.. n to the road Tuesday mornings, in the summer the lawn is mowed, and the pool is maintained. For seven months out of the year, they earn enough money to buy all the beer they can drink, a few nice presents for their current women and keep themselves in clean clothes. Five months out of the year, my brothers live as paupers, no money, old clothes, and no women because they have no money. But if you asked my brothers if they disliked the five months that they had no money they would look at you as if you were speaking a foreign language.
Why do they need money? They have a warm place to sleep, food to eat, and their family, what else do they need? If they want a beer they go visit a friend and get it there, for certainly during the summer months that friend will be at our house drinking my brothers’ beer. So, if money is of little consequence to half of my family why does it seem to have such a big impact on the other half? My brother, sister, and I are not any smarter than the siblings that chose not to go to school are. Why was it important to us to educate ourselves and increase our earning potential? It is not based on ages as we are the eldest, middle, and youngest. It could be personality. We are most like our mother. When she married her husband she told him that he would never earn enough money to buy her the things she like so he would have to be okay with her going to work.
He agreed and it was simply a part of our family. Did my mother value money over her other communal values. No. In fact our family has contributed greatly to the community because as we prosper so should the people around us. My brother designed a building for a community charitable organization and gave them the design for free, something that would cost thousands of dollars.
My sister helped work out the finances of the health clinic to arrange for them receive more funding because past filings were inaccurate and low. I do not know yet what my impact back home will be. But I am certain that my help will be needed as computers come into the Indian school and into the homes of the people on the reservation. It is not a matter of recognizing money as a value on its own or replacing other values. It is a matter of knowing the values I live by and how I can ethically earn what I want, live in the manner I want and still abide by the self that needs to help my community.
As long as I can maintain that balance and freely acknowledge what I earn without being self-conscious, I know that I am maintaining myself ethically with my finances. When I have to withhold what I earn from those around me, it is most likely because somehow, I have shorted the people that are closest to me and I know that I did not have to. There are some principles that exist regardless of how or where you live in the United States. You do not steal, you do not lie, you do not kill, you pay your taxes, and you eventually die. There are certainly exceptions to all of those, except the latter, but for the most part those are rules you simply avoid breaking if you want to be considered ethical.
If you do not abide by those simple ethical guidelines may people will regard you with distrust. It seems at times that people are abandoning these ideals on a personal level; but those same people expect American society on the whole to live according to these standards. Whether or not these ideals are based on traditional Protestant standards does not seem to matter anymore as many people in the U.S. are neither traditional nor Protestant. These basic rules seem to transcend all religious, racial and ethnic boundaries are all equally recognized as something that someone can and at least probably should live by. As much as we like to think that as Americans we are unique in this great world we are not.
I began early in this paper saying that I exist in two worlds and try to maintain myself equally well in both world. If the truth is told, everyone exists in many worlds and it does not matter if you are American, Austrian, or Australian. There are still women from small towns working in big towns, there are mothers that work, and mothers that stay home (they work too – but the point is they two exist in separate worlds). The world is most definitely getting smaller. This allows two things to happen.
One, with the incredible growth of the Internet, people are able to connect to other individuals that live, work, or think just like them. Individuals are finding that they are not unique and American seem to be okay with that. American individualism is not solely American and there are many Americans that work much better in a collective environment. With the ability to connect world wide it will not matter where you live but how you want to live. There will most certainly be a level of cultural leveling as one culture moves towards another and they come to compromise.
Of course that fits in with how I began, . . . reach a compromise and keep the social peace. (Lipset, pg. 44) There are always going to be those that resist the changes that are inevitable.
When people cherish some set of values and do not feel any threat to them, they experience well-being. When they cherish values but do feel them to be threatened, they experience crisis. (Mills, pg. 25) We as Americans will always be different from the rest of the world that is certain, but the differences will become less obvious and will most likely become a social quirk as other countries take on American appearances and as we take on more people from other nations. We will find ourselves comparing us to other countries. Are we more high tech, or are we more fashionable, are we healthier or prettier than country X? The lines will blur but as it is now we probably are more high tech than most other nations.
But I do not think I can say that we are more fashionable, healthier, or prettier. But how does this relate to values in other nations? It comes down to what we have focused our attentions on as a nation. As a group, we have moved towards an information-based society, putting the highest economic worth on knowledge. We ascertain our wealth by what we know and what we can do with what we know. We feel better about ourselves when we have reached understanding about our situations.
That is part of the American value system. Other nations, such as Japan, while being technology and information driven, put much more focus on tangibles than being satisfied with knowing. Americans are obviously obsessed with buying and buying expensive items but the greater focus is on how to improve what we have or how to get more from it. That is how is has always been for Americans, from the American Revolution to settling the west to Silicon Valley. As far as I can tell, it will always be this way.
There will simply be more and more people like myself, trying to live up to standards based on two different realms of reality. I do not believe it will be a matter of sacrificing one value for another, rather it will be one foot firmly planted in each. It is compromise, it is American. Bibliography Bibliography Hall, John A. & Lindholm, Charles. Is America Breaking Apart?.
Princeton University Press. 1999. Henslin, James M. Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. Allyn and Bacon.
2000. Lipset, S.M. American Exceptionalism: A Double Edged Sword. New York: Norton Press. 1996. Mills, C.
Wright. The Promise. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press. 1959. 1987.
(Anthologized by Henslin, James M. in Down to Earth Sociology. Allyn and Bacon. 2000.).