AMERI-THINK:Yup, that’s what they call it. What they mean is that virtually everyone in America – be he farmer, welder or Wall Street wizard – wants the same thing. Their separate definitions of ‘the good life’, if you asked them, would be amazingly similar. Nor do any of them – regardless financial position – tend to question the fundamental social order. With the exception of a few ageing refugees from Haight-Ashbury, America today is sure it’s got it right. The nation’s politics reflect this. There is not much ideological distance between the two major parties. Sure, the Republicans are supposed to favour Big Business, lower taxes and centralised government, while Democrats are traditionally more liberal, free public spenders, and happier to devolve decisions. But they’re after the same result – a strong, secure and unabashedly capitalist America.
‘Them ‘n Us’
BRITH-THINK: ‘Politics in Britain is a Civil War without weapons. Even elections do not buy us a period of peace and quiet – the losers will not accept the result.’
(Brian Walden The London Standard)
Of course they won’t, when whole sections of the community see their personal interests as irrevocably bound up in the fortunes of one particular party. It’s a war all right, between the ‘them’ side and the ‘us’ side, and it’s a fight to the death. No chance of defeat with honour; no reconciliation, no magnanimity. The winner takes all, and the loser retires to sulk in a corner for four or five years.
You don’t choose your side of the Body Politic; you’re born there. To break away represents a betrayal of class and family. Your Party is You, and vice-versa. It is on your side, even when it is wrecking your prospects and the economy of the nation. To Brits, party loyalty has nothing to do with pragmatism, and abject failure is no good reason for desertion. No: Brit-politics are not really about personal gain. They are about class dominance and principles. Compromise with the Other Side is dangerous, since it blunts the cutting edge of despair. Co-operation … what’s that? This is why Brits conclude that all forms of progress are impossible. They are right. Under the present system, nothing moves.
6. ‘Me-think’ vs. ‘We-think’
AMERI-THINK: ‘Moi – I come first’ (the Piggy Principle)
Miss Piggy said it, and touched a chord deep in the hearts of her countrymen. An American considers that his first duty and obligation is to look after Number One. This follows on from ‘I’m gonna live forever’, because it stands to reason that you’ve got to take care of yourself if you’re going to last. If each person concentrates on attaining his ‘personal best’ – and achieves inner fulfillment – we will have created a better society.
Without knowing it, most Yanks support the ideas of Adam Smith – the economist who advanced the theory that the individual working in his own interests leads ultimately to the greatest good of the State. A strong society is merely the sum of strong parts. It’s often said that America is the heartland of individualism... and this is what people mean. You protect your own interests by making choices – lots of them. If you’ve acquired money – which gives you more leverage – then so much the better. It is no accident that Frank Sinatra scored a monster hit with ‘I Did It My Way’. Frankie understands ‘Me-think’.
BRIT-THINK: ‘We-think’, not ‘Me-think’
‘Piggy-think’ does not sit easily with Brits. It strikes them as a bit brutal. Whether they vote Tory or Labour, they’ve spent years living under various permutations of Socialist government. This has created different habits of mind, and softened the collective rhetoric. ‘Moi – I come first’ – sticks in the throat. Brits of most persuasions are happiest talking about ‘self-reliance’ and ‘the common goal which reminds them of The War, the Crown and the BBC in no particular order. This has a great deal of social credibility, but – paradoxically – often turns out to mean my right to do what’s best for me, and hope that your requirements don’t get in the way’.
Culturally, socially, psychologically, literally – Brits form queues. They like to keep things nice and cosy. Fundamental to ‘we-think’ is the dread of inciting a contest – a scrum. Brits are reluctant to throw down the gauntlet; and ‘I come first’ is a challenge to others – notification of battle. Strong stuff, where there are winners and losers, and the weak go to the wall. Once the gloves are off, no one can predict the outcome.
This carries with it the risk of change, blood-letting, or social turbulence. (No Shake-ups, Please – We’re British). ‘We-Think’ creates the impression of a kinder, more caring society, where rich and poor alike are cushioned against the harsh realities of unbridled competition. One can’t win by much, or lose by much. So goes the Brit-myth.