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The Values Americans live by: 5. INDIVIDUAL AND PRIVACY


By L. Robert Kohls


The individualism that has been developed in the Western world since the Renaissance, beginning in the late 15th century, has taken its most exaggerated form in 20th century United States. Here, each individual is seen as completely and marvelously unique, that is, totally different from all other individuals and, therefore, particularly precious and wonderful.

Americans think they are more individualist in their thoughts and actions than, in fact, they are. They resist being thought of as representatives of a homogenous group, whatever the group. They may, and do, join groups—in fact many groups—but somehow believe they’re just a little different, just a little unique, just a little special, from other members of the same group. And they tend to leave groups as easily as they enter them.

Privacy, the ultimate result of individualism is perhaps even more difficult for the foreigner to comprehend. The word "privacy" does not even exist in many languages. If it does, it is likely to have a strongly negative connotation, suggesting loneliness or isolation from the group. In the United States, privacy is not only seen as a very positive condition, but it is also viewed as a requirement that all humans would find equally necessary, desirable and satisfying. It is not uncommon for Americans to say—and believe—such statements as "If I don’t have at least half an hour a day to myself, I will go stark raving mad."

Individualism, as it exists in the United States, does mean that you will find a much greater variety of opinions (along with the absolute freedom to express them anywhere and anytime) here. Yet, in spite of this wide range of personal opinion, almost all Americans will ultimately vote for one of the two major political parties. That is what was meant by the statement made earlier that Americans take pride in crediting themselves with claiming more individualism than, in fact, they really have.

Commentaires

samsoum a dit…
Zizou, I see that you're reading the best Human resources specializied in overseas workers and intercultural skills. I got one of his books in my relocation package when I came from France. I was looking for it since your first post :-) and now I have it here in front of me :-) and I read "Every American believes he personally chose which values he want to live his own life by"
Im trying to share this reading with my fellow tunisians.
I however doubt that these posts in english will be read.
So far no one (besides jojo) commented the content of these posts.
I think I should translate them to french !
samsoum a dit…
Zizou, I think it is a good idea because by definiton his work is meant to expalin the american way of life and it is important to understand and not fail in the trap of confusing american politics with american values. i can even help in the translation if you want
Anonyme a dit…
Don't translate anything. I am sure the Tunisian brain is able to grasp English words, and if it doesn't, we shall keep on writing in English until the message gets across. Why do you think we understand Italian in this country without speaking it fluently? simply because RaiUno did a good job.
good point Tarek !

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