American Values

American Values

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Values Of US Culture

     Both articles, “America 2000: Fast and Furious Fun” by Jerry Adler and “Shopping” by Don DeLillo, examine various things that Americans value as a society. It may seem at first that articles are quite different, given the content variations, however, there is a similarity in purpose that authors are trying to achieve and the audience that they target. Clearly, both authors take a look at what is available to people in the US in terms of fun and entertainment, trying to address a younger portion of middle class Americans. In their own ways, Addler and DeLillo show various aspects of American live in all its richness, wealth and excessiveness. However, there is a hidden message between the lines that is common to both articles and it emphasizes a troubling trend within the society. In my opinion, authors attempt to show that US as a culture has become highly commercialized and at the rate thing are going US will soon be viewed by the world as unintelligent, exuberant, and irresponsible nation.
     The current entertainment and consumer retail industries in the US are the biggest insult to basic human intelligence. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week average American is being target by unavoidable and annoying commercials from TV, radio, Internet, highway billboards, etc. Brought by large corporations, they are intended to brainwash the individual and turn him/her into a loyal brainless consumer of the product that is offered. Fake promotions, grand openings and other tricks are designed specifically for these who refuse to become believers right away. For example, how many times one can hear a promotion slogans like “Free set of floor mats with every new car purchase!” or “Free mouse pad with every new computer purchase!”, etc. In my opinion, this is a clear indication of companies seeing nothing but a crowd of morons in their consumers. Jack, the main character of “Shopping”, finds himself in a store and interprets the echoing din as “of the extinction of a species of beast.” In other words, the shopping environment is like a variety of traps set by some beast ready to hunt you down. While shopping, Jack thinks of an event as an endless well being that makes him and his family glory. Reflecting mirrors, smells of chocolates and salamis defeat Jack’s sense of reality. Deep inside he may feel that he is being fooled but in spite of that he chooses to quietly participate because “the beast traps” are too flashy to pass on.

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The way entertainment and fun are enforced on Americans is no different. As noted earlier, being extremely commercialized, the entertainment industry does a great job at brainwashing people as well. For instance, Adler in his article notes how people are being convinced that they are having fun and being entertained while performing regular and not necessarily pleasant activities. Thus, cooking and painting get redefined as fun and people like Martha Steward become Gods to these who they succeed to convince.
     Apparently, US economy is in the best shape it has been in years. However, the overall prosperity and well being unfortunately become a base for ever-growing greed and exuberance in American culture. Without a doubt, Las Vegas, the city that is closely associated with American life style, is a good example of that. In Adlers article, he indicates that huge flows of cash are being poured into the world’s capital of gambling. New multimillion-dollar hotels are rising at constantly growing rate. Hotels that mimic ancient cities like Rome, Venice and Luxor are pilling up with a fresh infusion of modern life – roller coasters. However, what author does not mention explicitly but certainly has in mind is that such developments destroy uniqueness and sentimental values of the city. Thus, enormous mega-projects of Las Vegas compromise the quality of entertainment that it has to offer. Another sign of over excessiveness roots in American culture are seen in Jack, a hero of Don DeLillo’s article “Shopping”. Jack describes how, when unable to decide between two shirts he would purchase both of them. Fascinated with a coil of rope he buys it for no apparent reason, “…just to have it around.” He confirms that he regains some kind of self-confidence with every new purchase no matter how pointless it may be. The author notes that the more Jack buys the less important it seems how much he spends. The process itself is what he seems to be enjoying, the process of exchanging money for goods that makes him feel expensive. Thus, the desire for more and bigger but not necessarily better is quite apparent in many modern Americans.
     Irresponsibility has also placed its roots deep inside the American culture.
One of the examples of this can be clearly seen in Adlers article when he describes how on New Year’s Eve an old hotel building in Las Vegas was blown up for viewing pleasure of over 200,000 tourists. Apparently, this was done just for a fun of it, plus the building was old and had to be replaced anyway. So, the organizers of the event saw no harm in letting others watch the demolition. However, what is negative about this is that in minds of younger population it associates fun with destruction of something built by mankind. At yearly ages, such experience may leave a troubling footprint on human personality that may result in fascination with violence as person matures. Another indication of increasing irresponsibility towards future generation is seen in movies as they promote more and more violence. Some of them, released in the past few years, seem to lack plot and purpose and instead, there is constant promotion of guns, explosions and murders. Such exposure to violence for younger American is definitely an act of irresponsibility from current generation. Also, the President of the US has certainly shown the world his childish and unprofessional side in latest crisis in the White House. He, being the face of the nation to outside world, has shown the ultimate irresponsibility of American way.
     To conclude, it seems that the economic prosperity that US have been enjoying for the last five or ten years created an atmosphere in which values of American culture have been significantly lowered. High commercialization of all aspects of live seems to spoil and compromise its quality. Thus, foolishness, irresponsibility and greed are the qualities that seem to prevail and rule in modern society. The authors of both articles attempt to raise readers’ attention to this unfortunate trend and try to carry over a message that perhaps it is time for Americans to reevaluate their values.
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