Black Friday is a good example of what’s wrong with this country: egocentrism. The belief that everything revolves around you and what you want, regardless of the larger picture and those around you. This self-centeredness is most often found in young children, who are so mentally undeveloped they can’t understand objectivity or others’ perspectives. Most people grow out of these viewpoints as their capacity for logic and critical thinking grow, yet some adults remain stuck in this schema. I highly suspect the proportion of adults who retain this toddler-esque view of the world is higher in the United States. Here’s a few examples of egocentrism often observed in America…
1) If something doesn’t directly affect us, it is to be ignored or derided. Racism is dead since you don’t experience it and anyone who says otherwise is just “playing the race card” or “being politically correct”. Gays don’t need to use the word “marriage” because it just upsets other people and the equal, but separate, term “civil union” is just as good. Also, those people protesting or rioting over at location “X” are just overreacting or behaving poorly; after all, nothing like that happens around my neighborhood.
2) If something does affect us negatively, it’s automatically the worst thing and deserving of vitriol and activism… regardless of its larger consequences. Socialized medicine forces us to pay for others; why should I be forced to contribute to the greater good if I’ll never need it? Speed traps are “government overreach” and there to create revenue; it doesn’t matter if I was the one who chose to drive 15+ mph over the speed limit. Moderation of my online comments is a flagrant “violation of the First Amendment”; I don’t care if my comments were construed as “hate speech”, they’re my opinions and therefore valid.
3) If something seems like a deal or we have to have it, we buy it. It doesn’t matter our priorities, our economic capabilities, our needs… it’s our wants that drive us. The latest PlayStation or iPhone requires time and money, even as we complain a lack of funds for gas or car troubles and struggling to make ends meet. Also, the second someone brings attention to this conflict, there is no critical thought… the individual who dared comment becomes the target of derision and vitriol.
It’s this extreme Individualism that makes Americans looked upon with disdain by much of the world. Individualism is fine and a hallmark of Western Civilization, but there can be a point where it’s taken too far. We look at ourselves, our wants, our biased opinions, and believe in themselves as absolute truths. This sort of thinking is what that makes the general populace so easily manipulated by politicians and their corporate allies. It is also, ironically, rather opposite of what Thanksgiving, the day before Black Friday, was all about.
Remember this during these holidays and shopping extravaganzas… critical thinking starts with the self. Make sure you’re not falling trap to being the “Self-Centered American” first, and then work outwards from there. Think about the larger picture, don’t become focused solely on how you’re affected, and prioritize needs over wants. Become an example to family and friends, in the hopes they might follow. Even more importantly, though, become a role model and teach your children… and maybe the next generation won’t be as egocentric as we are today.