Debate: Are Americans Fat on Individualistic Practices?

A funny thing happened when we redesigned this website. The prompt to come up with the right lead article became apparent in the Sunday edition of The New York Times.  The wittiest cartoon, authored by Jack Ohman, political cartoonist for The Oregonian (see cartoon, courtesy of Jack Ohman) turned into the subject of our debate.  Take a few moments to read the cartoon. Watch out for mixed messages (really).

Most leaders and communicators know that all good communication stems from consistency. However, the perils of inconsistency fall to lack of harmony and advancing personal interests.  So why do we continuously put out inconsistent messages, as depicted in Jack’s cartoon? This is because the American culture values individualism, as can be seen in contrast to other cultures.  Take for example, the Japanese culture that particularly stresses harmony.  In fact, Japanese business has evolved an elaborate process called nemawashii, “binding the roots of a plant before pulling it out.”1

As we grow more and more into a global economy and society, the question we might ask ourselves looking to the future is how are Americans going to survive with continuous, self-serving programs and communication?

Let’s consider our health and economic well-being.  Where would we be if we took to heart the contradictions, especially if an individual is obese, has a tobacco habit, or is on a tight budget?  Jack’s cartoon represents the quintessential arguments we hear on a daily basis that erode our confidence in the political system.  Words to the wise, political communicators: Talk to each other and work together before you recommend next time that we eat more cheese, (hint) especially with your comrades in the nutrition area (specialists concerned with food that affects our health) who are urging weight-restricted people to curb their consumption of cheese.

Americans would do justice for the political system if harmony could be grown from our roots.  In all aspects of Japanese life, harmony is a cultural pattern, including child-rearing practices. Could we learn to work together? Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder performed the song, Ebony and Ivory, which sums up our agenda.  Listen up!

1 Larry A. Samovar and Richard E. Porter. Communication Between Cultures (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1974) 107, quoting Yu-Kuang Chu, “Learning About People and Cultures,” Learning About People and Cultures (1974): 52.