I was thinking today about mainstream American culture. I was thinking specifically about our puritanical roots and how they influence us.
For instance, I have noticed that Americans seem to consider suffering to be a virtue. That the suffering somehow makes one deserve the good outcome. I was talking to someone recently about weight loss surgery and they expressed the opinion that weight loss surgery was cheating. Cheating? Why would anyone think that? Because someone doesnt deserve to be thin unless they can will themselves to diet and suffer? (Never mind that weight loss surgery is not walk in the park)
On the other hand, maybe it isnt so much suffering per se but more just plain old hard work. As in maybe someone would consider weight loss surgery to be cheating because they think that by doing that, a fat person avoids the hard work of dieting. The “work hard” ethic is certainly very American. The idea that most problems can be solved simply by hard work is pretty much The American Dream. Too Fat? Work hard and you will be thin. Poor? Work hard and you will raise yourself out of poverty. Bored/Lonely/Depressed? Work hard and you wont have time to be bored or lonely or depressed!
The converse of that, of course, is that people who are fat or poor or bored or lonely or depressed, etc are not hard workers. And that is where Americans get into a lot of trouble. We don’t want to admit that sometimes people can work hard and still not receive the expected benefits of hard work. We don’t want to admit that most of us, in this “land of opportunity” got most of our opportunities from our parents and the social class we were born into. We don’t want to admit that some people work hard but get nowhere because of discrimination or even just bad luck.
We don’t like it when fat people can diet and still be fat but apparently we also don’t like it that fat people can get thin without the hard work. We like to think that most rich people got that way because they are hard workers. We definitely don’t like to think that anyone could be poor in this country and be a hard worker.
Maybe someday we will change our thinking a little and begin to see that not every social problem can be solved by individual hard work. And maybe then we all work hard together to solve those very same problems.