American hedonism closes its eyes to death, and has been
incapable of exorcising the destructive power of the moment
with a wisdom like that of the Epicureans of antiquity.

- Octavio Paz
Death is un-American, and an affront to every citizen's inalienable
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

- Arnold Toynbee
the_band_huge
the_band_huge
"As long as such self-serving hypocrisy
motivates America's response, Ukraine will
only sink further into needless bloodshed,
and that blood will be on America's head."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
the_band_huge
In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors,
since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors,
for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal
applies only upwards, not downwards.

― Bertrand Russell
Global Coke
Global Coke
"What those 'racists' are reflexively and rightly reacting
to is the soulless chill as the fire goes out beneath the
melting pot. Those who think America can thrive as a
'cultural mosaic' are worse than fools; they're Canadians."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Global Coke
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe.
It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster,
in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe
have grown to appalling dimensions.

― Frantz Fanon
What the United States does best is understand itself.
What it does worst is understand others.

- Carlos Fuentes
Poor Mexico, so far from God
and so close to the United States.

- Porfirio Diaz
the_band_huge
the_band_huge
"Indeed, everything about the American southland was magical
and exotic to the young Canadian musicians, from the sights
and smells to the drawling manner of speech to, especially, the
central role that music played in people’s everyday lives."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
the_band_huge
America is a mistake, a giant mistake.
- Sigmund Freud
America is an adorable woman chewing tobacco.
- Auguste Bartholdi
chimerica
chimerica
"This is the tone of the China Century, a subtle
mix of Nazi/Soviet bravado and 'oriental'
cunning -- easily misunderstood, and
never
heard before, in a real enemy, by the West."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
chimerica
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
"And for the others who argued for English-only
patriotism, I note that there are more than
57 million Americans (about 20% of the nation)
whose first-language is not English...."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
predator-firing-missile4
predator-firing-missile4
"This is the behavior, and the fate, of paranoid
old-world tyrants like Hitler or Saddam, not liberal new-world democracies like America pretends to be."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
predator-firing-missile4
America is the only nation in history which
miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to
degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.

- Georges Clemenceau
I found there a country with thirty-two religions and only one sauce.
- Charles–Maurice Talleyrand
A people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle,
and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.

- Edmund Burke
America is the only country ever founded on the printed word.
- Marshall McLuhan
"The removal of racist sports nicknames (and mascots) seems outrageously belated
-- why, exactly, has this civil rights cause
taken so long to gain momentum?"

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the
United States reactionaries use to scare people.
It looks terrible, but in fact it isn't.

- Mao Tse-tung
They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but
they kept only one; they promised to take our land, and they did.

- Red Cloud
In America sex is an obsession,
in other parts of the world it is a fact.

- Marlene Dietrich
I would rather have a nod from an American,
than a snuff-box from an emperor.

- Lord Byron
One day the United States discovered it was an empire.
But it didn’t know what an empire was.
It thought that an empire was merely the biggest of all corporations.

- Roberto Calasso
Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather
be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

- Alexis de Tocqueville
newtown
newtown
"No one, I thought, could watch those scenes, of young children slaughtered en masse, and so many parents grieving, without thinking that this, finally, would tip some kind of balance in the country."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
newtown
If you are prepared to accept the consequences of your dreams
then you must still regard America today with the same naive
enthusiasm as the generations that discovered the New World.

- Jean Baudrillard
I am willing to love all mankind, except an American.
- Samuel Johnson
America, thou half brother of the world;
With something good and bad of every land.

- Philip Bailey
"What can be more powerful than disinformation in the Information Age?"
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
England and America are two countries separated by the same language.
- Sir Walter Besant
Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by
posterity because he was the last to discover America.

- James Joyce
Now, from America, empty indifferent things
are pouring across, sham things, dummy life.

- Rainer Maria Rilke
If the United States is to recover fortitude and lucidity,
it must recover itself, and to recover itself it must
recover the "others"- the outcasts of the Western world.
- Octavio Paz
The youth of America is their oldest tradition.
It has been going on now for three hundred years.

- Oscar Wilde
"America really is, for most Americans, all things considered, a good place to be, and all they really want is for everyone to enjoy the same privilege and pleasure."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
When good Americans die they go to Paris;
when bad Americans die they go to America.

- Oscar Wilde
jobs drug dealer
jobs drug dealer
They're nothing more than traffickers; and as the smart traffickers'll tell you, you don't use the merchandise. They are just inoculating their kids with a tech-drug serum, to immunize them against the very merchandise that put the **** bowling alley in their basement.
jobs drug dealer
America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that
lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself.

- Georg Friedrich Hegel
America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room.
Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.

- Arnold Toynbee
Americans always try to do the right thing after they've tried everything else.
- Winston Churchill
The thing that impresses me most about Americans
is the way parents obey their children.

- Edward, Duke of Windsor
Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering
what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

- John Maynard Keynes
Europe was created by history.
America was created by philosophy.

- Margaret Thatcher
America is God's crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of
Europe are melting and reforming!... The real American has not yet arrived.
He is only in the crucible, I tell you - he will be the fusion of all races.

- Israel Zangwill
American dreams are strongest in the hearts of those
who have seen America only in their dreams.

- Pico Iyer
America: It's like Britain, only with buttons.
- Ringo Starr
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.
It has never yet melted.

― D.H. Lawrence
I have two conflicting visions of America.
One is a kind of dream landscape and the other is a kind of black comedy.

― Bono
The American mirror, said the voice, the sad American mirror
of wealth and poverty and constant useless metamorphosis,
the mirror that sails and whose sails are pain.

― Roberto Bolaño

December 6, 2020

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Author Topic: The American Desire to "Improve" the Self


RaphaelaPa-
v
New Member
Posts: 4
RaphaelaPavlakos
The American Desire to "Improve" the Self
on: March 10, 2018, 10:57

Americans, known for their grip on many consumer industries, are all about self-help. Whether it comes in the form of tapes, books, or online programs, Americans are willing to spend hard earned money on bettering themselves. A rise in self-help popularity occurred in the 1990s, and we find ourselves in the midst of another increase right now. According to an article from healthyway.com, there was a 15% increase in self-help books alone in 2015, despite the steadily decreasing popularity for print books. This article also notes that with this increasing popularity, it’s no surprise the self-help industry is nearly a $10 billion business, with women making up 70% of that market!

Self-help, however, isn’t a new soft spot for Americans. It was prevalent in the nineteenth century, though the industry didn’t have as much of a grip on the market as it does today, likely because of our modern reliance on consumerism. But, this is something that Mark Twain satirizes in his great- American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first published in 1884. Twain, through the characters of the King and the Duke, comments on and critiques the American need for constant “improvement” of the self. Even in the nineteenth century, the King and Duke are able to manipulate people through the American desire for self-improvement (which stems from the American dream). They scam people through “cultured” events like a false Shakespearian play production, drawing in individuals who seek to improve themselves through high-art and are willing to spend money on something with the promise of leaving a more “cultured” individual.

Self-help, it seems, has always been a lucrative business, especially in America. Today, the desire for constant self-improvement can be found almost anywhere with the bombardment of advertisements and all-encompassing grasp of the media. Tendrils of the self-help movement can be seen in the cosmetics, fashion, fitness, and lifestyle improvement industries. All of these different industries offer products, procedures, or lifestyle changes that, for a price, promise to make you a better person with a better life. It seems that the King and the Duke were on to something when they preyed on this desire in American human nature, conning people out of their money by promising them self-improvement.

The article from healthyway.com (published on 7 October 2017) also talks about why women are the general focus of the self-help industry. Here’s a link to the insightful page if you’re interested in further reading about this topic.

https://www.healthyway.com/content/why-are-american-women-so-obsessed-with-self-help-books/



CanadianCo-
quette
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
Eliza
Re: The American Desire to "Improve" the Self
on: March 11, 2018, 16:24

I was actually going to post about this myself, but you beat me to the punch! The fascination with self-bettering I'd argue is merely an extension of the search for happiness. Although I know of other countries who have enshrined the "right to pursue happiness" into their constitutions and legal works, the US is the earliest (to the best of my knowledge) and the most famous. The fact that in the preamble, which legally and politically molds the way laws and policies are drawn and interpreted, shows the immense value the United States places on happiness. This importance of happiness and growth and self-actualization comes through in American literature, but also in other fields, such as positive psychology. In fact, the best of the self-help books are based in science - albeit relatively young science - that looks at what domains are important for happiness. However, it is impossible to deny that there are a lot of self-help books that have no basis in science and merely use attention-grabbing key words to lure buyers. There is a documentary that is interesting - "Happiness Is" (2009) - that looks specifically at what everyday Americans from all walks of life consider happiness to be.



heythereal-
e
New Member
Posts: 4
heythereale
Re: The American Desire to "Improve" the Self
on: March 31, 2018, 20:52

The concept of the success of the 'Self-help' industry as a lucrative business is really interesting and something I haven't really noticed before this prompt due to growing up in that environment. That being said, I think this concept works alongside that idealized "American dream" ideology that is instilled in the Westernized way of life. With the resources that North American countries have, we are able to change most aspects of our life and maybe that goes beyond the "self-help" book genre because what does it really mean to self-help? This could allude to aspects of plastic surgery or mental health, or even the acceptance of identity. And in this American mindset, with these resources, we have the potential to change perhaps almost anything to reach that enlightened 'happiness' we might strive for. But, when does that become self-harmful?



TronaldDum-
p
New Member
Posts: 4
Mike McMichael Jr
Re: The American Desire to "Improve" the Self
on: April 1, 2018, 20:06

I like to believe that there is some genuineness in the advertisement of "self help", even if it does come with a monetary predication as has been mentioned here. The word "help" in this phrase implies something rather dire, and I think of it more so as a bit of a hyperbolic extension of "self care", which sounds like a more calm and inherent aspect of humanity in my opinion. It begs the question of when does the omission of care lead to the necessity for help? Although it is evident that this idea of "self help" is prominent in modern American culture, I think the idea of human connectivity and transparency when dealing with personal issues is a bigger indicator of the present times; the "end the stigma around mental health" discourses and the like. Self help implies inwardness, and the idea that you can get through things on your own- behaviors or tendencies such as these are precisely what people who seek to end the stigma around mental health target when they address its current primary concerns. Although undoubtedly important, the inwardness of self help can't change the overarching system of support or of opportunities or privileges for certain people- no amount of self help would have given a writer like Booker T. Washington the opportunity to live a life free of oppression, or remedy him of its consequences which he faced. Happiness and well being go hand in hand, and whether someone feels that spending money on a book or a seminar will genuinely better them in either of those two regards should supersede the fact that someone may be looking to make a pay cheque out of it. "Improvement of the self" is a vital component of being human and is nothing to be ashamed of; besides, once it is exacerbated from a micro-level, it has the potential to result in the improvement of a whole nation.

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