americans so American.
It's an old universal theme, isn't it? "When the Grail you reach, look as good it will not" Master Yoda might have said!

HAPPY 4th of JULY to Y'all!

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