Tuesday, February 01, 2011

American Hyper-Instrospection

Ethan Watters, the author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, responds to a few questions from Adbusters. One question Ethan responds to is summarily stated "What is the root cause of the epidemic of mental illness we are currently experiencing? His response:
"If I had to put my money on one idea then it would be the American notion of the egocentric mind – the idea that you are the captain of your own destiny and that you should be able to chart your own path and find your own happiness and control your own destiny fundamentally without the need for others. I think that this idea in the West – and in America in particular – has led to a great deal of insecurity and a general loading of our psychopathology. I think that the human animal is much more of a group animal than the American idea of the mind suggests it to be."
Later on, he expresses the need for more community:
"I think that human beings cannot feel at ease mentally if they are disconnected from their sense of a role within a group. I think that the human mind is deeply permeable to the goals and expectations of the people around us, and if we don’t pay attention to that, if we think of ourselves as the captains of our own destiny, always able to pick ourselves up by our own individual bootstraps, then we are likely to experience that sort of postmodern insecurity that leads us to a certain form of American hyper-introspection – always looking inward."
Also, here's a brief video of Ethan explaining how we as Americans have incorrectly exported our ideas of mental illness to the rest of the world:

(via Roy)

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