I received two great comments on yesterday's post, so I thought I would take today to share some thoughts on the American propensity towards action as a cultural value.
I picked up my "American Cultural Patterns: A cross-cultural approach" by Edward Stewart and Milton Bennett and opened to the chapter on "Forms of Activity". Here are a few salient points.
Americans assume that decision making is localized in individuals, even in groups the individual participates in reaching decisions as a person, as a vote, or as the occupant of a role.
So, if the individual the locus of decision making, he or she is also held responsible for the decision and any resulting action....."who did this?" or "who is responsible?"
If the locus of decision making is not the individual, or at least to a lesser degree, the question of who is responsible does not have the same degree of importance -- as is the case in cultures where there are stong ties to a group or which tend to reach decisions by consensus.
Americans tend to emphasise "problem solving", conceptualizing the world in terms of problems and then looking for obstacles that need to be overcome. In other cultures that are more group oriented, this labeling of obstacles can seem unduly negative and critical of people in their group that should be supported. Instead, "somehow things will work out." The information at hand may not even be organized in terms of "problems" that require "action".
"The idea of problem solving seems to be rooted in the American concept of a rational order in the world that explains events and determines particular occurrences. The rational order is based on the assumption that the world is mechanistic and that things worthy of effort are material. Such a world is saturated with facts, figures and techniques -- the stuff of a reality brimming with problems to be solved."
The book is not an easy read....but is well worth the effort.
Well, I must be off in search of problems that need to be solved.