BRIT-THINK:Since no one expects things to work, they are very tolerant of explanations for why they haven’t. ‘It can’t be helped’, they shrug, resigned. Brits like things that can’t be helped. The weather, for example. Or train derailments. Or power-failures, or national strikes. They are very fond of acts of God – or indeed any situation which allows them to ‘soldier on’, vowing to muddle through somehow. Brit Brownie-points for ‘making the best of a bad job’. (This of course relieves you of any obligation to do a good one).
Brits are adept at making the most of even minor setbacks. Because they have so few natural catastrophes on a grand scale (earthquakes, typhoons, volcanos, blizzards), they’ve learned to make full use of the ones they’ve got. The whole nation grinds to a halt because of delays in first-class postal services. Or points failure on Southern Region.
When business fails to profit, Brits are glad to accept ‘acts of God’ explanations. The problem is not poor planning, or woeful decisions; it’s the unexpected rise in interest rates / devaluation of the Yen / monsoons in Sri Lanka / collapse in oil prices. Less is mentioned of inaccurate research, failure to predict trends or contain damage. It’s ‘victim syndrome’ – otherwise known as BRITVIC. Ask a Brit what he wants to be when he grows up, and the honest answer is ‘a victim of circumstances’.
Delegating blame: ‘It’s a notta my fault!’
A UK press report on the Queen’s visit to California commented on the ugliness and inappropriateness of one be-ribboned evening dress in the official wardrobe. ‘In choosing it’, the journalist concluded, ‘the Queen was badly advised’. IT’S A NOTTA HER FAULT!’ She was but a passive victim, unable to influence events. Never let it be said that Her Majesty made an error of judgement. Off with a minion’s head.
Brits are masters at delegating blame, which is why ‘advisors’ are so handy. Royal families seem to have zillions. In all walks of life ‘professional advice’ is highly regarded, and generally deferred to. In this way individuals are separated from the responsibility for their own decisions. ‘Counsel’ tells you whether or not to bring a court case, and you seldom seek a second opinion. Nor do you question ‘professional’ judgement: ‘the doctor booked me in for an operation / teacher says Trevor’s not university material / my bank manager told me I’d be able to afford the payments’. There’s no need to do something difficult like think. Your fate is in someone else’s hands. That way, there’s always someone to behead when things go wrong.
AMERI-THINK: Americans only pretend to delegate. Anything. As Harry S.Truman once said, ‘the buck stops here’. They suffer from a pathological fear of ‘losing control’, and a paranoid suspicion that, given a half-a-chance, others will ‘screw you up’. Or at least treat your interests more casually than they would their own.
They’re happiest keeping a firm grip on events, and asking a lot of questions. It’s the boss’s job to choose the right advisors, and his fault if they goof. (This is occasionally true in Britain as well, but only in the case of politicians – where a Ministerial faux pas can bring down the Government – or in football, when the team loses games and the Manager gets sacked).
Yanks adore results, and have scant interest in the rationale for failure. They do not consider it ruthless to discard something – or someone – that hasn’t worked. There’s little sympathy for ‘bad luck’, or even ‘Acts of God’. Furthermore, Yanks do not believe in ‘accident’. There is simply no such thing, and here they are hard-boiled. ‘You should’ve seen it coming. You should’ve been better prepared.’
Fault is always attributable. Occasionally, there are such things as extenuating circumstances (‘I fired in self-defence’) but, in general, mainstream Yank-think sees most excuses as lame ones. ‘I was knocked unconscious at the material time.’ No good. You should’ve been more alert, or in better physical shape. Yanks associate failure with malingering ... or crass stupidity. Either way, they don’t like being taken for a ride. And they don’t like paying for what they don’t get.
So who gets credit for success? A good business decision for example, or a wise choice of girl-friend / boy-friend or employee? You do, of course – because there’s no such thing as ‘accident’. If you are merely lucky, you will nevertheless be declared ‘smart’. And how do you know when something’s worked well? You know when someone else tells you. Anyone else. In general, Yanks lack confidence in their own tastes and decisions, and long to know that all choices are officially ‘approved’. (Hence the popularity of Gucci belts, initial scarves, Nike sports shoes, Burberry raincoats and designer jeans). It follows that a good decision is one that’s endorsed.